Tuesday, November 21, 2017

25 (Experience-based) B2B Social Media Tips You Can Start Using TODAY

Does B2B Social media need any convincing today? Not really.

When I ventured into marketing some 13 years ago, the whole world of B2B marketing was different. Companies relied heavily on brochures and such collateral, a lot of emphasis was given on website and SEO, and a lot of energies were spent in creating solid email marketing programs. Things slowly changed with the advent of social media and content marketing.

Today, the buyers don’t want to see your brochures. The buyer is more educated and well-informed. She is searching for information online and making her own decisions. Only after getting convinced, she approaches the vendors. Yes, social media and content marketing has changed the whole B2B sales scenario. No wonder companies are convinced that they not only have to be on social media but also do it well.

At Midas Touch, the B2B Specialist Social and Digital Marketing Agency, we help customers with their social media and content marketing efforts. Based on my experience of working with several B2B companies in various industry verticals such as technology, manufacturing, and engineering, here are a few tips which I would like to share to ensure that your social media marketing program is successful and delivers on its promise.

Putting these tips in simple lines below – if you need any clarification on any of these, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @radhagiri

1.     Start with a strong content marketing strategy – without a documented strategy; you are preparing yourself for failure.
2.     A good website is a must for deriving true value from social media marketing.
3.     Provide answers to the questions which your target audience might have rather than talking about your expertise and skills. Remember, helpful is new viral.  
4.     Focus on education rather than selling – nobody cares about your products and services. Your prospects are looking for solutions to their business problems. Provide those.
5.     Add variety to your content if you want traffic from diverse sources.
6.     Have a strong content promotion plan in place – Remember, “Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants”.
7.     Don’t debate on quality vs quantity – the point really is how well you can leverage each piece of content which you create.
8.     Each type of content has a different objective and its use, therefore, is different. Don’t try to force fit.
9.     The world’s most popular social network may not be the best one for your business – identify the social networks which work best for you and your business.
10. Don’t hesitate to reuse the content – convert your whitepaper into a series of blogs, or a PPT for SlideShare or an infographic. It’s absolutely fine to represent the same content in different formats.
11. Webinars, podcasts, LinkedIn Groups are your secret weapons of marketing – don’t forget to use them well.
12. For B2B companies, the personal branding of the top executives plays a key role – after all, people connect with people, isn’t it?
13. If you are just starting with social media, don’t start with too much which you cannot sustain and at the same time, don’t do too little that it will not show any impact.
14. B2B content marketing requires some key skills and knowledge - don’t make the mistake of thinking that anybody can do it and don’t have it as a side project.
15. Have a strong collaboration between teams – marketing, sales, and product teams need to work together to make social media successful.
16. Don’t forget to leverage offline events on social platforms.
17. Email marketing works – but requires good planning, relevant message, and right targeting.
18. LinkedIn is a great professional networking platform – make judicious use of status updates, LinkedIn groups, and LinkedIn company page.
19. Whitepapers and eBooks are great choices to build an opt-in list and showcase your thought leadership and expertise.
20. Use your employee network – today, marketing is not a job of only the marketing teams. Encourage your employees to share and spread the word about the company content and events.
21. Identify and engage with influencers – share their content, ask them feedback and questions, and engage with them.
22. Constantly monitor the results – see how the efforts are delivering to the set objectives and make tweaks based on the results.
23. Do social listening – know what people are talking about, what do they care about, what are their problems. Use this information to tweak your social media strategy.
24. Don’t use social channels for only self promotions. Connect with others, provide value to them, share other people’s content, and genuinely engage with people.

25. Hire experts who understand social media as well as B2B marketing to handle your social media.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

7 Reasons Why B2B Companies Fail at Social Media and Content Marketing

Through Midas Touch, the B2B specialist social media agency which I run, we have worked with several B2B organizations – especially in the technology space. We have strategized and executed several social media initiatives and have seen tremendous success.

We all know the stats as well –
-       57% of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier (Source)
-       80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Source)
-       94 percent of B2B buyers conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product (Source)

And yet, many B2B companies fail in their social media efforts or are not able to derive the desired results. What could be the reasons? Are they not serious about their efforts? Are they putting in efforts at the wrong place? Are they clueless about what to measure and what not to care about? Or there are some other reasons?

Here is my take on why the social media initiatives of B2B companies could fail – 

No Strategy

“Strategy is thinking about a choice and choosing to stick with your thinking” —Jeroen De Flander

Strategy – probably the most overused word in the business space today. To me, the above quote summarizes the meaning of strategy. It helps you tie together your goals into plans and helps you achieve those goals. Organizations, when they start their B2B social media efforts, need to think hard and formulate a coherent strategy – what do they want to achieve, how do they plan to do it, what are the available resources, should it be done through in-house team or outside agency, how to engage the subject matter experts, how to monitor, and how to measure the ROI – all such aspects form the components of a solid strategy. Hiring an experienced marketing professional cannot be termed as the strategy :-)

Lack of Consistency

“If you want to be taken seriously, be consistent.”

