When properly implemented, social media can help B2B companies develop early-stage prospect relationships, nurture leads, speed up the sales cycle and deepen customer relationships.
Social media is here to stay. And not just for business to consumer sales -- social media is playing a larger role in the B2B decision-making process for high-cost, long sales cycle purchases that involve many stakeholders.
In the recent past, marketing focused on building awareness using advertising, direct mail, trade shows, PR, print media and cold calls. To get a company's product information, prospects had to engage directly with a sales person.
Now, due to the Internet and online reviews, blogs and social media, prospects can thoroughly research a company, its products, prices and reputation without making first contact with that company. According to Forrester Research, 77% of B2B decision-makers are active in social media.
Paul Gillin, in "Secrets of Social Media Marketing" describes the tectonic shift in marketing:
"Social media challenges nearly every assumption about how businesses should communicate with their constituencies. The most important change to understand and to accept is that those constituencies now have the capacity to talk - to each other and to the businesses they patronize. In the past, those conversations have been limited to groups of at most a few people. Today, they are global and may include millions of voices. Once a shift like this occurs, a log of change happens, both predictable and unforeseen."
A word of caution, however - before leaping into social media, B2B companies need to determine how social media fits in with their business objectives. Then, social media needs to be treated as a critical and accountable part of their marketing and sales strategies.
An eBook by Marketo warns against making these common social media mistakes:
- Don't dive into social media unless you're ready. You need objectives, goals and ways to measure success and accountability.
- Don't be a big brag. Know the difference between becoming a thought leader and endless self-promotion.
- Don't be afraid to try social media because it doesn't rely on the traditional metrics you're used to. ROI will be challenging with social media, but there are ways to measure impact if you have a baseline to start with.
- Don't use social media sites as advertising opportunities. Keep your brand human on social media sites and save your ad-speak for real advertising.
- Don't assume every social media site is good for your business. Research which social sites your customers frequent and how the prefer to consumer content.
Click here to download "The Definitive Guide to B2B Social Media" or view the SlideShare presentation below.