Online advertising is now the new norm for many brands, but the big question is:
Does traditional marketing in an online format still produce the kind of results (leads and sales) that is needed or expected by the companies using it?
Over the years many brands may have become accustomed to using online mediums to share their marketing materials and perhaps even come to depend on it. But let’s be honest, the impact of online advertising doesn’t have the same results today that it used to.
There’s just too much advertising online.
Wherever you go, you’re bombarded with pop-ups, display network ads, banners and calls-to-action.
This scatters your attention and your brain learns to ignore it.
And what about the cost of online advertising? It has only gotten more and more expensive.
But that’s not even the whole story.
Even the nature of the B2B buying journey has greatly changed over the last few years. B2B buyers are now empowered consumers – they don’t just research a brand and its offerings – they have the motivation and the resources to do this in an extremely thorough fashion, and then analyze and draw conclusions from what they find.
Does this leave you concerned about the value of the money and effort you are investing in traditional marketing tactics used online? It should.
So, how do you produce the kind of results you want and need for your business when marketing online? The answer is social selling.
What is social selling?
Social selling is about building relationships with your potential prospects and customers as well as establishing trust and authority, using social media and other digital marketing tactics.
In contrast to popular opinion, social selling doesn’t mean abandoning email, phone calls or real-life meetings.
Quite the opposite. Successful social selling is about building relationships to the point where you can comfortably take the conversation offline.
What social selling often does do, is eliminate the need for cold-calling and similar practices for some industries. This is because social selling is based on the notion of working with your audience until you become the clear choice when they need someone who does what you do.
In short, B2B social selling uses social media platforms to find people and businesses looking for someone that offers a solution such as yours and then turn them into customers.
Does social selling work (for B2B)
Current research shows that salespeople who use social media outperform those who don’t, and that companies are more successful when they focus their attention on social selling.
There’s a common myth that social selling only works for B2C. The fact is that it’s as effective for B2B as it is for B2C. For example, thanks to their social selling program, IBM increased sales by 400%.
How to Use Social Selling
1. Find the right people
To begin, you need to locate potential prospects on social media that would be interested in your offerings.
For this, you can use a social media monitoring tool (try Awario) that will find mentions of your brand, company, product, industry, and, most importantly, competitors on all major social networks, blogs and forums.
Try monitoring all the different social media platforms at first. Over time, you’ll notice trends oh which social media platforms your potential prospects are using as well as where your leads are coming from.
However, I’d suggest keeping an eye on any of the platforms they use, even after you’ve figured out the most used ones. This can be very important for maintaining your brand image and customer service. For example, if someone posted an angry YouTube review of your product, you’d definitely want to know about it, even if none of your leads come from YouTube.
This seems clear, however, there is a couple of questions that you might have at this point, so let’s get them out of the way.
Why would B2B buyers show their interest on social media?
Buyers often openly express their interests and needs through the social selling process.
This is especially true for B2B buyers, as they usually have a large network of social media users who can give them advice on a product/service. They may even start a discussion to get as many opinions from their peers as possible.
Why is social media a good place to sell something?
In the B2B sphere, in most cases, it’s NOT.
Generally, in the B2B realm, because of the complexity that can be involved, the sale takes place offline.
This is why you will want to use the social selling process to locate, connect and build a relationship with your potential prospects. Once you have accomplished this you can take the conversation offline, where you can have a sales conversation.
Remember that social media is asynchronous and non-interruptive, which makes it a good place for reaching out to people who haven’t made their decision yet.
With a bit of effort, social media enables marketers and salespeople to help their prospects get to know, like and trust them. And as multiple studies tell us, people are much more likely to buy from people they know, like and trust. Which brings us to the next point.
2. Build relationships
Once you’ve found and connected with your prospects, it time to start with nurturing these relationships.
According to Forrester, sales reps tend to ignore this phase and push the sales instead of solving a customer’s problem. Forrester warns that if organizations don’t change their outdated thinking and create effective sales models for today’s digital era, 1 million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020.
So as tempting as it might be to build a network of prospects and start bombarding them with your promotional content, it’s better to try the long-term way of making connections.
Now the question is:
How do you build a relationship on social media?
Don’t worry, you won’t have to take anyone out for dinner. In fact, building a relationship on social media is much easier than you think.
Engage with buyers’ posts: like, share or comment.
This is a way to get buyer’s attention and start social relationship building.
Try connecting and building a relationship with multiple decision-makers across various departments, when it makes sense, as this can make your job easier.
Post valuable content, relevant insights, and thought-provoking questions.
Content marketing is very important in B2B lead generation at the moment – it is now practiced by 91% of B2B marketers.
There’s a good reason for this: providing great content builds trust and credibility and presents you as an industry leader. Simply sharing industry news, third-party reports and any other relevant content builds a reputation for you.
Remember that you’re often working with the pre-purchase phases of decision-making when you practice social selling.
During this phase, buyers feel most motivated when they’ve been given something valuable in return for their interaction, and educational content is the easiest way to provide value.
Watch discussions about your/your competitor’s industry/brand/product for more information about your prospects such as their challenges, desires, frustrations and pain points.
Whatever you do, don’t push your product.
Stay visible and do your best to be helpful. Answer relevant questions, voice your opinion in Twitter Chats and Facebook Groups. This will help you make connections and become the person they recall when they need your company’s product or service.
3. Turn prospects into customers (when the time is right)
The key word here is “timing”. Let me explain.
Go back to point “one”. You’ve found some people who you’ve figured could be interested in the product. What kinds of mentions might you have found?
Here’re the most common ones:
1. Positive feedback
More often than you think, people leave positive feedback about brands on social media.
B2B buyers are more likely than other customers to leave a thoughtful, well written review about your product or service.
As you might’ve guessed, these are not the leads you’d have to start selling to: they know and like your services already. However, it’s very important to spread the good words for the sake of brand awareness and start building a relationship (see point “two” of the article) for the sake of customer retention.
2. Negative feedback
Everyone has to deal with negative feedback at some point.
In most cases, this is something that you should respond to. While it may seems unnecessary or even uncomfortable, reacting to negative comments is a part of social selling on its own. Reacting reasonably to the comment and offering a solution, an explanation, and an apology, might change the view of your brand in the eyes of the reviewer and the people reading it. Making a connection with a reviewer might be a good or a bad idea depending on the context.
3. Negative feedback (for your competitors)
Now that’s a whole different case. These are written by the warmest leads possible. They are interested in your niche and they may be happy to switch brands – all you have to do is make a personal connection and make it a seamless process.
This particular situation often requires very timely response – you need to react to the situation right away or someone else might jump at the opportunity.
4. Niche-related discussions
You will come across discussions where people are sharing their opinions about your industry and these discussions can hold influence with prospects who are in the decision making process.
These discussions can happen in places such as forums, social media communities and Reddit threads.
Don’t assume B2B buyers only read official press releases when choosing a company to buy from – just like regular customers, they read everything that catches their eye during the search process.
So, what do you do with this information?
The same as would in other situations, build relationships, contribute and establish yourself as an industry leader. Then, when the timing is right, you can point them at one of your content resources that addresses the specific problem the business faces.
Social selling requires consistency and commitment. To ensure you are efficient and effective with your time and efforts, you will need to optimize the process. If you are just starting out, try focusing your attention on just one or two social media platforms that your prospects are spending most of their time on and then try to figure out which activities perform best and eliminate the ones that don’t yield adequate results.
Do you or your company use social selling as part of their lead generation process? What kind of results have you gotten? Let me know in the comments below.