Pretty hard-hitting, isn’t it? It, however, is absolutely true in case of B2B social media. If you start with an assumption that you want to “try” social media for three months and then decide whether you would like to continue or not – I would say don’t even start thinking. B2B social media requires influencing multiple decision makers (right from CFO to technology director), the sales cycles are long (something running into months) and the decisions are not taken based on one article (social media is part of the overall sales funnel and not the only channel) – considering all these aspects, it is extremely important that you start your initiatives with a long-term plan. Have a mechanism to monitor the response and results at regular intervals and do ongoing tweaks.

Too Much Focus on Technology

"Our business is about technology, yes. But it's also about operations and customer relationships." - Michael Dell

Sure, you are into technology business. Your team has technology ninjas who are extremely passionate about technology and can give an hour long talk on the latest tool. But do you know that not “all” of your target audience may be “always” interested in your technology understanding? Businesses need to understand that technology is just one of the many tools to solve business problems – businesses care about solutions to their business problems. I have seen that many time, technology companies go overboard with their passion for technology and talk only about that instead of focusing on how that technology is going to help in solving a business problem. The B2B content which the company publishes needs to focus on answering the questions of the target audience – it is less about you and your knowledge and more about customer questions and answers to those questions.

Incorrect Choice of Platforms

"Do what is right, not what is easy.”

The world’s most active social platform with the largest user base may not be right for you. B2B social media is more about education more than emotion. It is about building thought leadership than creating just another blog. It is about providing answers to the buyer’s questions than talking about the greatness of your product and service – all such things make B2B social media different than B2C. While you are still interacting with humans, the purpose is different and, hence, the choice of platforms also differs. It is not possible to send a “friend request” to your prospects but you can certainly “follow” or “connect with them” – getting the difference? The choice of social platforms can make or break your social strategy. You will end up doing a lot of “social activity” without any results. Talk to B2B social media experts or read up to understand and know which could be the right platforms for your business.

RoI Misconceptions

"When you say RoI, do you mean Return on Investment or Risk of Inaction.” – Paul Gillin

B2B companies often make the mistake of thinking that the R in RoI is always Revenue – actually the R in RoI is Returns. You will be able to achieve the RoI from your social media initiatives only if you know what to measure, how to measure, and when to measure. Enhanced awareness amongst your target audience, visits to your website, thought leadership, social conversations – all these are valid returns from your social efforts. When you measure the RoI, ensure that you look for qualitative as well as quantitative metrics. Qualitative metrics could include interactions with an influencer, valid product feedback, appreciation by your prospect on your content and so on. Quantitative metrics could include visits to your website, visibility on social platforms, the number of interactions, the number of downloads of your eBook or whitepaper, and so on. It is important to keep monitoring these metrics and tweaking the strategy based on the results.

Lack of Synergy with Sales

Stop trying to sell with marketing, instead use marketing to help customers buy.

B2B organizations need to ensure that there is a very tight integration between sales and marketing – these two teams HAVE TO work in alignment and not in isolation. The sales and marketing strategies need to work together for acquiring customers – essentially because the sales cycles are long, evaluation periods extend in months, building trust takes time, and building thought leadership takes even longer. Marketing needs to understand the sales campaigns and needs to align itself according to those – for example, if your sales team is focusing on a particular industry vertical in a particular quarter, your social media presence has to reinforce your knowledge and expertise in that sector through blog articles, webinars, eBooks, and social promotion. Similarly, the sales teams need to leverage marketing and the social channels to build connections and engage with prospects on social channels.

Completely Ignoring Executive Branding aka Personal Branding

“Your personal brand is a promise to your clients… a promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability.” – Jason Hartman

Be it B2B or B2C, finally, people connect with people and people trust other people. Thinking that you don’t need a “face” in the online world is one of the most common mistakes which most of the B2B companies make. Companies need to ensure that all the external facing profile - be it the CEO, your sales director, your marketing head, managers who interact with the client or sales execs who interact with the prospects – need to have a strong online presence. It is absolutely critical that the top management has a strong online brand – they need to demonstrate their values, the expertise of the company, and build trust in the minds of the prospects, customers, suppliers, or future and present employees. Unfortunately, this is often the most ignored aspect – especially by the top management of technology companies. Believe it or not, it has a strong impact on the overall company brand as well.

Hope this helps you in knowing what to avoid so that your B2B social media initiatives are successful. Do share your feedback and comments!