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!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

B2B Social Media – Making a Case for Content Marketing






Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” – Seth Godin

Well, when it comes from one of the most prominent names in marketing, you cannot ignore it. I am sure you have heard a lot about the importance and relevance of content marketing. Let us look at some holistic stats on content marketing –

  •    If you create more customized content, 78% of consumers will trust your brand
  • According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.
  • As per the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B marketers plan to create more content in 2017 compared to 2016.
  • 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. -Stratabeat


While all these stats look amazing and enough to convince any B2B business to adopt content marketing, more often than not, there is a bit of hesitance, ignorance, and skepticism – possibly because of the lack of understanding on how exactly to proceed on that. However, when done right, it can result in more traffic to your website, more conversions, and improved search rankings for your site.

In this blog post, I try to cover the why and how of B2B content marketing and also share some tips to help you make your B2B content marketing program more successful.

What is Content Marketing?

Content Marketing Institute gives a very nice definition of Content marketing –

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

To understand content marketing better – let us understand the role it plays in the buying cycle. A typical buying cycle includes Awareness (Making the customers aware that a solution to their need exists), Consideration (Customer does the research and starts comparing different solutions), and Purchase (Customer makes the decision and the transaction happens).

Traditionally, all the stages were heavily driven by sales. Today, the buyer is more informed than before. The buyers do their own research, find the content that answers their questions, and if they find value in the content, they approach the vendor directly. Now, two things have changed here: one, the buyers are not engaging in any sales tactics since the beginning and two, they have already made up their mind before they even contact the vendor.

Content marketing, thus, plays a vital role in the awareness and consideration stages of the buying cycle.

How is B2B Content Marketing Different than B2C Content Marketing?

Now that we understand that content marketing is important and critical, let us understand how content marketing is different for B2B businesses –

  • B2B sales cycle is complex and involves multiple decision makers. Therefore, it becomes very important to create the content which talks to specific category of decision makers and answers their questions. This also means that you need to create various different types of content to address the questions of various decision makers. 
  • B2B content requires understanding of the specific product and service. Therefore, the B2B content writers need to closely interact and work with the subject matter experts to create the valuable content.
  • The content you create cannot be about your product or service – it needs to provide answers to the questions of your target audience. Before writing the content, it, therefore, is important that you know their questions and needs.
  • One of the prime objectives of the B2B content is to build value and trust – hence, it cannot be promotional.  
  • B2B content should help in building the thought leadership of the brand –therefore, the content needs to have a lot of maturity and depth.
  • B2B content marketing also requires a closer alignment with the sales and should help in generating leads for the sales teams.

Guide to Defining the Content Strategy


Your content marketing strategy should include the following steps
       Define the target audiences, goals, and buying stages – your content needs to address all these points.
       Identify the SEO keywords and phrases – if you want your content marketing strategy to help in your site ranking, it is advisable that you identify a list of keywords and phrases which are used by your buyers and use those judiciously within your content pieces. Of course, be careful about not stuffing your content pieces with keywords – that does not work anymore.
       Define and stick to editorial calendars outlining the content pieces, objectives of those pieces, target audience, timelines, formats etc. This will help you streamline your efforts for maximum results. It will also help you in content reuse.


Traits of B2B Content Writer

Considering the fact that B2B content marketing is quite different than B2C content marketing, when you build your B2B content writing team, you need to look for specific traits. Apart from their writing talents, you need to also check their storytelling skills, they ability to connect and capture information from the subject matter experts, and their understanding of social media and various tools and technologies. I have written more in detail on this topic in a separate blog post.


Types of B2B Content

Here is a quick list of various types of content which you can create –
  •  Blog articles – Blog articles are the most common form of content which you can create. The articles reside on your website and help in enhancing the search ranking of the site. Typically, the articles should be in the range of 800-1000 words, should include images and provide answer to specific questions of your target audience. Blogs which provide educational content are excellent for establishing thought leadership.
  •  Whitepapers and eBooks – Whitepapers and eBooks are more in-depth form of content and more authoritative reports than blogs. Typically, whitepapers and eBooks address specific business issues in more depth. These are excellent resources for demonstrating technical or business knowledge. You can make these available on request and use these as weapons for your specific lead generation campaigns.
  •  Infographics – Since infographics are highly visual in nature and need to be very well researched, these form a good resource for establishing your thought leadership. You can use these to create awareness and drive traffic to your website.       
  •  Webinar and Podcasts – I would term these as secret weapons of your marketing. Since webinars and podcasts offer a great opportunity to learn from experts, these are preferred a lot by various buyers during their research phase. You can use webinars to share your expertise and experiences. These are brilliant avenues to generate qualified leads and move the prospects up in the interest ladder.

I will soon write a more detailed post on various types of content to be used in B2B.

Closing Thoughts


Content marketing is a commitment, not a campaign” – Jon Buscall


I think this quote summarizes the essence of content marketing. You need to have a long-term strategy, meticulous planning, flawless execution, and continuous monitoring to make sure that your content marketing efforts are successful.
Share

Widgets