What role does social media play in B2B lead generation?
A very small amount of B2B SMEs use social media for generating sales. Michael Valos and Alvin Lee discuss the platforms and strategies available to help cut costs and boost leads and revenue.
This article originally appeared in The Generation Issue, our June/July issue of Marketing magazine »
Lead generation is a critical part of the sales conversion funnel (or pipeline if that’s your preferred model). Without it, you have no sales. It becomes even more critical at the current time when customers are cynical about marketers and customers are less likely to be long-term loyal without a clear point of differentiation. Despite this, it has been reported that only 6% of small business generates sales with social media.
By incorporating social media into a lead generation process, however, companies typically see a 45% drop in marketing costs and a revenue increase of 24%. Typically, these companies achieve this by intercepting customers on social media platforms in the course of commenting on a product need or searching for a product.
Traditionally, lead generation comprises outbound methods such as direct mail, call centres or sales visits, as well as inbound generated leads stimulated through mass media advertising. With the increasing role of social and digital media, however, there are new opportunities to generate leads. Increasingly, customers use social and digital media for pre-purchase information search and contacting customers in this mode is an effective way of identifying and servicing leads for the sales funnel.
Whether the customer is using the search function for qualifying a product they wish to purchase or simply discussing the product in an online forum, the comments and behaviours identify them as hot prospects. The question of ‘How to use social media for lead generation?’ can be answered by deploying tactics such as Facebook contests, lead generation forms hosted on Facebook itself, Twitter Cards or the publication of content on LinkedIn that contains calls to action to sign up to a newsletter or download a white paper.
Social media and B2C lead generation
Australia is a sporting nation, and business and community come together to share a passion for sport. Increasingly sport is now becoming a business. A big business. Scott Maxworthy, head of digital commercialisation at Cronulla Sharks Rugby League Football Club shows how lead generation applies at a major sporting club.
“Most people have researched online and discussed with their peers before a lead generation form is ever completed,” he says. “What’s fundamentally important for marketers today is to learn and understand
how to convert an unknown viewer, website or visitor to a store or stadium into a known lead to eventual customer and brand advocate. In terms of lead generation, the answer to best is not one or the other – it’s about leveraging the strengths of each communication channel.”
Maxworthy believes traditional media still has its place. But it’s a complementary relationship where digital is used in conjunction with mass media for a mass consumer product.
Social media B2B lead generation
In contrast to B2C marketing, B2B lead generation is heavily focused on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is reported to be the best social media channel for qualified sales leads, according to 94% of B2B businesses surveyed, says the Content Marketing Institute.
LinkedIn is the most used and seen as the most effective. Twitter and Facebook are the next most relied-upon platforms for lead generation. LinkedIn enjoys reliability, verifiability and credibility. People, not just organisations, take responsibility for the content they share, promote or advocate, and this makes the B2B lead generation process a lot more seamless.
Peter Zafiris, of Industrial Ideas, reminds us of the traditional framework of lead generation in terms of push and pull: “Integrating social media with B2B lead generation activities provide for customer engagement using a pull approach rather than push approach,” he says. “For example, leveraging a B2B social media tool like LinkedIn for the clever use of content marketing will support lead generation activities, such as EDM campaigns and telemarketing.”
Zafiris says the ability for digital and social to take a rich storytelling role is not always possible in traditional media. “This use of content marketing allows the B2B supplier to get closer to their target audience with relevant and appealing stories,” he says.
Mylan Vu, country manager of Hotwire PR, believes the lead generation and nurturing process is constantly evolving alongside the changes in how consumers communicate and make buying decisions. “While peer influence has been the strongest driver of buying decisions for years,” she says, “the way influence is created today differs to what it used to be even a few years ago. Recommendations via LinkedIn are now arguably just as powerful as the way an Instagram photo can create FOMO (fear of missing out), or a Pinterest post can start the sales cycle for a wedding ring manufacturer years before the bride-to-be is even proposed to.”
“The role of social media in lead generation is more multifaceted and prevalent than ever, and marketers who prioritise the analysis of its evolving changes and the impact on target audiences’ decision-making processes will surpass competitors,” Vu says.
For a summary, and a link to further reading, we approached the marketing director at Marketo, Chris Connell, for his thoughts. “There has never been a more demanding and rewarding time to be in marketing. The engagement economy has arrived, and customer expectations are changing rapidly,” he says. “The message for Australian companies is clear: adapt or fail. The digital transformation that extends across the company ecosystem in a unified, engaging way is no longer a ‘nice to have’; it’s critical to growth.”
With changes in technology and in customer expectations, the potential for us to identify competitors and customers, and utilise new technology is a timely opportunity. Connell concludes, “Marketing professionals have an amazing opportunity to take charge of change and lead their organisations through this rapidly changing environment. Of course, leading change means implementing lead generation techniques that transcend changes in buying behaviour.”
For those interested in reading further, we recommend ‘The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing’, available here.
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