9 Jul 2012

Social Demand Generation - Cast a social net to catch a social fish

In days of old, the researching of B2B purchases online meant people visiting your website, where their behaviour could be tracked.  Now, buyers have access to a much greater volume of information about your company and its products/services via the social web - much of which you can neither control nor track.  Thus it is now entirely possible for a prospect to research a B2B purchase without ever visiting your website.  The risk is that leads will slip through the traditional website-centric net.  B2B marketers must cast a much wider net across relevant social media platforms, depending on where the 'fish' hang out.

Social media gives marketers a new way to engage with prospects.  Developing brand awareness is the easy part - simply by throwing good content around the web via social media (a little targeting always helps).  The challenge is in identifying and nurturing leads and driving business in a measurable way.  This involves strategy and tools.  Social Media Monitoring (SMM) tools can help you find opportunities amongst a flood of social media 'noise'.  Finding opportunities is one thing, nurturing them is another - and new platforms need new nurturing strategies.  Each buying signal will require different treatment depending on the social media platform, as each platform has its own culture and etiquette.

A good 'social nose' is essential for catching fish in the torrent of social media

So what do buying signals look like on social media platforms?  On your website, the buying signals are well-known e.g. submitting an enquiry form or accessing a product demo.  In the world of social media, the buying signals are different and less well understood.  For example, a question posted on a technical forum asking existing customers for opinions of your products/services indicates that the prospect is in the evaluation phase.  If you cannot find and influence the conversation (e.g. by asking a happy customer to provide a recommendation), then you may find yourself pushed out of a vendor shortlist without ever having known about the opportunity.

This is just one example of a social media buying signal and how to respond.  Marketing organizations need to analyse the complete set of behaviours that ready-to-buy leads are displaying online, and devise intelligent strategies to handle them.  Sometimes, the only way to land the fish is with a rod and line, not a net.  What sort of bait are you using?  Stories work best, especially stories told by your customers.