2012 looks to be the year B2B cracks the code on social media marketing. Until now, much of the focus for business has been on building brand awareness. A new report shows more B2B companies are testing the potential for lead generation and nurturing via social media.
The 2012 report on The State of B2B Lead Generation by Buyer Zone finds over 50 percent of businesses surveyed are now testing lead generation on social media platforms. Twelve percent of them identified social as a core part of their lead generation activity.
Those companies testing social media marketing struggle with measuring ROI. According to the survey 50 percent indicate they are not or cannot track ROI of online lead generation from social media. One factor is certainly the more complex, multi-layered decision-making process of prospective customers in B2B markets.
The buying stages in lead generation
Companies selling B2B must accommodate several levels of decision makers at various stages in the buying process and manage leads accordingly. Typically, the decision process follows these stages:
- Awareness. The prospect is in browsing mode, not actively pursuing a solution or aware of a concrete need. Messages should focus on industry-level information covering trends, innovations and business problems.
- Need identification. Prospects become aware of a need and begin educating themselves on problem-solution benefits. Messages should focus on solutions and benefits.
- Research. The prospect moves to evaluating options for filling the need. Messages should focus on your expertise and solutions.
- Reassurance. The prospect starts comparison shopping seeking proof of the merits offered by various providers. Messages should focus on case studies and demos that distinguish you from the competitive field.
- Validation. The prospect has decided on the field of candidates that offer a solution to the need. Messages should focus on your thought leadership, value and testimonials.
Adding social media as a lead generating/lead nurturing vehicle to feed the marketing funnel is one more challenge to effectively managing the process and tracking ROI.
B2B lead management
Whether a company is using marketing automation or another system, it is critical for sales success to manage leads effectively. Minnesota-based OppSource has published a white paper outlining Lead Management Best Practices. The paper identifies six pillars of success:
- Content marketing – mapping content to the buying cycle focusing on the prospects’ need for information that educates, builds interest and establishes preference.
- Lead capture – a centralized database that enables tracking and qualifying leads as they move through the funnel.
- Lead nurturing – the process of converting leads into qualified sales opportunities using digital and personal contacts with the prospect.
- Lead scoring – applies a common set of criteria for qualifying behaviors that lead to the next action in the nurturing process.
- Opportunity handoff – the seamless, automated transition from the marketing environment to the sales environment.
- Lead funnel measurement – allows ongoing tracking and monitoring of the effectiveness of leads as they progress through the funnel.
This process for viewing lead generation and nurturing represents a framework for maximizing sales opportunities, whether it is outsourced or done in-house. It also provides guidance for incorporating social media into lead generating strategies.
Social media business tactics for lead generation
Social media has come a long way since the days of message boards. Businesses employing social media marketing now have Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and business blogs at their disposal. The great potential lies in the expanded capacity for reach through paid, earned and owned media (see diagram below).
With this array of options, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start and what to do. Here are some ideas for getting started with social media for B2B lead generation.
- Choose the social channels best suited to delivering your content marketing strategy for messages at each buying stage.
- Use the channels your prospects are on. Not all social channels will be appropriate for your business.
- Think about reach beyond your prospects to include anyone who might influence your prospects through word-of-mouth.
- Integrate social media with email nurturing by adding follow widgets and share buttons to emails.
- Integrate sharing and following options with landing pages/thank you messages from download offers to provide additional ways to interact.
- Remember the unique opportunity social media offers for engagement. Monitor for sales readiness messages and engage prospects where they are in the decision process.
Social media offers marketers more than a new channel for expanding word-of-mouth and generating leads. It also provides a new way to interact with prospects and nurture leads with real time engagement.
What about you? Are you using social media for generating or converting business leads? What are your toughest challenges?
Related article: 4 Ways social media can help you close more sales
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