Success with social media has been particularly elusive for many B2B companies. Often this has to do with a misalignment between expectations and reality. The result is that tactics are deployed without a clear understanding of how these tactics relate to real business objectives that drive revenue. Let’s take a look at how social media relates to real business objectives and how to align expectations accordingly.
When planning your social media initiative, it’s important to start with clear and realistic expectations that are based on a solid understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of social media as compared to other activities. For example, social media can be an ideal way to gain visibility, share content, create a dialog, and deliver a brand experience. This is an opportunity to cultivate prospects and build relationships that turn into new customers. This also strengthens existing customer relationships that can result in more business renewals, and just as important, referrals. In B2B it really is about the relationship, isn’t it?
That said — for company that does not use an advanced lead generation marketing platform like Marketo, Eloqua, or Hubspot, it may be difficult to accurately attribute the true contribution of social media to lead generation efforts. In fact, making that determination with any certainty can be difficult even with these platforms. This has to do with the nature of social media, where your content and the links that you share are re-shared by your advocates across numerous social channels, though social media client applications, on an “at will” basis. Visits to your website or landing pages that you originally shared as a trackable links may get stripped of tracking attributes and appear as direct visits in Google analytics. It is equally difficult to assess how your social media efforts affect your prospects’ and customers’ feelings about you and your products and services, as well as the frequency and intensity of passion behind the public and private referrals they make in your behalf.
This last point is tremendously important to any B2B company with a business-critical solution. By continually providing value and “being in the know,” you come across as a thought leader. If you are providing a business-critical solution for your customers, the individual decision makers could be vetting their jobs on their decision to go with you – they want to go with a thought leader; it reduces risk and gives them a way of justifying their decision to themselves and anyone they are accountable to.
Lets face it, for B2B it all boils down to leads and sales. In the beginning, it may make more sense to look at social media as a component of your broader lead-generation program rather than a stand-alone or primary source of leads. Focus on delivering value rather than obtaining direct leads…the leads will follow. Measure what you can by way of direct leads that your social media efforts generate, but do assume that this is indicative of the overall effect of your lead generation efforts.
Select front line metrics that can help illuminate the effects of your social efforts. For example, if you know that historically 2.86 % of your website visits result in a lead, you can focus on increasing website visits through your social efforts. In this example, your analytics must be set up to collect information that answers the following questions:
Later as you can get more sophisticated and look at:
Some of the information that you will need may need to be obtained by surveying your customers or asking directly at the time of sale. Make sure to collect information from new and existing customers when they buy or renew:
Position these questions in the context of: “The more we know about why our customers choose us, the better we can serve them”.
Remember, social media isn’t suited to replace any of your existing marketing efforts; rather it can complement them and can make them more effective. To really understand how social media contributes to the bottom line you will want to measure how social media affects an integrated marketing effort — not only how many leads it generates as a standalone effort. Ultimately, if you focus solely on social and neglect other efforts, you are likely to be disappointed.
I'll be talking in more detail about this in future posts. If you need to know more now, give me a call (831) 239-6745 or ask a question in the comment section. I am happy to help. And please, if you found this of value, share it with others.