The correct way to approach B2B sales via Social Media

Sep 12, 2012

Table of contents:

  1. Fallacy 1: It’s ok to spam
  2. Fallacy 2: People care about your business
  3. Fallacy 3: Interruption is still king
  4. Fallacy 4: Enterprise sales through Social Media
  5. What you should be doing
  6. How you should be doing it
  7. It doesn’t have to be hard work

For a while now I’ve grown sick of seeing small businesses spamming Social Media websites in the desperate hope of attracting new business. There seems to be a complete lack of understanding of the etiquette of how a professional company should interact online. With this in mind, I hope this post will dispel some of the fallacies surrounding B2B Social Media and act as a guide to anyone who wishes to actively pursue interacting online as a means for company growth.

Fallacy 1: It’s ok to spam

The first, and most annoying, fallacy is that people seem to think it’s ok to spam other people on the Internet.

Spam can be defined as:

Send the same message indiscriminately to (large numbers of recipients) on the Internet.

I think the majority of Internet users understand that spam is a bad thing, but a lot of people seem to think it’s only a bad thing when they receive spam email. Just about every small business Social Media account I see is only interested in broadcasting their sales pitches.

Just because you are doing this on Twitter rather than through email does not make it ok.

The same can be said for #ff tweets which are just a list of Twitter handles that bounce around the same accounts as everyone takes a turn to retweet it.

This kind of behaviour is like going to a business networking event and just repeating the same one line sales pitch over and over again to anyone you are near. It is annoying and you wouldn’t do it in real life, so don’t do it on the Internet!

Fallacy 2: People care about your business

I’ve written about this previously in Debunking 4 myths of small business digital marketing, but it is worth repeating.

People do not care about your business!

This ties in quite nicely with the first fallacy, perhaps it is even an explanation about why people believe that spamming people is ok. It makes sense that people would want to hear your sales pitch constantly if they cared about your business. But people only care about themselves and their own self interests, they do not care about your business.

Fallacy 3: Interruption is still king

Fallacy 3 represents the great misunderstanding of what online marketing can be.

For the past 100 years or so, marketing has centred around interrupting consumers to broadcast a message. Newspapers and magazines and filled with adverts and for every half an hour of television, 8 minutes are advertisements.

Interruption marketing has long been dead for a number of reasons, but mainly because it just doesn’t work. Consumers have such a wealth of media to consume, and that media is constantly becoming even more fragmented. As a society we have also become immune to interruption advertising as marketing efforts have stepped up to try and force more adverts in our faces.

As I wrote in How to make decisions based on data, rather than assumptions, the Internet finally created a feedback loop for marketing that enabled marketers to track and improve their marketing efforts. It is now possible to show contextual advertisements that are timely and based upon on the user’s needs and desires.

Interruption marketing is dead, yet just about everyone is still using the age-old interruption techniques of the last 100 years.

Fallacy 4: Enterprise sales through Social Media

Every business in the world wants to increase sales without increasing expenditure.

For consumer based companies, where the average transaction cost will be relatively small, using Social Media to drive sales makes a lot of sense.

However, if your product requires a sales team and a sales process, you aren’t going to be selling it through Facebook or Twitter.

I’ve lost count of the number of business owners who want to dramatically cut costs by getting rid of sales staff in the hope that free Social Media will be able to replace that volume.

There is a glass ceiling for the average cost of a product that is likely going to sell through Social Media. Social Commerce websites have jumped on this opportunity over the past couple of years. But if you are just a stuffy company looking to make cheap sales, you are barking up the wrong tree.

What you should be doing

B2B Social media is really not that difficult when you accept that it is not going to be a silver bullet to increasing sales with zero investment.

Raising awareness

Of course, you should do everything you can to make it easy for people to buy from you if they want. The social internet is an important channel to any business large or small. But for the most part, as a B2B company, you are not going to make a huge amount of sales.

B2B social media should be all about raising awareness of your company, your vision and how you can benefit your target audience.

Behind every business is a person that needs to be aware of your company before they will ever consider buying from you. Social media and digital marketing offers a fantastic and cost effective way to build a relationship with your target audience long before making a sale.

Offering support and engaging

The social web is a huge opportunity to reach out to your customers who are expressing unhappiness or confusion before they have approached you directly. In the past, as a business, you did not have the opportunity to help your customers with their problems before they logged a complaint with you. Due to the real time nature and the ability to search social media, it is now possible to intercept and resolve problems before they are forced to reach out to you.

Becoming useful

If you are looking to increase your social following online organically, you need to become useful to your audience. If your updates are just a constant stream of advertisements or sales pitches, nobody is going to follow you.

In order to be useful, you need to be sharing content that is relevant to your target audiences’ interests. This means gathering the latest and interesting news from your niche and broadcasting that instead.

As I mentioned above, nobody cares about your business, but they do care about your industry. By becoming an expert filter for the latest happenings in an industry, you can build up a loyal and qualified audience.

How you should be doing it

Ok, so I know despite my preaching, it is unlikely that you are going to suddenly invest a lot of time and effort into your digital marketing. Really, that is fine. Digital marketing and particularly Social Media is all about the slow burn. It takes a long time to gain trust, respect and authority, and so doing a little bit each day is much better than going full blast for a week then stopping.

Here are 3 ways you can really easily increase improve your efforts.

1. Make it a habit

The first thing to do is to just make using Social Media a habit. Download Tweetdeck or a similar application and have it load automatically when you start your computer.

Check it a couple of times a day to reply to mentions or have a quick scan for opportunities to add to a conversation. It really does not need to be a big commitment.

2. Create saved searches

With Twitter you can create some saved searches that will filter all the appropriate tweets that contain that word or phrase you are interested in. You can further filter these searches by location, emotion or whether it’s a question or not.

This is a very easy way to find people who are talking about or who are interested in your company, industry or niche.

Set up a couple of saved searches and see what they come up with. If the signal to noise ratio is too high, adjust the filters to try and get a better response.

Remember, you are trying to build an engaged audience. Don’t try and spam people with sales pitches just because they are talking about a related subject to your business.

3. Schedule content

As a business owner, you probably already read a lot of interesting articles and information that is highly relevant to your industry. However, the majority of engagement on Twitter happens during the day, exactly when you are working and you don’t have time to share these links.

Buffer is a way of scheduling posts through your various social media accounts. This allows you to queue up all the interesting articles or videos that you have found, and they will automatically be shared at the most relevant times of the day based upon your follower’s engagement.

If you don’t already have a flow of content that you are reading to stay ahead in your industry, all you have to do is set up RSS in an RSS reader like Google Reader. RSS is simply a way to have online content automatically pushed to you. This means you don’t have to constantly check websites for new updates and so it is very easy to consume a lot of content from a variety of sources all in one place.

It doesn’t have to be hard work

Digital marketing and B2B Social Media does not have to be a big commitment or a lot of hard work. Instead of trying to sell to every one, build up an engaged audience who are interested in your industry or what your company does.

Instead of trying desperately to make one time sales, build up relationships that will pay off in the future.

Philip Brown


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