Social Selling in B2B marketing

Most of the clients I have talked to believe that social selling is purely a selling activity and see it as a way of avoiding the despised cold calling. Unfortunately they complain about insufficient support from the marketing department and often expect me to help them implement efficient selling strategies, but without involving the marketing. It is an unfavorable situation and I always try to lure the sellers away from this solitary struggle.

In this article you will find how marketing can organize and support social selling actions. I will give a few practical tips for B2B marketers who would like to harness the power of social media to generate valuable leads and create a professional image of an organization and its employees.

Prepare a platform and knowledge

Social Selling requires preparing resources such as a platform, content, promotion, reporting etc. Sellers usually do not have the time nor the skills to do that. This is why it is necessary to get the marketing involved.

Social Selling requires an environment such as a presence on a social media platform. On LinkedIn – it is not enough to create an account and send tons of invitations. There are many details to be taken into account – ranging from a decent profile picture, a bio, descriptions, to valuable content that can be shared and used to build a network. Marketer tools come really handy here.

My experience is that organizing a training during which the users receive a professional picture and a set of hands-on tips on their visibility on LinkedIn, opens the way to a conversation on greater involvement in promoting company-related content.

Organize a photo shoot for the sale department, help create professional descriptions optimized to for search engines, prepare a few examples of efficient profiles, then work on the company website and support the sale with targeted campaigns that promote the posts of the most active sellers. Seeing the number of their contacts and interactions increase, even the most reluctant clients will appreciate your efforts and ask for more. They will also become active promoters of company content, broadening its reach.

Then prepare a communication and a place to publish the content for sellers. In addition to communication, it is a good idea to have content available for marketers only. This can be and intranet or a tool such as Slack, Teams, Trello etc.

Content that sells

If you manage to convince sellers to get more involved in promoting their product on social media, they will need your help with providing the content. The good resources are the key to a successful social selling strategy. If you are already producing content for a blog, it might turn out that much of the work has already been done. In most cases I advise clients to base their social selling strategy on existing content, on condition that it meets the basic requirements of B2B marketing. The content should:

  • Fit the various stages of the decision making process. They provide information on the product, as well as on the problems and challenges that usually draw clients to the products. If you are selling CRM systems, do not limit yourself to the functionalities, but offer advice on how to predict sales rates etc. Diversifying content will allow you to reach clients who are not yet considering purchasing the product, but are analyzing the possible solutions to a problem they have encountered.
  • Fit the client’s profile. It is a truism, but the information will vary depending on whether it is meant for a sales director considering the possibility of implementing CRM or a financial director. Since in social selling marketers contact people they know by their name (or at least they should, if they are using Sales Navigator) it is their duty to match the content to what the client finds interesting.
  • Be expert content – i.e. is created to convey valuable, useful knowledge, and not just present the offer. Such materials are often analyses, case studies, Witepaer etc. The name does not matter. What counts is that the expert material can be the basis to form a relation or at least to start a discussion – unlike an offer which is most likely to end up in the bin.
  • Are easy to send and view. Another truism but the right choice of formats, shortening or dividing extensive material into bite-sized chunks is a tactic that can help distribute content. Currently it is a good idea to make sure the content is readable on mobile devices, since about a half of our clients will be viewing them on smartphones.
  • Are synchronized with marketing campaigns. If you are running a Linkedin campaign aimed at a specific target group, you should equip the marketers with materials that are related to it, so as to obtain the effect of synergy. I usually suggest that they should be more detached from the product, but linked to product materials promoted in campaigns.

Social Monitoring

Having an ear for what is currently going on in the Web and being able to tune in and join the interesting conversations is a novelty strategy in Poland. Maybe because Twitter is not that popular in Polish business milieus. And it is the monitoring of hashtags on Twitter that started the social listening era. The good news is that social monitoring now applies to any medium – not only to the social media, but also to comments on forums, to opinions on products, and even to comments in stores selling mobile apps.

Having such an intercept and reacting intelligently are, of course, the marketer’s tasks. In military terminology – because marketers act like intelligence services – they gather and analyze information, prepare plans of actions, and when the time comes, they pass on the initiative to the hit squad, the sale department.

What can such a “special operation” look like? Let us assume that you offer CRM systems. A monitoring tool such as Brand24 allows you to find key words or even key phrases related to your offer. If someone asks about CRM on Linkedin, Twitter or on a forum, you will be notified so that you can decide whether it is worth joining such a conversation.

The rule “give first, then take” applies here as well. It means that you should not be too quick to shower every client who asks about CRM with your offers and success stories, but rather share the knowledge and be helpful. If your help is appreciated, you might want to mention that what you do and offer to contact the person. Always stick to this order. This is what will make you stand out from the crowd of less patient competitors, whom the readers, in their heads, will automatically qualify as “spam”.

A similar technique can be used on international conferences, if you cannot attend them personally. If you have interesting content at hand, you can link it to tweets or posts. In this case it can be product content, but it must fit the context. There is no point in sending a CRM brochure to every participant of the conference. You should rather choose one information – something specific, a new feature, and show it through a visual – a GIF, a short video. This is where you need the creativity of marketers.

