Some time ago, I wrote a short guide on how to growthhack Twitter to work for your startup. Two summers and a pandemic later, I’m back with some thoughts on how to use social media in general to widen your sales pipeline and ultimately drive more revenue for your business.
Social media in B2B, really?
It’s 2020 — the wonder year — and social media simply cannot be ignored in B2B sales anymore. And this happened even before the world got into a full stop. Data from a 2019 study found that 71 percent of decision-makers said social media is influential when researching or considering a new product for their company. What’s more, 5 in every 10 decision-makers in the workplace use YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social networks when they’re considering new products and services.
The good news is that social media can be used to support the entire sales funnel. You can bring in new leads, engage with existing ones, and educate followers to drive the process further down the line.
Regardless of how it’s used, your social media presence needs to be consistent and valuable. If you post for a period of time and then suddenly stop, your leads will dry up. Similarly, if you post too much content that isn’t valuable, your potential consumers will tune you out.
This article is meant for entrepreneurs who also sell — that would be all startup founders, at least in the early stages 🙂 — and for sales and business development people with a B2B product or service. This guide will help you make some strategic social media decisions so you can target new leads while selling to existing ones.
Own your game
Creating and sharing social media content requires planning and mindfulness. Each post you create should have a dedicated target audience and end goal. Consider the four steps of the sales funnel and how social media plays a role in each one:
- Awareness: Reach people who are not familiar with your brand and encourage them to learn more about you. Social media makes it easy to connect with relevant leads, but the challenge is making people care. Why should they follow you? What value do you provide?
- Consideration: Customers are shopping around and weighing their options before making a decision. Your content should answer questions they might have and give them stories to connect with your team on a deeper level.
- Action: Customers know they want to make a purchase, and you need to push them over the edge. Figuratively speaking, of course 😉 A well-placed call to action can get them to convert when you least expect it.
- Loyalty: Social media is invaluable for reaching new customers, but it also serves as a tool to upsell existing customers on new services, bring repeat customers back, and encourage reviews and testimonials. Also, don’t forget to highlight user-generated content and respond to all comments to show that you’re listening.
If you don’t create the social media content, advocate with your marketing team’s lead to play a larger role in their efforts. Sales/business development and marketing should always work side-by-side.
Do your homework
The first step is always to gather data. You can learn valuable information about your target audience by researching their behaviors on social media.
Do they interact with professional groups on LinkedIn, join B2B conversations or share industry-specific content on Twitter? Do they use Facebook or YouTube for business purposes? All these details matter.
When you delve into the type of networks, content and interactions your target audience consumes on social media, in addition to the influencers and brands they follow, you get a feel for their likes, needs and communication preferences. Next, you can address these specific needs and preferences right at their core.
Content is king, still
Once you understand the power of social media to drive leads into your funnel, you can start to look for relevant and sharable content. Your content breaks down into two main areas of focus:
- Internal content that you create yourself as a company
- External content from highly-reputable sources
Most brands share a mixture of both internal and external content. Internal content proves that the employees at your business are knowledgeable about industry best practices, while external content shows that you keep an eye on trends and can serve as a resource for customers.
You have many options for sharing external content, including these common B2B content types:
- New research about industry trends
- Interesting infographics (here’s the ultimate infographics guide), images, and videos
- Important news from both yours and your target’s line of business
- Upcoming webinars that they may want to attend
- In-depth guides, ebooks, and whitepapers that your industry players might find useful
- Upcoming conferences that you will be attending
Create a pool of resources where you save relevant links to add to your social calendar. This also is a great way for sales to recommend sharable content to the marketing team. Lending a helping hand, if you wish 😀
According to a research from FocusVision, the B2B decision-maker consumes 13 pieces of content before buying. That’s why internal content is also critical. Based on data from the same research, B2B decision-makers most care about content that offers:
- Product specifications and functionality (67%)
- Product comparisons (65%)
- Product success stories (60%)
- Value to internal stakeholders (54%)
- Product tutorials (49%)
- Guidance on my problem/how to solve it (48%)
A note on influencer marketing
Influencer marketing involves working with people who have a significant following to drive brand impressions. As such, when your internal content is shared by an industry leader, your message reaches their audience, which may include hundreds or maybe thousands of decision-makers.
You want to create content that is valuable and sharable to attract these leaders and influencers. And to be able to do that, you need to know what your target market cares about and what is considered industry standard. For example, are videos more impactful in your industry or are case studies?
Influencer marketing can be organic or paid. An industry blog that shares your content is organic. Hiring someone to post about your brand is paid influencer marketing. Consider how this tactic can help support your social sales efforts.
Teamwork makes the dream work
How many times have you heard this mantra? I bet that maaaany times by now 😉 Despite being framed as yet another hype, teamwork is a fact of everyday life at work. Without collaboration, teams don’t function. And it’s equally important that different teams work together for the greater good.
In our case, it’s about sales and marketing. Occasionally, sales teams will try to default to social media specialists and marketing departments to create and share content for them. However, all parties need to work together to engage audiences and grow leads.
Use your industry knowledge to communicate content ideas with the marketing team. Tell them what industry insiders and even customers say it’s most useful for them. Share your insights on how to promote products and services more effectively.
This knowledge exchange can help them develop marketing materials based on the sales funnel, which in turn helps you grow your company’s revenue.
Widen that pipeline
Regardless if you are a startup founder, a business development or a sales manager, don’t shy away from social media. Use it as a tool to become an authority that decision-makers can trust and later on follow. It’s something to be built over time, while still using the traditional tactics to grow the sales pipeline.
On the long run, it’s a known fact that consistency brings more benefits than the wow-factor. Be persistent and consistent and grow your social media presence wisely.