If we can say two things with certainty about B2B marketing organizations, it would be that:
- Lead generation is among their primary goals
- They are active users of social media
It’s somewhat ironic then that more than half of B2B organizations fail to generate leads through social media. While other channels can prove successful – conferences, paid advertisements, email lists, etc. – social media remains an untapped resource in the eyes of most marketers. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Any brand can generate leads through social media, and here are a few tips on how to do it successfully.
#1 – Capture leads through content
The biggest misstep for generating leads through social media has nothing to do with the medium being used (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) or the audience being targeted. Rather, the problem resides with the asset used to capture a lead. Here’s a better way to think about it;
Let’s say that a brand is interested in generating leads for its IT security software. They have come up with two potential assets that will be used to capture these leads. The first is a detailed whitepaper about current IT security trends. The second is a free trial of their software.
If the brand decides to promote and share the whitepaper, they will attract a wide range of people interested in IT security trends – presumably, because it is an area of concern for them. The audience will learn some useful tips and get an introduction to the brand in a way that isn’t overtly “salesy.” In doing so, they become a lead to be nurtured.
If the brand decides to promote the free trial, they will be seen as pushy and promotional. This will most likely defer traffic that could otherwise convert to great prospects. After all, who wants a free trial from a brand one hardly knows anything about?
Do you see the difference in approach? Do you see how leading with content increases your odds of lead generation? Do you see how, if the brand decided to go with the whitepaper, they could then follow-up with the free trial, making that offer more effective?
In the realm of B2B, social media cannot be expected to generate sales on its own. The best you can hope for is to generate a qualified lead for your sales department – and the best way to do that is by creating and sharing unique content.
#2 – Focus (and fine-tune) your efforts
Not all social media channels are created equal. For some brands, LinkedIn knocks it out of the park. Other brands find that Twitter reigns supreme. On average, B2B marketers use 6 different social networking platforms. The problem with many B2B organizations is that they don’t really know which social platform is the most effective, because they are not measuring the ROI of their social media efforts. And because they don’t know, they cannot focus on the ones that offer the biggest return. It’s a vicious cycle.
Let’s go back to our hypothetical IT security software company to illustrate:
For months now, their marketing department has been sharing the exact same content, at the exact same time, on each of their social media channels. In other words, the same message that was posted to Facebook was also posted to Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other places. They are tracking enough to know that each channel is generating a decent amount of leads, so they continue with this approach.
What they are not seeing – because they are not really measuring ROI – is that the leads being generated by LinkedIn are 75% more likely to become a paying customer than those from Twitter and Facebook combined. If they could see this, then they would surely readjust their game-plan. Sure, they would still be active on Twitter and Facebook, but perhaps they would adopt a different approach and share different content. Perhaps they decide to make Twitter and Facebook more social and casual, while LinkedIn becomes the main vehicle for serious lead generation.
Of course this is just a hypothetical example, but believe me, it’s happening a lot more than you might think. The bottom line is this: Successfully generating leads via social media requires focus, which is dependent on the ability to track the specific ROI of each social channel and campaign.
#3 – Know Your Followers
Buyer personas are a key asset for almost every B2B marketing organization. It’s how they know who to target and what message to use. While the contents of these assets vary, they generally include social demographics, goals, challenges and buying “triggers.” Moreover, they place these personas into one of two groups: decision-makers and influencers.
A part of increasing the effectiveness of a brand’s sales and marketing strategy, it’s not hard to see how this information could also be vital to the success of its social lead generation efforts. Unfortunately, this type of information is routinely ignored.
For example, let’s say that a product being marketed has two distinct benefits. The first is that it saves money. The second is that it saves time. The key decision-makers are concerned with saving money, while the influencers are interested in saving time. If the majority of a brand’s social followers fall into the category of influencers, then the brand would want to highlight content that relates to the time-saving benefits of the product. Make sense?
In other words, without truly knowing who your followers are, you run the risk of publishing and sharing the right content for the wrong audience.
So what are some other ways to know more about your social followers? Here are a few suggestions:
- Track Clicks, Comments & Conversions: There can often be a significant gap between content that generates buzz and content that generates leads. While both are great by themselves, you ideally want content that achieves both. By actively tracking these metrics, you’ll get a better sense of where the disconnect is among your users – i.e. the missing piece of the puzzle.
- Become an Active Listener: Another great way to determine what type of social content is likely to generate leads is by listening to what your followers are saying in instances that have nothing to do with your brand. For example, what keywords are your followers referencing on a regular basis? What other brands are they mentioning and following? By actively listening to what your followers are saying (and doing), you increase your odds of capturing them as a lead.
We’re well beyond the novelty phase of B2B social media, where brands simply wanted to amass a list of followers and build brand awareness. Although still important, it’s far more critical for B2B marketers to generate leads from these channels. With the amount of money being invested in social media today, marketing leaders should expect a clear and demonstrable ROI. While your current strategy may have been effective at growing followers, it won’t necessarily work for turning those followers into leads. If your current social media goal is to increase lead generation, study the audience you do have, adjust your content accordingly and continuously measure the results.