Social is the domain of B2C vendors, or so we thought. New research from WalkerSands tells us otherwise. But if social is a key area of focus for B2B marketers, how can they best leverage it to do more than build brand awareness?
The report, which dives into a study on the future of B2B content, points out that marketers finally accept the importance of content in their strategies.
Content marketing is more than a little side project, the impact content has on your business is not something to take lightly: not enough information, too much information, the wrong content for an audience or a segment, the right channel, what you say, how you say it, there are many variables that go into creating the best content. And it looks like social has an important role to play in how that content is distributed.
The top goals of content and where social fits
Increasing brand awareness is the third top goal of marketers surveyed in the WalkerSands report (18%), falling behind boosting sales and converting customers at number one (29%) and building relationships with new customers (19%). Earning credibility through thought leadership exposure came in a little lower at 12%.
When it comes to the type of content, short-form is the most popular, and of all the short-form content you can create, social tops the list at 72%. Why is social so important? In this study, it is considered the primary content type for attracting new customers (63%) and engaging with existing customers (58%).
This study isn’t the only one that shows the importance of social for B2B marketing. The 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report created by Social Media Examiner also indicates that social has a key role to play in selling. In this report, 72% said improved sales is a top benefit of social media marketing (up from 53% in the prior year’s report). This report also found that social media helped generate leads (74% this year, compared to 64% last year).
Connecting the dots between social, content and selling
Nobody likes a pushy salesperson, so they avoid salespeople like the plaque for a big chunk of the work they do to determine what product is best for their company. Instead of talking to Sales, they use the Internet for research. And not just product research but challenges and opportunities research. People don’t just look at websites, they scour social media, listening to their peers and gaining insights into which companies are telling the stories that match the problems they are trying to solve and which ones are delivering products that can do the things they need to do.
When you look at it that way, you say every brand needs to be on social media - the right social network. What you do on those social networks varies. You can have ads or sponsored content; you can leverage influencers to support your ideas and products, you can create a brand image that is all about sharing insights and guidance, along with product information and company news.
And then there’s social selling. Social selling isn’t new. A 2016 article on Harvard Business Review talks about how it important social selling is:
The answer to the shift away from reliance on outbound sales could reside in social selling, the strategy of adding social media to the sales professional’s toolbox. With social selling, salespeople use social media platforms to research, prospect, and network by sharing educational content and answering questions. As a result, they’re able to build relationships until prospects are ready to buy.
A few key points from the article:
- It’s about one-to-one communications and content that is specific to the interests of that one person.
- It gets Sales involved earlier in the sales cycle
- It works best when Sales and marketing collaborate on creating the right content and using the same tools and social networks.
The CSO Insights 2019 Sales Performance report says it well:
Sales people are their own content marketers, individual brand managers and lead generators via the way that they leverage social tools. In the 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, we find that the better aligned marketing and sales social strategies are, the better the social selling adoption is, and the better quota attainment and win rates are.
Sales and Marketing collaboration is critical
The recognition that Sales and Marketing need to work closely together is resonating in many companies, but it’s still challenging. There’s the mindset that marketing people don’t understand how sales work, and that salespeople don’t understand content that isn’t purely product and selling focused.
The two have to put aside their differences and brainstorm the best content to create and the right social channels to share and engage on. The WalkerSands study indicates that content quality and relevancy are what drive engagement and help differentiate the brand. To figure out the right content requires understanding their ICP (ideal customer profile) and the audiences they want to reach and then figuring out what content and content format (video, website, blog, podcast, etc.) will work best and how to present that on social.
Content is foundational to marketing. It’s also foundational to Sales. Because today, it’s all about building relationships. And building relationships requires a shared interest in something and a willingness to learn from each other. So you have spend time where your prospects and customers are – that’s social media – and you have to share content and information you believe will be of interest to them.
It takes the right quality content, offered at the right time, to the person who needs it, where you know they’ll be looking for it. Sales and marketing working together can make that happen.