What works best for B2B content marketing?
According to a recent survey, the B2B Content Marketing Report, respondents reported customer testimonials (89%) and case studies (88%) are the most effective content marketing tactics. The survey (snapshot shown below) was conducted by Holger Schulz in the B2B Technology Marketing Community group on LinkedIn, with results posted here on Slideshare.
Why are customer success stories effective?
Have you wondered how to create a really great customer success story, or how you might use it in your marketing?
Customer success stories (AKA case studies) can be powerful tools for B2B Marketers. Their primary purpose is to help introduce a prospect to a product or service in the context of a successful implementation of it by another company.
They work particularly well towards the middle and bottom of the sales funnel when potential customers are looking for some real-world examples with a touch of radical transparency (You may recall from my podcast interview with Jay Baer on creating massively useful marketing with Youtility: prospects are looking for robust, detailed information about how your products/services work in the real world.) Customer success stories can be effective to illustrate just how inherently helpful your solution can be.
The most effective and compelling B2B marketing case studies are those where the focus is clearly on the business implementing the solution, not on the company who sold it.
They work even better when the buyer is positioned as the "hero" of the story, with the seller offering guidance, and of course the solution at the opportune time. Think of the customer as being on a quest (more on the quest story plot later) to solve an important business problem in much the same way Indiana Jones set out to find the Ark of the Covenant, and unlock its power.
Moreover, a well-crafted case study is essentially a story of the buyeys' journey. As such, to resonate with other potential buyers, it should contain elements of effective storytelling. Otherwise, it may simply come across as bland, unbelievable, or worse still, a self-promotional advertisement. And no one finds those helpful or compelling enough to warrant taking the next step.
Here's how to go about crafting a compelling B2B customer success story:
Engage with your customer as a willing participant
It should go without saying, but I will anyways: a customer success story is as much, if not more, about the customer as it is about your company. (Duh - this might be why they're called "customer success stories!") So for goodness sakes, first discuss it with your customer! What's in it for them? Position it as a tool they will be proud of and can use perhaps in their own marketing and client relations. After all, your customer is the true hero of the story. So collaborate with them from the very beginning and all the way through to make it truly shine.
Begin by answering some key questions
The most important part of constructing a compelling story is taking the time to ask good questions. For starters...
- What’s the purpose of your case study?
- Who is the audience/buyer persona you are targeting?
- What do you want them to do upon reading the case study? What’s the call-to-action?
- How will you publish and promote your case study?
- How can your customer use it to their competitive advantage?
Think about the customer situation, the experience and situation around the sales and delivery process. Be curious. Don't be satisfied until you uncover the "real" story. Be like Peter Falk in the T.V. Series Columbo, "Excuse me, but there's one more question I'd like to ask before I go." Keep asking questions like:
- When did this take place?
- What were the circumstances at the time?
- Who was involved (people from client and company side, roles)?
- What was the main problem, goal, project or opportunity?
- What did the customer stand to gain or lose - what was at stake?
- Were there people who were especially helpful or difficult?
- What information and/or rationale supported the direction to seek your solution?
- How did this involve a change in what was, with what they were moving to?
- What resistance, conflict, complications, and tension did they experience?
- How did you or the team overcome these obstacles?
- What emotions of fear, pain or pleasure were present?
- Were there any surprises, twists or turns or unexpected outcomes.
- What is the one thing you'll always remember about it? Nancy Duarte in Resonate calls this a S.T.A.R moment: Something They'll Always Remember. These are powerful insights to include!
- What was the solution (your products/services)? And briefly explain how your technology/solution/service/product works.
- What was the final resolution or outcome?
- What did they/you learn, or what was the moral of the story?
- What key takeaway or core value came to light at the end of this story?
- What are the key benefits the customer realized as a result of adopting your product or service?
- Get the cooperation of your customer and some quotes. Share how this will benefit them and how they can use the success story to their advantage. What’s in it for them? Can you combine this with a news release to get them more exposure? Remember to make them the hero, not you, your company or your solution. It should be about them.
Use the quest story plot to give it structure
The quest story plot is a well-recognized format used in literature, musical theater, novels and the movies. It also plays out in real life and people will identify with the structure and elements of it as you tell the story. It’s an excellent format with which to tell a customer success story: a journey which pulls the hero to some distant, all-important goal.
A Suggested Format & Structural Flow:
- Create a working title.