Once you have attracted the attention of potential clients and obtained their consent to contact them, you can pass it on to the sellers.

Social monitoring goes beyond supporting the sale, but in this article we will only focus on this aspect.

The image of sellers, monitoring progress

For a seller the financial bottom line will always be key in social selling. However, you should remember that the effects are usually seen no sooner than after a few months, and meanwhile it is a good idea to have some kind of an indicator to tell us whether we are heading in the right direction. Social Selling Index prepared by Linkedin can be such a tool. It allow you to evaluate your selling potential in a social network – in this case, of course, on Linkedin.

Selling Index demonstrates how our actions on Linkedin translate into sale contacts on a scale from 1 to 100. Since marketers are competitive people, once they find that their index is lower than their teammates’, they will be motivated to learn about social selling techniques.

Social Selling and Marketing Automation

If you run leads generating campaigns on social networks, you can integrate them with good marketing automation tools. Using the Eloqua system as an example, I will show you a few ways of combining social selling and marketing automation.

Integration of lead forms on Linkedin or Facebook with the Marketing Automation base and automated campaign launching

By running a leads generating campaign on FB or LinkedIn, you are encouraging readers to fill the contact form available on these platforms. Once Eloqua is integrated (there are other tools, but Eloqua is the system I know best) with these platforms, the data provided by the readers can go straight into the base of a marketing automation system. Data provided in forms on social networks is downloaded from a user profile, which is why it is usually correct, unlike the data on external sites.

Based on that data you can run an automated e-mail communication sequence. If, e.g., a client has filled in a form on LinkedIn, you can automatically send him a series of communications on the product. Marketing Automation System will make sure that it reaches the recipient at a suitable pace.

Eloqua Linkedin CampaignSocial Selling – Leads from social media transferred to marketing automation campaigns

FormYou fill the form with one click, more comfort and correct data

Fill with Linkedin

A similar correctness effect can be achieved using FB or LinkedIn plugins, which allow to fill the forms with profile data on external sites. A client fills the entire form with one click, and you obtain usually correct and complete data. Comfort for the user, no errors for you. This is particularly important for users filling forms on mobile devices – a form that is too long is what bothers them most. Naturally, that data can automatically be transferred to the marketing automation system and set out a planned sequence of actions.

Retargeting chosen segments of marketing automation in LinkedIn and Facebook campaigns

If the user data is already in the Marketing Automation system, you can launch a multi-threaded communication campaign and profiling actions. Let us assume that one of them is sending an invitation to a webinar. You want to reinforce its efficiency with an extra add, e.g. on Linkedin. Having integrated Eloqua with Linkedin, you can now target this campaign specifically at people who opened the invitation message, but have not registered yet. This kind of retargeting will allow you to send the add only to people who should see it, and you will spend much less money, since the target group will be precisely defined.

Access to lead profile from Linkedin Sales Navigator with interaction history on profile view.

Profiler Oracle

Eloqua Profiler – full history of client – company content interaction in one place

Users of the marketing automation systems such as Eloqua or of the addition to Linkedin Sales Navigator can see their leads and prepare for a sales pitch using two resources:

  1. Full view of the lead’s interaction with company content and resources. We see e-mails that have been received and opened, sites of our domain viewed and, e.g., our meetings and webinars that have been attended by that person.
  2. Additionally, the information on the lead is completed by data from Linkedin Sales Navigator e.g. position, history of employment, content posted, comments and other data which we can observe, if we buy a subscription on Sales Navigator. Integrating both tools allows data from our base and the Linkedin base to be accessed in one user-friendly view.

As you can see Marketing Automation with LinkedIn is a new level of conducting marketing actions, which can significantly increase the efficiency of campaigns on LinkedIn or Facebook and provide the sellers with data that is valuable in trade talks.

Conclusion

As you can see, in Social Selling marketers have surprisingly many options to choose from. Without the support of prepared content, platforms, trainings and social monitoring, the sellers will move hesitantly and be inefficient. A bit like a hit squad with no intelligence. Remember – behind every Bond there is a Q armed not only in gadgets, but also in knowledge and analyses that allow the hero to complete even the most difficult of tasks.

There are certainly more ways of using social selling in B2B marketing aimed at generating leads. If you have any other ideas, please let me know in the comments below.

 

Digital and B2B Marketing practitioner. Helps B2B Companies to fully utilize the potential of digital sales and marketing tools. Previously Head of B2B Marketing team at Samsung Electronics Poland before holding several marketing and channel development roles in Microsoft Poland.

CEO and Head of Consulting at Grow Consulting.

Over 15 years of experience in building marketing and leads generation strategies in B2B market. Pioneer of Marketing Automation deployment in B2B space.Effie Award winner in B2B category. Blogger, contributor to professional media : Marketerplus, Brief, Marketing w Praktyce. Author of the book “ABC of B2B Marketing” first handbook for B2B Marketers in Poland.

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