After successfully launching my new social media agency last month, I have had the chance to speak with a few potential new clients that happen to be in the B2B space. These are companies who are on the smaller size and range from having a minimal social media marketing presence to almost none at all. The similarity I find in these companies, and in most of the smaller B2B companies I have engaged with, is that they are top-down companies where sales always pulls more political weight (and budget) internally than marketing does. They need to be educated in social selling from a social media for naysayers approach.
The Opportunity for B2B Social Today
When I talk to these potential clients, and it’s usually the marketing folks I speak with, I showcase the potential that social media has today for B2B companies in the following areas:
It’s also safe to say that if they are speaking with me, it also means that they have yet to receive internal approval for much, if any, budget for social media activities and thus are looking for a partner to build the case internally and help in the training and implementation for them.
For my B2B social media marketing friends that still struggle to get more budget for their social media activities today, I want to help you by providing you the following advice:
Stop trying to convince your executives that you need a blog or need to start creating visuals for Instagram or whatever social network you’re looking to engage in.
Start building up a case internally to help your salespeople complement their sales activities with social media.
Sales is Valued Greater than Marketing
Almost every small B2B business I have engaged with values their sales organization, and ability to bring in sales, over marketing. Therefore, instead of trying to shift the paradigm, find internal allies on your sales team that you can collaborate with to build a story as to why those salespeople who use social media outperform those who don’t and add case studies of how it has helped this salespeople and others in your organization.
Even in the most conservative of organizations where you might not be able to find an ally there is a story to be built as to how social can at a minimum help your salespeople stay in better touch with their customers. Sales is about relationships, and social media is too. Your clients don’t have to be looking for a next job to use social media professionally, but if they are like a majority of Americans, they are more than likely an active member of at least one social network for personal reasons. It’s time to help them “cross the chasm” to slowly begin the process of helping them use their social media presence to help them meet their sales goals.
What social network you choose for your social selling, however, is another conversation.
I recommend to proceed one step further and upload your contact database to any given social network to see which social networks your customers are on. You might be surprised as to how social your customers already are!
Sales Understands Your Client Better Than You Do
Every B2B organization I have ever worked in had a gap between the marketing messaging coming from headquarters and the stories told by salespeople and their field engineers. This is only natural because the salespeople are on the front line constantly being bombarded by questions from their clients and thus truly understanding their needs more than those that are not engaging with their customers on a daily basis.
Should your salespeople begin on a social selling program, your salespeople (or inside sales department) will become better at both understanding your customers needs online as well as social prospecting in general. This is critical because the launching of a B2B social media marketing strategy should include a blog, and your salespeople are the gateway to the golden nuggets of input that will help ensure your customers will find value in and want to subscribe to your content.
Employee Advocacy: The Holy Grail of B2B Social Media Marketing
I have already written at length as to why the Marketing and Sales gap needs to be aligned before employee advocacy can be successfully implemented at a B2B organization. If you have followed the steps above you will have created:
- a salesforce more savvy at social media
- a salesforce more connected and in tune with their customers
- a salesforce that is listening more regularly for relevant conversations in social from clients and prospects
- a salesforce that begins to understand the value of online content as part of the sales process
- a salesforce that begins to see the need for their own sharing of online content as part of the sales process
This is the most natural way to build an internal sales team that is actually hungry for employee advocacy because they will want marketing to provide them with relevant content to share on a regular basis to make them look good and help them engage. At this point, marketing shouldn’t have to access the sales team to take part in employee advocacy as it will be a natural evolution.
Once the employee advocacy aspect of your social media program begins with sales actively involved, you are on your way to B2B social media greatness. On the other hand, if you don’t follow this path, you end up frustrated because you can’t get approval for your social media marketing budget and your salespeople still don’t use social media in a methodological way.
This is why in B2B social, start with social selling.
Do your experiences in B2B social media marketing mirror what I describe above? Please chime in!