- Describe the situation prior to implementing the solution.
- Make a transition. This is short, but should indicate the key driver that led to making a change and what prompted the customer to go on the quest for a better solution. "Blue Sky Inc. knew their self-managed and hosted IT infrastructure was no longer sustainable...so they turned to the cloud."
- Recount the challenge and the turning point (and any final ordeals) to adopting the solution. These are things that may have been encountered just before or while finding and adopting the solution. Quests don’t normally go smoothly, be honest about the journey. Others will identify and find interest in the twists and turns. Also, you might describe alternative solutions or options tried or considered, and why they weren’t the right fit.
- Describe the solution to the problem.
- Convey how things are different now – the results – lessons learned.
4 Main Structural Sections to Include in Your Completed Case Study:
Now take everything you've probed, gathered and thought of thus far and begin to write out your B2B customer success story in these four parts:
Section 1: The Pre-Solution State
Section 2: The Challenge
Section 3: The Solution
Section 4: The Results
Additional Tips & Resources:
Formula for writing an effective title for your success story:
Client name plus verb plus benefit plus solution equals your headline.
B2B Example: Blue Sky Inc. Sees 30% IT Cost Reduction with Cloud Computing
Think of these as mini-headlines to help identify the sub-sections of your case study and engage the reader’s interest.
The Challenge section example: Achieve Greater IT Cost Predictability, Speed Application Deployment
The Solution section example: SaaS Implementation Model Lowers Human, Infrastructure Costs
The Result Section: Blue Sky Inc. Speeds Deployment of New Applications, Sees 30% Reduction in Asset Cost
But wait, there's more…
- The title is everything, make it compelling and indicative of what the customer gained by adopting the solution.
- Compelling case studies are stories about people. We need to understand the human side of the problem.
- Think about it as an adventure and use elements of good storytelling in a conversational way to describe what took place. And remember, facts are important, but people make decisions based on emotional appeal. The best way to unite your ideas with emotion is by telling authentic stories.
- Position your customer as the hero of the story, not you or the solution. As the solution provider, you are in the role of the guide helping your customer through the ups and downs, twists and turns along the path.
What's your next customer success story going to be?
I'd love to hear how you may use this info to craft your next customer success story. Please drop a line in the comments below about that, or share how you've used success stories in the past.
Are you marketing to B2B companies on the Web? If so, how are you set up to be found and engage with them? You want to fill your funnel with interested and qualified prospects. Should we say more interested and qualified prospects? If so, you're probably very interested in top B2B inbound marketing tactics for business results. Right?
I snagged a prospect on my Web site this week. My prospect, the the head of marketing at a B2B company found me by Googling the term, "b2b inbound." I was thrilled. I dominate the first page for this term occupying the first 4 of 5 slots. Granted, there's not a lot of traffic one can expect to generate for this search term. But I'll take the 2 daily visits my keyword research tool tells me I can get for being the #1 ranked listing. Besides, it's my name. I should be found on top of the heap for it. But I digress. Or do I?
Back to my lead. He completed my contact form: "Looking for a website redesign, please call."
Naturally, I called. He was sharp and had a definite idea of what he wanted out of a Web site redesign, the process he was using to evaluate "partners," and what he didn't want to get into: No blogging or social media, and "we do quite well with SEO already," he stated.
He then rattled off a bunch of Web sites he wanted his to be more like. I was already familiar with them (sites like Marketo and Aprimo). They do a fantastic job of marketing to B2B in a buyer-centric manner and all have active blogs, social media engagements and strong SEO.
In other words, here was a B2B company who Googled, "b2b inbound" but had no immediate and strong interest in inbound marketing services.
I was dumbfounded. He said he wanted to be found more on the Web, engage users with information then convert them via a registration process for a demo or more info. But, he didn't want to invest in any of the inbound marketing tactics known to drive the business value he was seeking.
I thought I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and graded his Web site via HubSpot's Website Grader. It didn't fair so well. The score of 53 out of 100 indicates the marketing effectiveness of his site is better than 53% of the over 3.3 million sites that have been graded thus far. 53% isn't good enough. And, doing a Web site redesign without a content marketing (blog), social media and SEO plan will not help improve it.
What are other B2B marketers investing in for effective marketing to B2B? Well, if you happen to Google "b2b inbound" you'll see the current 6th place listing: B2B Inbound Marketing: Top tactics for social media, SEO, PPC and optimization.
