Question: How effective is social networking for B2B (industrial) marketing?
Answer: Social media can be a powerful tool for B2B marketers and business owners. It can be used effectively to monitor prospects, drive referrals; create new business opportunities; and attract the right talent and more… Although the effectiveness of social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) may vary by industry, LinkedIn seems universally effective for B2B marketing.
In B2B industries, nothing is more valuable than the quality of your relationships. Whether you realize it or not your success in business depends on your ability not only to establish key relationships, but to leverage, influence and add value to your relationships.
Create new business opportunities
Social networks, such as LinkedIn are like muscles. The more you use them, the more you’ll get out of them. The power of social networks is founded on its size and strength. The trick is balance these two aspects of your network. When it comes to networking, size matters. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with everyone you know professionally and personal contacts that are willing to share connections with you.
LinkedIn users with a free subscription can search and access a portion of social networks 34 million members based on their connection count. This includes: their immediate connections; second degree contacts (friends of friends); and third degree contacts, and people with a mutual connections. You dont have to have a huge network to reap results. For example, people with more than twenty connections are thirty-four times more likely to be approached with an opportunity than people with less than five.
Look at the networks of your most satisfied customers. Identify prospects who may have similar needs and use your relationship with the satisfied customer to fuel your contact. This can be done by contacting the prospect directly and highlighting your shared contact (aka satisfied customer). Or, you can ask your satisfied customer to make an introduction on your behalf.
Great networks take great amounts of effort. Think of the most successful people youve ever known and they will always seem to know the right person to call on in any given situation to influence or effect the desired outcome. This type of influence doesnt just happen. It results from years of painstaking social networking.
Social networks generate referrals. LinkedIn is the most powerful B2B referral network in the world. If you do a good job, one customer might tell three to five of her colleagues, family and friends about you. Using LinkedIn, these results are amplified. When someone writes a recommendation for you on LinkedIn, their entire social network is notified. And, the information is immediately available for the customers and prospects that view your LinkedIn profile.On social networks, you promote your network, and your network promotes you.Solicit LinkedIn recommendations from satisfied customers. Ask them to describe aspects of your working relationship that they value most. Choose customers who have a flair for writing. Dont be afraid to ask customers to write about specific projects or company characteristics: your creativity, your ability to solve problems, your leadership, etc. Ideally, youll want a series of recommendations that compliment each other If someone writes a recommendation you dont like, youre not obligated to display it. And, LinkedIn provides tools that let you request updates to recommendations.
Write unsolicited recommendations for businesses you have worked with. This generates goodwill on behalf of each recipient which strengthens your network. As an added benefit, youll often get a recommendation in return.
Be known as an expert
Being an expert on LinkedIn will boost your credibility and build goodwill with prospects. To do this, visit the Answers area of LinkedIn to view questions from other LinkedIn subscribers on a variety of topics. Answer questions related to your indusry and personal area of expertise. When you provide the best answer to a question, the submitter can identify your answer as best. If you provide the best answer enough times to a topic, youll be designated as an expert by LinkedIn.
Know your customers — and competition
Linked is a great CRM tool for B2B. You can track the activities of prospects, competitors, and customers and use the information you learn to fuel successful contacts:”LinkedIn is a rich source of information for your sales team about the prospect, so I put it in another class,” said John Rasco, president and founder of RefreshWeb. “What you have to realize about social media marketing is that it’s seeding information for people to find. It’s not a broadcast medium for promotions.”
Use social networks to create relationships with prospective employees before you need them — especially if your B2B industry requires a lot of specialized education. Identify thought leaders and skill practitioners in the industry by monitoring their activity on LinkedIn, Twitter and contributions to industry blogs. By creating relationships before you need them, you’ll loose less time when you are ready to add an employee or need to replace an existing employee.
LinkedIn in Action
Enjoy this practical example of LinkedIn from CommonCraft.
Troy Janisch, Publisher of Social Meteor, is a digital marketing professional and social media enthusiast. Previous projects? Until 2009, he was publisher of the Business Owners Toolkit and host of its nationally-syndicated radioshow of the same name.
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