Social Selling in B2B marketing
Most of the clients I talk to consider social selling as a pure sales activity. They count on this to reduce the hated cold calling. Unfortunately, they complain about insufficient support from marketing and often expect me to help them implement effective sales activities without involving marketing. This is a very unfavorable situation and I try to dissuade salespeople from this lonely battle.
From this article you will learn how marketing can organize and support social selling activities. Here I present some practical advice for B2B marketers who want to use the potential of social networks to generate valuable leads and create a professional image for the organization and its employees.
Prepare the platform and knowledge
Social Selling requires preparation of many resources - platform, content, promotion, reporting, etc. Sellers usually don't have the time or skills to do this. Therefore, marketing's involvement is essential.
Social Selling requires an environment in the form of a presence on a social platform. Sticking with LinkedIn - it's not enough to create an account and wholesale invitations to network. You need to take care of a lot of details - from a decent photo, bio, descriptions to valuable and quality content that can be shared and build your contact base. This is where a marketer's workshop comes in very handy.
From practice, I know that organizing a training session where participants get a professional photo and a set of practical tips on their visibility on LinkedIn opens the way to talk about getting more involved in promoting company content.
Organize a photo shoot for the sales department, help create professional descriptions optimized for search engines, prepare some good examples of effective profiles, finally, take care of the company page and support sales with targeted campaigns to promote the posts of the most active sellers. Even the most stubborn ones seeing their number of contacts and interactions grow thanks to you will appreciate these actions and ask for more. They will also become active promoters of your company's content expanding its reach.
Also prepare the communication and the place where the content will be published for sellers. In addition to publishing on company profiles, it's worth having a resource of content available only to salespeople. This could be an internal intranet or a service like Slack, Teams, Trello, etc.
Content that sells
If you can convince salespeople to become more involved in using social networks to sell, they will need your help in the form of content they can use. It is a good content resource that will determine the success of your social selling strategy. If you're already producing content for a blog, you may find that a lot of the work has already been done. In most cases I advise clients to base their social selling strategy on existing content, as long as it meets the basic requirements of B2B content marketing:
- They are tailored to different stages of the decision-making process. They help gain knowledge not only about the product, but also about the problems and challenges that usually drive customers' attention to our products. For example, if you sell CRM systems, don't limit yourself to just functionality but advise on how to deal with predicting sales, etc. Differentiating your content from this angle will allow you to reach customers who are not yet thinking about a purchase but are analyzing potential solutions to problems they have encountered.
- They are tailored to the profile of the decision maker. It's a truism, but a sales manager analyzing a potential CRM implementation and a CFO will expect different information. Since in social selling, salespeople interact with people they know by name (at least they should if they use Sales Navigator) it is their responsibility to select content that is interesting from their point of view.
- They are expert content - that is, they are created to convey valuable, useful knowledge, not just to present an offer. Such materials are often in the form of analysis, case studies, Witepaer, etc. The name is not important. What is important is that the expert material can be the basis for establishing a relationship or at least a discussion, as opposed to an offer that is likely to end up in the trash.
- Są łatwe do przesyłania i przeglądania. Kolejny truizm ale odpowiednie dobranie formatów, skracanie lub podział zbyt obszernych materiałów to taktyka, która może nam ułatwić dystrybucję treści. Obecnie warto dbać o czytelność materiałów na urządzeniach mobilnych bo ok połowy naszych klientów obejrzy te treści na smartfonach.
- They are in sync with marketing campaigns. If you are running a campaign on Linkedin aimed at a specific target group, it is worth equipping salespeople with materials that are related to it. This way you get a synergistic effect. I usually suggest that the materials used by salespeople should be more detached from the product
Listening to what's happening online, and intelligently joining in on interesting conversations is a relatively uncommon practice in Poland. Perhaps the reason for this is the low popularity of Twitter in Polish business circles. And it was from following hashtags on Twitter that the era of social listening began. The good news is that social monitoring nowadays can cover practically any medium - not only social networks but also statements on forums, product reviews and even comments in app stores for mobile platforms.
Such listening and intelligent response is obviously a task for marketers. Using military terminology - marketers act like intelligence services - they collect and analyze information, prepare plans of action and when the situation is ripe for it - they pass the initiative to the special branch, i.e. the sales team.
What such a "special action" might look like. Suppose you offer CRM systems. In a monitoring tool such as Brand24, for example, you specify words and even key phrases related to your offer. That way, if someone on Linkedin, Twitter or a topic forum asks a question about CRM, you'll receive a notification and decide whether it's worth joining such a conversation.
This is also where the "give first, ask later" principle comes into play. This means that it is not worthwhile to immediately flood everyone who asks about CRM with offers and descriptions of successes, but to share knowledge and help. If the help is appreciated it is worth subtly mentioning what you do and offer to contact you. Always act in this order. This is what will set you apart from the rest of your less patient competitors, who will end up in the readers' minds in the "spam" basket.