I wish my prospect would have checked this out first. Maybe it would have made a difference in his thinking. It points out that "inbound marketing is growing in B2B companies. Investments in webinars, SEO, social marketing (includes most effective tactic: blogging), and page optimization are all on the rise."
This comes from a MarketingSherpa, 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report which found investment was increasing:
- 69% for website design, management and optimization
- 69% for social media
- 60% for virtual events / webinars (content, content, content)
- 60% for search engine optimization
Are you marketing to B2B? Thinking or planning to do a Web site redesign? Great. Do that. But don't forget the most important tactics to marketing effectiveness!
My response to this prospect? I think this is it. I think I'll send him a link to this blog post with a copy of his website grader report.
What would you do?
It's widely accepted that creating compelling and relevant content and publishing it on a consistent basis can lead to a bevy of benefits for the digital marketer. Namely, increased traffic, links, SEO authority, leads, thought leadership status and sales growth.
"Content is King," we hear. And creating content is at the center of any inbound marketing plan. SEO you might say begins and ends with content; without it we'd have no reason to search. Blogs and podcasts tell us 2011 is the year of content marketing.
How do marketers deal with the mantra of creating more and more content? ContentWise reports over $47 billion was spent on content curation and publishing in 2009. A new study (published Sept. 2010) by MarketingProfs and Junta42 named, B2B Content Marketing 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends found, among other things:
- 9 in 10 B2B organizations market with content
- 51% report they plan to increase spending on content marketing
- More than a quarter of their marketing budget, on average is spent on content marketing
With modern web technologies everyone can be a content creator and publisher. This onslaught of content gives consumers more choices than ever. More, it could be argued than they know what to do with making it increasingly difficult to find the best content for a specific interest or need. We're finding ourselves in content white-out conditions. There's an ever rising amount of it.
For companies who are content creators and publishers, it's getting increasingly more challenging to get found - to rise to the top of search. Not only that, but add to this the flood of activity around content creating and sharing enabled by social media:
"It's a well-known fact that the game has changed forever when it comes to interacting with customers and prospects. While the Internet has proved an invaluable tool for the rapid sharing of information, the deluge of online content driven by new social media channels continues to grow at an ever increasing and relentless pace," writes Pawan Deshpande, CEO of HiveFire in the ebook: Content Curation: Taming the Flood of Online Content.
So, where does that leave us? If content creation, publishing and marketing is so very important (and it is) how can marketers stand out in this blizzard, and how can consumers/information seekers deal with finding the best, most relevant content that meets their needs? Enter Content Curation.
Content Curation Rising
Rohit Bhargava, a highly-regarded global marketing strategist and founding member of the 360 Digital Influence Group at Ogilvy, one of the largest marketing agencies in the world, recently published: 15 Marketing & Social Media Trends to Watch in 2011 on SlideShare. Take note of Trend #5: Rise of Curation.
"One way, suggests Bhargava, "to deal with the vast amount of information out there is through content curation. I wrote back in 2009 about how I felt the Content Curator would be the next big job of the future. In 2010, this started to become a reality as more companies hired people in these types of roles."
I'll explain a bit more about what content curation is, (or at least how I'm beginning to understand it) but think of it as both a tool and a process - something that may involve both technology and humans to pull off. It can be highly effective for harnessing the best information possible across a vast array of sources while adding credible and actionable insights in an impactful and interactive way. As again, Pawan Deshpande points out in the aforementioned ebook:
"Content curation has emerged as a new and powerful tool for B2B marketers, allowing them to easily sift through the flood of content, cost-effectively advance online thought leadership, and drive business through new and innovative customer interactions."
Content Curation Defined
How do you define content curation? There are some interesting perspectives on the definition of content curation from a number of marketers and strategists as assembled by Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing in his post titled Content Marketing: Definitions of Curation & Context. My favorite is from MarketingProf's Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley who puts it this way:
"Content curation is the act of continually identifying, selecting and sharing the best and most relevant online content and other online resources (and by that I mean articles, blog posts, videos, photos, tools, tweets, or whatever) on a specific subject to match the needs of a specific audience."
Now Hiring: Content Curators!
