Post by Daniel Kushner
The rise of social media over the past decade has forever changed the way businesses go about capturing, pursuing and closing leads. Nowadays, B2B purchasing only takes place once prospects have begun to truly trust a vendor that they’re looking into, as relationships are now formed far earlier in the purchase cycle, with buyers investing heavily in self-service research – often across several digital channels.
For vendors, this changing dynamic calls for enabling the research process. Today’s digitally connected B2B vendors know that educating and being generous with helpful advice on social media is the most effective way to position their companies as valuable partners.
Businesses and consumers alike are interested in investing far more on product research today than we did before the social age. According to Jay Baer’s Youtility, in 2010, when social media’s pervasiveness had begun to take hold, shoppers needed an average of 5.3 sources of information to make a decision. By 2011, that number had almost doubled to 10.4.
In order to achieve high levels of performance with your social media marketing, you need to remember how the B2B procurement process works from the perspective of the buyer. The research process can be heavy on resources, and the people whose job it is to perform the research are often not the same people who make the final sourcing decisions.
Here are three pivotal ways that your B2B social media marketing needs to be helpful.
1. Prove your ROI
How can the purchasing business profit from your product or service? There are two main ways of proving that your offer is beneficial. The first is if it solves a major pain point for the business. If your solution can save your prospects time, money or other resources, then you’ll have a much better chance of making a sale.
The second way to demonstrate the potential for return on investment is, of course, proving that your product or service will increase revenues for your B2B prospect. Either way, by emphasizing the business case for your solution, you’ll be giving researchers on the prospecting end powerful ammunition for convincing their superiors about you.
Perhaps the most effective tactic for talking up you solution’s usefulness as a profit booster is to share case studies on your social media channels. Publish content about businesses you have helped in the past, and share concrete numbers, before and after. The profits are in the proof.
2. Cut to the chase
Unlike the world of B2C marketing, where social media marketing emphasizes building “image,” brand equity and positive sentiment over time, B2B social media means getting down to the nitty-gritty.
Keep in mind that business people are usually overworked and have mile-long to-do lists, so the faster you can connect them with the information they need, the more likely they are to want to work with you. Some B2B consumers will happily click around dozens of websites, social feeds and resource libraries before they figure out what it is that they want.
But many businesses just don’t have that kind of time. Time is money for them, so success means presenting, as clearly and simply as possible, your solution’s value proposition, focusing on how you can benefit your prospect’s business.
3. Emphasize consensus
Remember – the person you’re interacting with may not actually have the authority to sign checks. One distinct challenge in B2B marketing is that you’re selling to a business and not to an end consumer. That means that your social engagement is likely to be with a lower-down employee in a prospective customer company, someone who may not have the final signing authority. It may simply be his or her job to do research and perhaps to build a report that highlights his or her top choices. The decision then may go to the researcher’s boss, or the researcher’s boss’s boss, or even a committee or board.
So B2B marketers often indirectly sell their products to someone that has no specific knowledge of your field of expertise. That’s why it’s so important to stay away from highly technical language and instead stick to the tried-and-true basics, as listed above. But perhaps most importantly, try to foresee what specific pieces of information the employee you are dealing with will need to sell your product or service to his or her superiors.
When selling to businesses on social media, your posts and interactions should enable the B2B procurement pipeline by supplying prospects with the paperwork, documentation and supplementary information necessary to expedite B2B processes. And when you put your solution in the context of universal truths, you’re effectively giving everyone involved, regardless of their placement on the totem pole, what they need to know to seal the deal. Do your prospects’ jobs for them, and they will be grateful to you for your service, and there is a higher likelihood of closing a sale.
Help that meets demand
The key to B2B social media mastery is, therefore, incorporating the dynamics of today’s procurement processes into every interaction.
Provide true value to the people you’re engaging with by always proving your product’s ROI, positioning your solution as the answer for all relevant pain points, and in a way that builds trust and enables expediting the contemporary B2B sourcing pipeline.Ayelet Noff is a partner in insidesocialmedia.com and founder and Co-CEO of Blonde 2.0, an award winning digital PR agency with branches in Boston and Tel Aviv. Contact Ayelet via The Blonde 2.0 website , email, or follow her on Twitter and Google Plus.