Consumer-focused social media strategies have captured our imagination (after all, we are all consumers), but there are other very effective ways to leverage social media and content marketing strategies in financial services businesses.

In addition to a consumer channel (B2C), many financial services businesses have a business to business channel (B2B) that is critical to how they distribute their products and services to their markets.

Success in their B2B distribution channels for most financial services businesses depends on how well they answer these questions:

  • Have we delivered the best quality product and service in the market?
  • Have we informed and and helped our channel sellers communicate the benefits of our products to their customers?
  • Have we incentivized and compensated our sellers effectively?

These questions speak to the importance of meeting the needs of sellers in order to gain market share: you need to have a good product to sell, a compelling reason for the seller’s customer to buy it and just as compelling a reason for the seller to sell it.

But there is one more question that often becomes decisive when we’re selling into a competitive market: Have we built strong enough relationships with people we sell to and through?

Social disruption in the B2B channel

From the largest product manufacturers to the smallest professional service providers, the B2B distribution model is everywhere you look in financial service businesses. For example:

  • insurance distribution relies heavily on regional and national agent/advisor networks;
  • investment products are distributed though a dizzying array of financial/investment advisors, planners, brokers, fiduciaries, etc.; and
  • many professional and business advisory services, including accounting, legal, etc., are sourced through less formal B2B and peer networks.

Virtually everyone within these elaborate distribution networks are at the same time selling and being sold to.

At the same time as products are being sold to customers and advice is being proffered to clients, agents, advisors and other professionals are selling themselves to each other to receive referrals to provide the complementary services that everyone’s clients and customers need. This is familiar turf for anyone in financial services.

Enter social media and it’s transformative impact on consumers’ access to information, our communications systems and even our professional business networks themselves. Consumers get more information online about products and services than they’ve ever had access to before. And they’re sharing this information and their feelings about it directly in their social networks and among their peers like never before.

In fact, we’re all doing this – buyers and sellers, advisors and advised, referred and referring. We are increasingly using our social networks to decide what to buy, where to buy it and who to buy it from – whether we’re buying products, services or the reputation of someone we’re considering recommending to a client.

Focus on the B2B distribution markets you already know

Social media tactics in financial services firms are often focused on discovering and prospecting new markets of buyers with whom you don’t do business today.

But there’s often overlooked opportunities to use social strategies effectively within your existing B2B networks by identifying and capturing more business from the channels and markets that you already know.

Here are some ways to leverage social networking and content marketing strategies within B2B networks in financial services:

1. Unlock the wealth of product information and knowledge that is hidden in your organization.

Most businesses have a treasure trove of information and knowledge about your products and customers’ needs. Often, this information is packaged as traditional marketing material and locked in a password-protected portal site for your distributors. But why? Adapt this knowledge into remarkable social media content and share it with the world. It will do wonders for your search engine optimization (SEO) and help both your producers and their prospects find your content online.

2. Ask your distributors/sellers to tell you what they want, then create remarkable content that delivers.

If you give your sellers information that helps them and their prospects understand their needs, the buying process and their choices, they will share that content in their networks. Stop interrupting what your B2B partners are interested in with your advertisements and marketing materials. BE what your markets are interested in.

3. Curate great third-party content that your distribution partners and peers can share.

Finding and sharing topical, on-brand articles, videos and infographics in the financial media is one of the best ways to build credibility, add value and help your B2B partners. Sharing great articles that the recipient wants to share in their own network is like giving a gift – the gift of knowledge and awareness. Education is the new marketing.

4. Support your field staff in building their own personal brands.

Social networking affords many opportunities to get to know your B2B partners better and for them to get to know your people better, transforming the sales relationship into something more personal and more powerful. When we get to know people better, we can grow to like them and this fuels our trust in them. We all want to do business with people we know, like and trust.

5. Cultivate a culture of helping and giving.

Helping your sellers to sell more of your products helps them and you. But when you help your B2B partners to grow their businesses and solve their problems, without asking for anything, these activities will often come back to you in goodwill and trust. That’s because we are wired as humans to reciprocate and give back to people who help us. Don’t underestimate the power of reciprocity.

6. Find out where your target B2B markets are online, then go there.

We all know the power of a trade show or convention that gathers markets of buyers and sellers in one place. Find the places online where your B2B markets are spending time and LISTEN well to the conversations there. If you add real value these conversations, your markets will seek YOU out.

In the end, Altimeter’s Jeremy Owyang hits the nail on the head when he says:

“B2B or B2C doesn’t matter so much. It’s really about P2P — people to people.”

Use social strategies any way you want, but don’t forget to focus on the people.

Note to readers: I am grateful to Todd Greider for his generous review and thoughtful feedback on this post.