You can use a similar technique at international conferences where you can't attend in person. Having attractive product information prepared, you can refer to posts and tweets by sharing your content. In this case, it can be product content but it must fit the context. It's not worth sending a product brochure to everyone who mentions being at a conference about CRM. Rather, pick one piece of information - a tidbit, a new feature - and show it in a visual way - a GIF, a short video. This is where marketers' creativity comes in handy.
If you manage to get the attention of potential customers and get them to agree to contact you - at that point you can pass it on to salespeople.
Social monitoring goes beyond the field of sales support but in this article we focus on the application of this technique only.
Vendor image and progress monitoring
For a salesperson, the financial effect of engaging in social selling will always be the most important. Remember, however, that for the most part the effects will come after a few months, and it is worthwhile to have some kind of yardstick at that time that tells us we are moving in the right direction. The Social Selling Index prepared by Linkedin can be such a tool. With it, you can assess your potential for selling on a social network - in this case, of course, Linkedin.
The Selling Index shows how our activities on Linkedin can translate into sales contacts on a scale of 1 to 100. Since salespeople are people who like to compete, if they realize that their index value is lower than that of their teammates - they will be more motivated in learning more about social selling techniques.
In the article "Social Selling for B2B Salespeople," I break down the Social Selling Index into small components and present medotas for increasing its value. The goal, of course, is not just to score extra points, this index will be a signpost and checklist for us to organize our activities.
Social Selling and Marketing Automation
If you are running lead generation campaigns on social networks, you can integrate them with good marketing automation tools. Using the Eloqua system as an example, I will show you some ways to combine social selling and marketing automation.
1. Integrate Linkedin and Facebook lead forms with Marketing Automation database and automatically launch campaigns
When running a lead generation campaign on FB or LinkedIn, you encourage your audience to fill out a contact form on these platforms. After integrating the integration of Eloqua (and not only but this is the system I know best) and the aforementioned platforms, the data that users enter can land directly in the marketing automation system's database. The data entered into fomulars on social networks is pulled from the user's profile, so more often than not the external
Based on this data, you can run an automated sequence of email communications. For example, if a customer has filled out a form on LinkedIn, you can automatically send them a series of communications about the product. The Marketing Automation system will make sure that the communication arrives at a pace tailored to the recipient's response.
Fill using Linkedin..
You will achieve a similar effect of data correctness by using FB or LinkedIn platform plug-ins, which allow you to complete forms on external sites with data from profiles. The customer fills out the entire form with one click and you usually get correct and complete data. Convenience for the user, no errors for you. Particularly important for users filling out forms using mobile devices - there too long a form interferes the most. Of course, this data can automatically go to the marketing automation system and trigger a planned sequence of actions.
2. Retargeting of selected marketing automation segments in LinkedIn and Facebook campaigns.
If the user data is already in the Marketing Automation system you can implement multi-threaded communication campaigns and profiling activities. Let's assume that one of them is sending an invitation to a webinar. However, you want to enhance its effectiveness with additional advertising in, for example, Linkedin. Thanks to Eloqua's integration with Linkedin, you can extend this campaign only to people who opened the invitation message but have not yet registered. Such retargeting will result in only those people who should see the ad and you will spend much less money because the target group will be very precisely defined.
3. Access to a lead's full profile from Linkedin Sales Navigator along with interaction history in the profile view.
Users of a marketing automation system such as Eloqua and the Linkedin Sales Navigator add-on can observe their leads and prepare for a sales call using two sources:
a. A full view of the lead's interaction with the company's content and resources. We can see what emails the lead has received and opened, what pages in our domain the lead has viewed and, for example, what meetings and webinars the lead has attended.
b. In addition, the information about the lead is supplemented with data from Linkedin Sales Navigator, e.g. position, employment history, shared content, comments and many other data that we can observe after subscribing to Sales Navigator. By integrating the two tools, data from our database and Linkedin's database are available in one convenient view.
As you can see, integrating Marketing Automation with LinkedIn is a whole new level of conducting marketing activities, which can significantly increase the effectiveness of campaigns on LinkedIn or Facebook and provide salespeople with very valuable data helpful during sales conversations.
As you can see in the area of Social Selling marketers have a surprising amount of room for improvement. Without preparing content, platforms, training and listening to the network, sellers will move insecurely and ineffectively. A bit like a special branch of the army without intelligence support. Remember - behind every Bond there is a Q armed not only with gadgets but also with the knowledge and analysis that make the hero always perfectly perform even the most difficult tasks.
I certainly haven't exhausted all the ideas on how to use social selling in B2B marketing activities focused on lead generation. I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments.
Also read the article "Social Selling for B2B Salespeople".