What we need it seems, are curators amidst the blizzard of content. To gather, shape, and put it to use in a much more benefical way. Somewhat like the pair to the left has done amidst the Snowmageddon of 2010 in Minneapolis! You may view, and rightly so I believe, content curation as an emerging category in the overall content marketing game. As such, we may envision any number of roles. Certainly there will be content creators and thought leaders to provide their insights and to advance a particular point of view. They will continue to create original content supplemented with the curated content. And someone will annotate, editorialize, comment on and put into perspective for us what the curated content means.
The Content Curation Process - Below diagram from a recent American Marketing Association webcast presented by HiveFire CEO Pawan Deshpande and joined by Chris Brogan, President, New Marketing Labs on: Content Curation: The Secret to becoming a Thought Leader.
"A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online." - Rohit Bhargava
And yes, there are solutions, like HiveFire's Curata that help automate the curation and organization of content that's most relevant and useful to a particular audience. What's more, they provide blogging functionality for creating original content, sharing, visitor engagement and more, all in one platform or destination/microsite. I'll talk more, in upcoming articles about how solutions like Curata have helped companies like Airvana, Verne Global and others leverage content curation technology to boost not only SEO, traffic, leads, inbound PR and keyword rankings but thought leadership as well - in a short amount of time - amidst the flood of industry created content and tight marketing budgets.
While automation can be a key component to success with content curation, so too is human invovlement. Like C.C Chapman and Ann Handley wrote in their book, Content Rules: "You still need a human at the helm."
So, whether we employ a content curator to pull in, shape and help advance the company's voice over a particular subject, or we involve multiple folks, the point is: the content we're creating and curating must mean something to our audience. At the end of the day, we want, no need someone to help us understand what it means, what it means to us and how to best act on it.
Content Curation Marketing: Just Scratching the Surface
You no doubt have questions, opinions, interests, concerns over content curation marketing and what it might mean to your organization and content marketing plan. In the weeks ahead I'll discuss more specifics about the practice and place for content curation. With more about the tools and processes involved and share some case studies, real-world examples of content curation at work driving real business results. I'll help you determine whether content curation is for you, and will make a case for how content curation can be your ticket to becoming a recognized thought leader for advancing your brand or particular business opportunity.
For now, your questions/comments are welcome.
I don't need to convince you of the benefits of blogging for small businesses do I? Good, didn't think so. But sometimes, despite our best intentions to be consistent we miss putting that log on the fire. And consequently that daily, or in my case weekly blog post gets snuffed out by other "priorities."
So, when that happens (and it will). Let me encourage you as I do myself on some ways to re-ignite or stoke up your blogging fire.
1. Have an Idea Management System.
I got this from another HubSpot customer, Jeffrey Henning of Vovici who spoke at the HubSpot User Group (HUG) conference in Boston this past October. Download his presentation: Create a Blog Factory - Building an assembly line of daily or weekly blog posts. You can also download the handout here. You may also like to watch the video of Jeffrey's presentation:
For me, everything starts with the idea. Ideas lead to topics, themes, positioning, key points, inspiration and the development process. The key is to get your ideas from your head to some type of central collection tool. Jerry says to "collect your ideas in one place."
I write my ideas down or scribble notes on some information piece I've printed out and put them in a folder aptly named, "Blog Ideas." But that's me, I'm a paper guy. You digital natives could use an app on your handheld device or your computer.
The point is if you have a collection of ideas to draw from you'll be one step ahead of firing up your blogging engine.
2. Plan for different types of posts.
Turn your ideas into a variety of blog posts by categorizing or segmenting them into different types. For example, in a recent training webinar for HubSpot partners, "Coaching Clients to Blogging Success," Pete Caputa said to "Plan a Mix of Posts." Drawing analogies to different types of food he suggested blog posts could be categorized as:
- Raisin Bran - Basic, Everyday Posts. These are "how to" posts that are rich in the keywords you want to be found for and are very useful to your readers.
- Spinach - Healthy, Thoughtful Posts. These help establish you as a thought leader in your industry or niche. Here are 3 Ways to Develop B2B Thought Leadership, a post I wrote last August.
- Roasts - Big Blog Projects. These take some time and considerable effort to produce. They could be done as a series. Done well they will garner lots of links, discussion and attention.
- Tabasco - Posts That Start Fires. There are times when you may want to take a stand, be bold or state a different viewpoint.These types of posts can also help cultivate you as a thought leader and generate lots of comments and links. The downside of course is feeding readers a steady diet of contrary viewpoints can cause you to lose trust and credibility.
