The following stats could blow your mind. Picture this:
• 55 per cent of B2B buyers search for information on social media (Source: MediaBistro)
• For 58 per cent of marketers, the sales improved after consistent use of social media for more than 3 years (Source: Social Media Examiner)
• LinkedIn has been a very effective social network for B2B companies wherein 65 per cent people have acquired customers (Source: Marketing Charts)
B2B buying decisions are very tightly integrated with social media. However, having said that, the rules of a successful B2C (Business to Consumer) social media campaign cannot be blindly applied while defining the strategy and execution of B2B social media activity.
There are some fundamental differences which B2B marketers need to be careful about:
1: The Audience
In case of B2B, the decision making is rarely by one particular individual. There are a number of individuals and influencers with hierarchies and decision chains involved in the decision making. The hierarchies tend to differ from organisation to organisation and the needs and expectations of all the people are different.
Secondly, the tone of conversation in case of a B2B campaign is more sober and less casual. A practical business solution is more appreciated than a personal or emotional appeal. An offer which saves money can lead to great success in case of a B2C campaign, but such offers are most often perceived as 'lack of value" by B2B buyers. Here, competitive advantage has more value over cost saving offer.
Thirdly, the decisions seldom happen over one conversation or touch point - long term engagement creates more value and lead to decisions - your digital strategy therefore needs to be more cohesive and integrated.
2: Thought Leadership
B2B buyers care very little about your business solution or offering. What they are looking for is a solution for their problem. Therefore, B2B marketers need to make extra efforts in providing education and value rather than just outreach.
Marketers have been increasingly using tools like blogs and LinkedIn Groups for establishing thought leadership. You need to define a very strong blogging strategy which aligns and matches with your content marketing and outreach efforts. LinkedIn Groups require more consistent efforts in terms of keeping the audience engaged through thought provoking discussions and posts.
3: Specific Targeting
B2B companies naturally have a far better handle on factors like who they are targeting, what the target audience is looking for, what are the target market requirements and which business problems they are trying to solve.
It is easier to find buyers when the targeting is well-defined. With precise targeting, the companies can choose the right social platforms to reach out to the buyers.
4: Strong Content Strategy
Placing the right content in front of the right buyers through right platform plays a vital role for targeted marketing. B2B marketers need to heavily invest in their content creation efforts. Blogs, infographics, eBooks, whitepapers, webinars, videos - all these are content types which can help potential buyers in taking certain decisions or in managing the influencers. Needless to say, content rich online properties are also favored by search engines.
The content strategy also needs to be tweaked according to social media platforms because the audience expectations, attention spans and actions differ drastically on different platforms. For example: Facebook loves visual content while Twitter has a kind of immediacy associated with it. Blogs are more in-depth, whereas LinkedIn posts need to elicit responses and engagement. So even if marketers try to use the same content, it needs to be tweaked based on each platform.
5: Integrated Approach
It is important for B2B marketers to master the art of conversation. By definition, B2B has longer sales cycles and it is imperative to keep the target audience engaged at every stage of the buying process. Answer to "How does your solution solve the specific business problems of the target audience", at every stage of buying cycle, will help the marketer get to the next stage. The key lies in building a slow and steady relationship through various channels without being intrusive. An integrated approach, therefore, is very crucial. Various tools and technologies such as content creation, email marketing, social media and online events need to be finely integrated to be constantly on the radar of the potential buyers at every stage.
Whether it is for B2B or B2C, constant engagement through intelligent content and conversation remains the crucial point. Keeping the customer at the center of the digital marketing strategy is a must and thus one needs to plan appropriately, use integrated approach and leverage the best channels.
The author is the CEO of Midas Touch Consultants, a social media agency.First Published : March 27, 2014