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The secrets to successful B2B social media

Social media is rife with business buyers searching for business solutions. According to Forrester Research, 84 percent of business buyers say word of mouth has the greatest influence over their purchasing decisions, far surpassing any form of paid media. And Twitter is a great place to find business buyers. It’s a veritable goldmine that can pay off handsomely for B2B organizations. Jonathan Astor, social media lead at Valtech and Sheldon Levine, community manager at Marketwire + Sysomos, show us how to find and nurture social media leads. To listen to Jonathan and Sheldon discuss this fascinating topic, tune into the archived version of our recent webinar: “B2B Social Media:  Turning Untapped Conversations into Business Wins.”

Begin High in the Funnel and Get Everyone on Board

Jonathan emphasizes looking high in the sales funnel for people who are just beginning to search. They’re usually not ready to buy but are simply putting out feelers such as “Does anyone have a recommendation…?” or “Looking for…” The key is to be there to respond before our competitors do and develop the conversation into a relationship.

Of course, that’s easy to say but more difficult to accomplish, especially for a large organization. Plus, B2B decisions are not made on a whim; they take time to close and tend to be complex. So the right people need to be involved: a social media strategist, community manager and analyst backed by subject matter experts, sales folks and others, right on up to the CEO if need  be. And everyone must work together via a workflow and monitoring platform like Sysomos Heartbeat that filters conversations throughout the organization so they land on the right desk. Finally, individuals need to be trained how to engage and report.

Go for the Gold

Is this worth our time and resources? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Take a look at the payoffs. Jonathan cites a “58 character, 15 minute deal.” Someone looking for a phone system tweeted “ShoreTel or Avaya?” In less than 15 minutes, someone from Avaya saw it and figured out what to say to the person who tweeted. Thirteen days later that initial tweet resulted in a $250,000 sale for Avaya. Although business deals typically involve more time than 13 days, this case illustrates the power of a simple tweet and how being there at the right time and knowing how to handle the conversation makes all the difference.

So what to say to a C-suite that may be reluctant to put resources into social media? Jonathan says to “show them the money.” Use examples of B2B opportunities on Twitter, leads generated, meetings booked, pipeline value and partner acquisitions along with softer metrics such as influencer recommendations and negatives turned into positives.

Tips from the Trenches

B2B community manager Sheldon offers a host of practical tips on finding and nurturing conversations. He advises us to be on the lookout for ubiquitous keywords like “which” or “what” or “looking,” promising that these nondescript words can yield amazing results.  Also, he says to look for people talking about our competitors – especially in negative terms. When we come across a conversation that looks promising, he says to not be afraid to jump in when it makes sense. But he cautions us to never use a hard-sell approach, instead focusing on the issues under discussion and offering our opinion (e.g., “hey, have you tried our product?”).  Never push to make a sale.

Sheldon also reiterates the importance of social media relationship-building, likening it to a dinner meeting or a round of golf. It’s a great way to build trust with people on their terms – not necessarily discussing business but talking about what they are interested in. He recommends letting others in our organization know what we’re discussing, since the community manager may have a completely different conversation going on than that of a sales person or subject matter expert. He says to be sure to take notes and pass them on to others so they can foster the relationship (e.g., “I see you ran a marathon last weekend”).

Finally, after the sale, Sheldon strongly advises keeping the relationship alive. Our product is now a big part of the person’s life, so checking in periodically keeps us top of mind. Customers who had a great experience with us and our organization are our best advocates and will share that good will with others.

NOTE:  Shown above is Valtech’s six-screen listening lab powered by Sysomos Heartbeat. A multi-disciplinary team of social media analysts, content creators and community managers monitors and measures the opportunities that social media conversations present on behalf of the agency’s clients.  Be sure to read Valtech’s case study and learn how the team actively operationalizes social media across its international operations to more effectively capture business opportunities.  Click to read all Sysomos case studies.


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