- Chocolate Cake - The Sweet Stuff. Have some fun, lighten up, poke some fun at yourself, sweeten things up with some video. I like to sometimes use metaphors like I did with the series on Tips for Stagecoach Travelers and Inbound Marketers where I drew some similarities and lessons from the former to the latter.
3. Be in a Blogging Mindset.
Athletes excel when they're "in the zone." Hitters at their peak performance see fastballs as though they're in slow motion. Golfers get into a rhythm with their swing and timing. Performers, like dancers (like Gillian Lynne) often have to move to think - they are at their best, most natural self when they are applying their craft, when they are in motion.
The same can be said for bloggers who become the blog - who stay in a blogging mindset. It's not an activity with a scheduled start and stop time. It takes in all that you do and experience all of the time. And all of that fits into how you think, what ideas you have and how you communicate them. Making blogging part of your every move puts wood on the fire, it keeps your fire burning and brings value to those entering the room.
Not sure if this was a Raisin Bran or Spinach post, but I hope you found it useful. Hope it gave you some inspiration on collecting ideas, planning to mix up your posts for a balanced diet and got you thinking about staying in a blogging mindset.
What tips do you have for stoking the blogging fire?
The centerpiece of this post is a short, 2 minute video I shot of my friend, Bernie Borges of Find and Convert on the subject of how and why B2B companies can embrace social media marketing.
But before you view that, I'd like to share a short tale of how Bernie and I came to meet (offline), continued our conversation (online) and deepened our relationship, again offline.
The Lifecycle of Interaction in Social Media Marketing
A quick aside: if you're looking for a book that helps you understand and apply modern and effective marketing strategies with how-to tactics and real-life case studies, do yourself a huge favor and pick up Bernie's book: Marketing 2.0: Bridging the Gap between Seller and Buyer through Social Media Marketing.
One of the things you'll learn and want to practice is what Bernie calls, "The Lifecycle of Interaction in Social Media Marketing" (he devotes an entire chapter to it). The Lifecycle of Interaction in Social Media Marketing involves: Engaging, Listening, Interacting and Measuring. And that's precisely what transpired in our tale.
Mix into this lifecycle of interaction the concept of O2O: Online to Offline to Online, or in our case: Offline-Online-Offline...
A year-and-a-half ago I met Bernie, CEO of Find and Convert at an industry conference (offline event). We struck up a conversation, discovered we had some things in common, exchanged business cards and that...
Led to Online Listening & Interacting
Following @berniebay on Twitter I learned he's an engaging podcaster, blogger, content marketer and author of the aforementioned book. (Hint - Get That Book!)
I "listened" to all his content which offered me valuable insights into my own marketing strategy and practices. We continued building our relationship through online social media sites and email.
Fast-forward a year-and-a-half to today. We subscribe to each other's content, email each other and tweet about business (and baseball - He's in Tampa and a Rays fan, I'm in San Francisco a Giants fan). All of this online interaction set the stage for and led...
To More Offline Interacting
Earlier this month we met offline again at the HubSpot User Group (HUG) conference and Inbound Marketing Summit in Boston.
During the conference we talked some more and I shot the video for this post of Bernie outlining in simple terms how and why B2B companies can embrace social media marketing.
Then, following the conference, I hitched a ride with him to the airport. He drove, I navigated, and we had an engaging discussion about our mutual interests, business challenges and opportunities.
I'm certain the O2O cycle in the context of the lifecycle of interaction will continue. And, who knows, someday we may find opportunity to collaborate and do measurable business together.
Relationships take time, but embracing the opportunities and tools puts you in a position to grow and succeed.
I hope you'll view Bernie's video, read his book; and if you find some things in common or that resonate with you begin following @berniebay and/or @gregelwell on Twitter. Who knows, maybe we'll meet offline some day and deepen the lifecycle of interaction in our social media marketing?
Note: The links to Bernie's book: Marketing 2.0: Bridging the Gap between Seller and Buyer through Social Media Marketing are my Amazon.com associate links. You don't pay any more for the book and I make a small referral fee.
Next post: Time for a Social Media Marketing Revival? Don't miss it as I bare my soul, share my social media experience and what keeps me on the social media straight and narrow. Subscribe to the B2B Inbound Marketing Blog.
