Marketing for B2B Business Development became confused in 2008-2009 when social media took off. Before that marketing was relatively easy to do, just put your ad in the yellow pages and maybe a couple of trade publications, clap your hands and call it done for the year. Maybe if you were really hard-core you had a drive-to-web campaign using direct mail, but basically, it was pretty contained and involved just paying and then waiting for leads to roll in.
This style of marketing is called direct response and it is really the straightest line from paying for a marketing item (like having an email blast go out to a targeted list), to generating leads directly because of that action, following up on them and then making a sale. The really nice thing about this is you can say you spent X amount of dollars to have the piece produced, sent it using your database which costs X amount per month, got X amount of leads and converted X number of those leads into closed business.
The old days were great!
Now, you might be asking if I am saying that you shouldn't do direct selling…well no! There are still numerous ways to direct response that are effective. But we are talking about Social Media and Business Development today and that is a totally different animal.
When the social sites exploded onto the scene (and by these we are saying sites like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest) they stretched out marketing an almost unbearable amount. Add to that blogs, TV and movies on demand, email, texting and all the other ways that we are bombarded with marketing messages each day and it is no wonder that doing marketing started to feel like a three ring circus instead of a business play.
Getting your marketing message to the right people is more important now than ever.
Pure Business Development
Let's look again at what marketing is and has always been. A way to put a message about your company in front of people who might be interested in what you are selling and then having them call for a quotation, learn more by visiting your site or do some other action that puts them into your “pipeline” where you can followup and convert them into a buyer.
That is business development. Somehow social media as a marketing channel got put on a different level from other marketing. It was held to a standard that no marketing could attain…every post you make, every video you shoot, everything should lead directly to a sale. A fun thing to banter around is “what is the ROI of social media”.
I think this is because of the effort that has to be expended to succeed at social media. It is not enough to just throw up a Twitter page, you have to get followers, find content, post frequently and then respond when someone actually talks to you. You have to track on the back-end and see how many website hits your Twitter efforts are generating, follow that through to confirmed leads and then closed business.
Oh and that person who “found” you on Twitter might have visited your website first, checked out your YouTube videos and finally looked at your Twitter account before deciding to actually contact you. Jay Baer, author of Youtility states, “customers will contact a sales rep only after independently completing 60 percent of the purchasing decision process”.
The marketing process has turned around, now your customer is researching you and your offerings BEFORE ever reaching out to talk with you.
Targeting The Right Customers
The very first thing that you need to do when starting your business development efforts on social media is to figure out who your customers are. Are they large multinational corporations where you have to get to a decision maker who is closely guarded, or are they a young startup where the founder is on the social circuit and you can reach her directly? Are they small companies who use social media themselves or are they larger and you really need provide content that the person who is looking for your products or services will be searching for.
Some of types of customers we target for our social media clients include:
Parent Companies – There are often some really big opportunities behind the closed doors of multinational companies. Viewing their social media, you have to know that it is being handled by minions and that the marketing department is sanitizing all the messages you may be sending to reach out to their executives or purchasing departments. For this type of mission, you may have to work hard, doing targeted paid advertising to reach these decision makers. You can also check LinkedIn and Twitter to see if your decision maker is using either of those.
Distributors – One of the most fun B2B targets is when you want to find companies who would think that your product would be a good fit for their product line. The conversation about representing you is much nicer when they have seen all your great social media and come to you asking about your product or service. This is easily accomplished by following and liking their content, targeting industry resources and joining industry groups. Once you have established your authority in those places, being considered becomes a no brainer.
Complimentary Companies – Another way to increase your social engagement is to find companies that provide similar but not competing products or services. Sharing their information, industry accolades and posts is a great way to start a conversation about how you can work together.
End Users – Sometimes is can seem like all you should do is target your actual business-to-business contacts, but that is truly missing an opportunity. As a manufacturer, corporation or company, you need to present your product or service in the marketplace so that end users can see it in action and be enthused about. Think of a company like CSX which does freight shipping. They do a lot of video and commercial advertising on political and business programs, trying to be top of mind when busy executives are making decisions about how to move their freight around the country. Due to the size of the contracts, they can get their “ROI” easily if those spots secure just one multi-year contract. All the rest would be gravy.
Your Sales Channels – Promoting businesses that are representing your product is a great way to cement the relationship and increase sales up the supply chain. Oftentimes as the producer of a product or service, you need to the one that is promoting the companies that represent you and providing them with social content that they can share with their networks. Nothing that you do to help a dealer or distributor will hurt sales and could actually increase your ROI as their orders increase.
Going Where Your B2B Customers Are
Common wisdom says if you are doing B2B Social Media marketing you should use LinkedIn and nothing else…sigh. Nothing could be further from the truth than that! For every business we have ever worked with, there have been multiple social media platforms that they could use with a targeted plan and message. Just because you are doing business-to-business marketing, don't rule out Pinterest or Facebook, depending on which level of customer you are trying to reach.
Sometimes your “business” customers can look more like consumers and sometimes your ideal prospect will be in love with Instagram and not use anything else socially. Ruling out all other social platforms to focus exclusively on any one channel is a recipe for disaster and may be why there are so many questions about the ROI of social. If you have spent thousands of hours “working” LinkedIn and not gotten anything out of it, maybe there are other social sites that could be more effective for your business.