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Social Media for B2B: This Time It's Personal

Social Media for B2B: This Time It's Personal

B2B organizations have largely accepted online social media technologies as useful marketing tools, and they're working to adopt the best practices of their B2C peers. This new channel isn't just a way to diffuse news and find out about customers preferences; it's also there to serve as a medium for a two-way dialogue. To be truly effective as a tool to build customer loyalty, social media can't exist in a silo.

For B2B marketers, social media has quickly become a desirable component of most cross-channel marketing campaigns. According to an August 2009 survey by Mzinga and Babson Executive Education, the vast majority of professionals worldwide are using social technologies for business purposes. Eighty-six percent of respondents to the survey of professionals from a variety of industries said they had adopted social technologies, with 57 percent of those respondents using the tools for marketing purposes.

Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter and Facebook have made it significantly easier for B2B organizations to communicate their messages to the masses and gain customer feedback that was otherwise difficult to obtain. Translating this use of social media into valuable customer insight is one of the next challenges on the horizon.

Direct Engagement

Now that B2B organizations have accepted social media as an important marketing channel, they are working to identify and adopt best practices from their B2C peers. Specifically, B2B marketers understand that this new channel isn't just a way to diffuse news and gather information about customer preferences, it's also a critical tool to engage directly with both potential and current customers in a two-way dialogue.

Done correctly, social media provides an opportunity for marketers to take a more personalized and interactive approach to engaging with customers and prospects. Utilizing targeted, complementary content and offers that are coordinated across other channels like email, mobile and direct mail, social media interactions can be used to drive sales, refine and enhance existing customer profiles, convert passive followers into active customers and up-sell/cross-sell to those already committed to the brand.

B2B organizations can easily adopt social media strategies from B2C organizations, given their successful track record in leveraging sites like Facebook and Twitter to build brand awareness and customer loyalty. For example, a leading French e-commerce site wanted to incorporate social media into their marketing strategy to improve and monitor their brand image, provide more personalized communications, and improve sales through Twitter. The company implemented a cross-channel marketing solution to not only automate these processes but manage consistent messages and offers across all of its channels, and provide a unified interface for marketers. As a result, the company can now automate all Twitter activity, including tracking and identifying followers, monitoring all communications, as well as providing personalized direct messages, offers and automatic responses to incoming direct tweets.

B2B marketers can take a similar approach and implement the very same processes to help improve their own company's brand reputation, better engage with prospects and customers, and ultimately drive sales.

Silo-Busting and Marketing Automation Strategies to Make Social Media Soar

To be truly effective as a tool to build customer loyalty, social media can't exist in a silo. It must be an integrated component of an organization's total cross-channel marketing strategy and processes. Because customers and prospects have so many channels to choose from, marketers can only be successful if they can tailor and distribute messaging across all channels at the right time and to the right audience.

A successful cross-channel marketing strategy is dependent upon being able to integrate all marketing channels, including social media, to communicate messages and offers in a consistent, highly coordinated manner. We'll discuss some of the tools and technologies necessary to support this new world of social media conversations, specifically enterprise marketing software, and how to choose the best solution to suit your needs.

The secret to perfecting cross-channel marketing campaigns is to recognize every customer and what is relevant to them, in every communication, regardless of channel. When considering an enterprise marketing solution to power these communications, marketers need to be able to build and use unified customer intelligence to automatically generate personalized and localized offer recommendations at the appropriate time and frequency to add value and win credibility with customers -- building loyalty and an improved lifetime value. The most important requirement for these types of solutions is that they combine all of the necessary tools into a single marketing platform that can manage all of the cross-channel activities. All of the information that the marketer needs -- contact details, prospect profiles, marketing initiatives and sales opportunities -- should all be housed in one place.

The second most important requirement is that these tools should be able to effectively measure ROI. The right enterprise marketing solution should provide monetization of each marketing activity so that marketing spend can correlate directly to revenue generated. This results in defendable and quantifiable marketing results that can be used to justify budgets to senior management.

Being able to react and be ready to interact with social network followers with relevant content through the right channels at the right time is key to successful cross-channel marketing campaigns. With a well-thought-out social media strategy that is tightly coordinated with other cross-channel activities and effective use of enterprise marketing software to automate core processes, B2B organizations can more successfully engage with their customers and prospects to build loyalty and drive revenues.


Stephan Dietrich is president of enterprise marketing software provider Neolane. He is responsible for driving Neolane's corporate vision, worldwide marketing strategy and international business development.


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