Social Selling — B2B in Transition

Customer 2.0, Social Influence, & B2P

By Scott Rawlings

As I was reflecting on my own experience while researching B2B marketing topics related to a specific client challenge, the connection between Customer 2.0, Social Selling and the rapid evolution of B2P took on new life.  I am taking a moment to share related thoughts in case it helps you with your marketing/sales strategies and plans.

Based on research from a number of Internet sources, B2B companies in general emphasize SEO, email marketing, and social media relative to other marketing/selling investment options. Software tech companies emphasize PPC, inside sales, and trade events in addition to the aforementioned.

Although B2B companies have different approaches to the best way to integrate sales and marketing teams to optimize the customer purchase cycle, most companies are adjusting to the realities of customers doing their homework, being better informed, and relying on outside conversations/people to make their purchase decision.

The new empowered customer (Customer 2.0) is leading many of us to recognize the growing reality of a transition to B2P, or, in simple terms, the necessity of customizing the marketing and selling approach to prospective customers (customer personas) to improve conversion and reinforce brand leadership.  Businesses are not simply selling to a business entity; they are selling to individual decision-makers, to people.  B2P recognizes that new tools and technology are in the process of evolving how these individuals make purchase decisions on behalf of their business.

B2B Purchase Cycle, Marketing Funnel

Companies that recognize the importance of engagement based on customer insight build brand and influence faster and with better ROI. Although Meghan Lockwood is not necessarily an unbiased source, her research is interesting and reinforces significant performance advantages to those who perfect a customer-centered engagement approach.  Having implemented inbound marketing first hand, I’ve seen the positive impact it can have on a business.

Our survey found that 34% of all the leads generated in 2013 come from inbound marketing sources. In fact, inbound delivers 54% more leads into the marketing funnel than traditional outbound leads.

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Inbound leads also deliver superior cost per lead and cost per customer. In fact, U.S. inbound marketers spending more than $25K per year save an average of 13% in overall cost per lead and more than $14 dollars for every new customer acquired versus those relying on outbound strategies.

– Meghan Lockwood, Hubspot

In the current B2B marketing and selling landscape, please consider the following “social selling” points as you work to enhance your company’s brand and team performance:

  • The importance of face-to-face meetings between a salesperson and client is well understood and accepted.  However, business realities, global opportunities, and a changing decision process based on new tools and technology indicate the sales landscape is changing.
  • Many companies are using social media as a great way to shape attitudes and to humanize their brand by bringing forward stories that engage, strike an emotional chord, and otherwise resonate with customers.
  • Producing valuable information for prospects and customers that helps them in their professional lives will raise natural interest in your brand and has the potential to establish/reinforce your brand leadership.
  • New tools and services are likely to dramatically change how sales and marketing teams work together and how business customers engage with the companies from which they purchase.   Opportunities to improve conversion are tied to better qualified and cultivated leads along with improved customer insight integral to sales team activation.
  • Recent announcements like Twitter’s “Lead Generation Cards” and LinkedIn’s testing of “Sponsored Updates” are examples of tools that support more personalized, scaled engagement.  Inbound Marketing principles combine with Sales Enablement solutions to represent a quickly emerging category of tools — for example, if you want a great solution to streamline coordination between marketing management, sales management and field sales to improve customer conversion, see http://www.Showpad.com).

This article is intended to stimulate additional thinking about B2B marketing and selling frameworks and what we should each be considering in our plans for improving business performance around new realities and opportunities.  Inbound marketing is an approach that appreciates the empowered customer and builds on longstanding fundamentals of defining your audience and then attracting, engaging and serving them in a way that improves their professional lives.  An enduring trust relationship is the natural outcome.  This approach creates value for your brand and important advocacy opportunities post purchase.

Links are provided below for additional resources used as background for this article (if you can find the time, I recommend reviewing the articles along with Hubspots annual 2013 inbound research report).

https://blogs.oracle.com/socialspotlight/entry/forget_b2b_and_b2c_tech

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/aug/07/how-do-the-best-b2b-marketers-generate-sales-through-social-media

https://blog.twitter.com/2013/capture-user-interest-lead-generation-card ;

http://www.impactbnd.com/twitters-new-lead-generation-cards-build-your-email-list/

http://www.silverpop.com/blog/Twitters-Lead-Gen-Cards-Just-Became-Its-Best-Ad-Product-Ever

http://www.insideview.com/social-selling

http://diginomica.com/2013/07/26/questioning-b2b-social-media-results/

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