Today, I received my usual daily, Seth Godin blog post via email titled: Two kinds of schooling. The two types:
Type 1. You can take a class where you learn technique, facts and procedures.
Type 2. You can take a class where you learn to see, learn to lead and learn to solve interesting problems.
Godin's post got me thinking about being a content producer. If you're in the B2B lead generation game you're in the content business. More specifically, you're in the content marketing business.
In case you missed it, I wrote about the significance of producing content and its correlation to lead generation in the post: B2B Lead Generation: Setting Content Marketing Goals. Basically, to recap: the more content you produce drives more traffic, links, SEO authority and leads. And, it's important therefore to set goals around the most important content related metrics, like the number of Google indexed pages, keyword rankings and blog posts.
That's all well and good, but after reading Godin's post on the two kinds of schooling, I realized theres more to it than just creating buckets of content. Just as there's a difference in the kind of results you'll get from the types of schooling you receive, there's also a big difference in the kind of engagement you'll get from the types of content you publish.
Remarkable & Relevant Content
When you first start zeroing in on the kind of content you should be marketing the concepts of remarkable and relevant content come readily to mind. But I think this doesn't quite go far enough. As in the two different types of schooling, you could be cranking out remarkable and relevant content but it may still not have the impact on lead generation you're looking for. For this reason I believe we must examine two kinds of remarkable and relevant content.
The Tale of Two Kinds of Content Mindsets
It seems to me to be a lot about positioning. Where you're coming from. What's your content producing mindset? There's two types as I see it:
1. Commodity based content. This is fact-based content. It's focused on heralding the virtues, features and benefits of products and services. There's nothing wrong with commodity based content. It's needed. It may even be remarkable and relevant. I mean what would we do without all the Dummies books? It's all very proper and valid and true and compliant with known laws, principles and scientific fact. But, the issue with this kind of content is it's dry. It doesn't connect with the readers problem. It doesn't really stir any emotional response or opinion. You could get it from just about anywhere. From it, you don't get any sense of the content producer's heart, soul or persona. It's just kind of vanilla - anyone could have written it. Maybe useful, but more often than not it fails to connect at a level we humans need.
2. Thought leadership content. This is getting inside the head of your reader type content. It comes from an understanding of your buyer personas' needs, problems and the ideas and solutions they seek. It tells a story, differentiates, goes against the flow, stirs reactions, stimulates fresh thinking, nurtures consideration and helps drive action.
It's illustrated by the approach Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spas takes on his company blog. Sheridan, who set out "to become the thought leader in the in-ground swimming pool industry through content creation and distribution," via his blog and social media engagement, frequently answers common questions his typical customers ask. For example, he recently shared his ideas on 11 Ways to Enhance the Look of Your Backyard Swimming Pool Oasis. So, if you were in the market to have an in-ground swimming pool installed in your backyard, wouldn't you want to know (beyond the specs and facts) how to integrate it with your surroundings and create a really great experience? Marcus thinks so, and he consistently produces this type of content to his market.
You may not be in the swimming pool, B2C space, but the principles of connecting with your audience through thought leadership is the same for B2B companies. In a recent Economics Intelligence Unit study reported by Marketo.com (Why Thought Leadership Rules the B2B World), 56% of B2B marketing executives stated "Positioning our company as a thought leader" as their top objective.
Focus your content pages and blog on helping others to see your vision, passion and ideas for solving their problems in creative ways. Go beyond the facts. Put your content marketing and editorial calendar together with a thought-leadership objective. Doing so may just get us hooked on you: subscribing to your blog, linking to your content, advocating your stuff on social media sites, and yes, signing up for your offers and trusting you with our business.
What ways have you found to generate thought-leadership content?
What's the Appropriate PLACE for Social Media in B2B?
For some time now I've been reflecting on the PLACE for B2B social media marketing among business-to-business organizations. Is this PLACE we're looking for...
- a tactic to add to your marketing mix,
- a vehicle to generate leads for the business,
- a way to demonstrate you're current with the new technologies,
- a means to keep on top of trends,
- a soapbox to establish you as a thought leader, or
- a method of monitoring brand mentions and industry keywords?
What would you add to this list?
Social media engagement for B2B finds value in some of these, maybe all, and more. But if we only think of social media as just another technology choice, or something to add to the mix in order to generate leads (and so on) we're missing the point.
Begin with the thought that social media is about sociology not technology. Or, as was presented by Charlene Li last summer in a MarketingProf's Summer Social Webinar, The Art of Social Media: It's All About The Relationships: "Rather than think about crafting a strategy around social technologies, marketers should be pondering how they can use social technologies to support a customer relationship."
If we just think of social media as a technology, tool, trendy thing or tactic we're not helping those who fall into the camp of B2B marketers who say social media is irrelevant to their company. Nor do we do service to the skeptics. Or, if you are one of those B2B marketers whose CEO thinks it's a waste of time and effort,* these PLACES of social media in your company's thinking is of little or no value to meaningful adoption.
And too, you may have tried b2b online marketing with social media but have made one or more of the 7 Common B2B Social Media Marketing Mistakes. Not the least of which in my view is mistake # 7: "Ignoring synergy between different media - It is important that you do not silo your social media activities from your corporate website, public relations activities or your online marketing campaigns."
Instead of thinking of social media marketing with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any number of technologies as something you add to your marketing mix, think about it as something that is part of your every move. Having goals around four key areas according to Li help define your strategy:
- Learn - who's talking and what are they saying?
- Dialog - get engaged with the conversation.
- Help - provide useful support and service.
- Innovate - discover how you can improve your customer's experience.
Not saying it's easy or quick to go down this path in figuring it all out.
I too have struggled with the challenges of investing time and resources in social media to find business value. I wrote about this not too long ago here in Building Your Business with Social Media Networking. Sometimes you just learn by doing. As I heard Chris Brogan remark at a conference: "Two-thirds of companies do social media on the fly first and then figure out what's working."
Through the journey to find my PLACE I came to the realization: The objective is not to build social media into business, but to build business around a social media experience.
That's a paradigm shift for sure. But it will help to justify investing time and resources if you can manage to arrive at that distinction.
Justifying Social Media Engagement for B2B
You can arm yourself with data and point to the growing number of social media success stories among B2B companies. You can track and measure the ROI of social media with closed loop marketing such as what HubSpot's CMS software provides. You can also find your customers and competitors on social media. Any of these can be compelling reason to build your B2B social media marketing case.
But, until you come to grips with your fundamental PURPOSE for the PLACE of social media marketing in your organization you will fail to effectively engage the sociosphere for any real business value.
So, here's the PLACE I'd like to suggest you claim as yours for social media engagement in your B2B organization: Make it about how you humanize your brand through interaction and sharing of useful knowledge and experiences vs. adding one more marketing tactic to the mix.
Your PLACE of engagement in social media is centered on who you are - your business persona - and how you render useful service. It strikes at the very core of the purpose of your company and why you exist. Social media is a way for you to tell your story and lend your true voice to the conversation.
Not engaging in social media is like saying we don't matter. We have nothing to contribute. We are not worth remarking about. We are not about making a difference for good. And, a failure to genuinely engage is a sign you lack the courage to become vulnerable and stick up for what you believe in.
The beauty and essence of what this PLACE of social media is that I'm talking about is that it...
- lets you be true to your mission,
- brings out the passion you have to render useful service or products,
- unleashes your voice and personality,
- gives people a reason to know, like and trust you, and
- strikes at the very core of why you matter.
The one thing your B2B organization needs to begin to share your experience is at least one internal advocate who gets it. Who understands social media is not an advertising or direct response vehicle. It's a channel for letting the human side of the company shine through. It's that part of your business operations that gives more than you seek to get. That part that delivers superior value beyond what any customer has any right to expect. It's that one person that can personify the core values of what makes your business truly remarkable and worthy of consideration.
Are you that person? Do you have the courage to lay claim of this kind of PLACE for social media marketing in your organization? Can you tear down that firewall that isolates and prevents you from freely sharing information that's been in lock-down for too many years? Will you be the one to transform the way you go to market and on what and where you invest?
If you are and you can, then get started now and don't quit, ever. It will take some time. But anything worth doing and is worthwhile is worth doing well with determination, definiteness of purpose, courage and faith.
If you aren't that person but know someone who is then help him/her to get stated.
If you are, but they won't let you, there are two choices. You can hang in there and continue to champion the PLACE for social media marketing. Or, you can leave and go elsewhere.
All of this takes courage, conviction and a will to succeed.
I wish you well, and would love to hear your stories, challenges and successes.
*Reference: eMarketer article on White Horse report