November 16, 2016

The World’s Top B2B Brands are Using Social Media – Are You?

Author: Tom Manke

Social media marketing used to be a term associated with ‘business to consumer’ companies like Coke and McDonald’s. The B2C social marketing approach had improved customer engagement and enhanced customer relations and profits for these companies. Today, social media marketing is also being utilized by B2B companies. Many B2Bs had been playing it safe to spend at least some marketing budget to bolster their brand presence through social media, but the results are in, and it pays to spend for social media content and management.

B2Bs are increasingly aware of the value of quality content creation. Creating compelling content that engages responses reaches far beyond the effectiveness of billboard and TV brand awareness, and keeps a finger on the changing pulse of your clients like no high-buck Nielsen or Gallup service could ever deliver.  It enables them to create relevant content for their target audience. While these B2Bs were previously clueless about social media, they are now following in the footsteps of their earlier adopting cousin B2Cs.

Thanks to LinkedIn, B2B companies have learned how to establish their social media strategies to capture their target customers. Yet it’s surprising that a number of B2B companies are also doing well in B2C-friendly platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

Do you want to know how these global brands work their social media marketing? Let’s take a look:

1.) General Electric (GE)

GE’s social media vision is to live up to its slogan: “Imagination at Work”. Its social media content is focused on techological innovation but never forgets to engage with its followers. The GE social media team ensures that queries, complaints, and suggestions are replied to, and treats this area as an essential aspect in their overall CRM program. GE’s Facebook page has over 1.4 million likes and states its mission simply, “We love science, technology, innovation, and hearing from you! So, say hello.”

2.) Constant Contact

Constant Contact promotes a wide array of marketing tools that helps small business local owners. Small businesses are treated to a comprehensive and smooth dashboard that enhances their lead generation efforts through email marketing, lead generation tools, and social media campaigns as well. The great thing about Constant Contact is that it projects itself as a adviser for small businesses on social media. The ‘voices’ of their social media accounts are clearly defined beforehand: they know Facebook should be for user engagement and Twitter is for quick customer support issues.

3.) Citrix GoToMeeting

I’m sure you’ve used or heard good reviews about GoToMeeting. It works like Skype which enables businesses to conduct audio and video meetings and also provides mobile workspaces and cloud-based services. It also makes the most out of its social pages on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as a means to educate novice users and help customers with technical issues. It’s important for a B2B software company to determine what works and what doesn’t through collaboration with customers.

4.) IBM

IBM knows that social media marketing begins with customer experience. Its approach is to determine the right voice and engagement level that depends on the social media platform they are using. Facebook can be a casual conversation with its fans, but their LinkedIn approach is more centered on the value its products give to their target audience. It’s a fact that IBM has a plethora of products and services, and they’re doing well on social media because they have understood the interests and moods of each social media audience.

5.) Maersk

It’s a challenge for a shipping company to establish its presence on social media since not everyone needs shipping services, right? Maersk doesn’t hold back and creates fun and engaging content that connects with its target audience but seeks to entertain other segments as well. After all, aren’t we all consumers? Whether you are a logistics professional or simply an active social media user, Maersk ensures that you can relate with their content, even if you don’t really need their shipping services. Its Facebook page has over 1.1 million likes.

 

Most importantly, before any foray into social media, your internal point person or outside agency must work with you to establish two vital and confidential inter-office statements. You must know your audience, and you must know what you want your audience to do because of your communications. Establish a brief statement of audience and a brief statement of purpose for your social media. Only then will your effort and money be properly focused to create years of prosperity for your firm.

November 11, 2016

How to Create B2B Newsletters with Proven Email Marketing Tips

Author: Tom Manke

Many B2B marketers and business owners are still daunted by digital campaigns, using social media marketing or search engine marketing. Yet it’s a fact that you need to be where your customers are, and that’s exactly how social marketing or social search is helping B2B companies. But don’t forget about an older, simpler means of generating sales and goodwill.

Arguably, there’s an appropriate marketing strategy for every customer journey phase. If you’ve captured potential customers and leads via social media or from your website, that next phase is sustaining the engagement with that new audience. This is where email marketing and newsletters come in. It’s an old reliable method to a maintaining communication with your customers.

A recent study called “The State of Email Marketing by Industry” showed why email marketing is essential for a specific industry. Key findings showed that email marketing brought the highest overall ROI and is still the most reliable tool for lead generation. The report also showed that 57 percent of the marketers surveyed intend to increase their email marketing budget in 2016.

So…How Do I Get Started with Email Marketing Again?

There are tons of email marketing tools out there. These automated email marketing platforms help B2Bs to inexpensively reach their target customers. Email marketing combined with either attached or internal newsletters may include links to your web infographics or other live links where they can generate the most return on your newsletter’s investment.

The aforementioned study shows that 75{e94e2ba767bb4699e9222271456b83f9fa62b1d15a751de54b235c82994034b7} of B2B marketers and owners are using newsletters to communicate with their target audience. Newsletters can be more relaxed and interpersonal in ‘voice’. Used to sell a product or service, newsletters can be visually enticing, informative and engaging.

Here are 5 B2B newsletter tips:

1.) Identify your Customers’ Needs

Before crafting the content of your newsletter, you need to determine your customers’ needs and motivations. Assess your customer base, and then develop a unique buyer persona or avatar of your customers before you do anything else. Marry that persona’s interests, what compels them, and the problems they most often face with your services or product line. That will determine your newsletters final form. And it’s not just about presenting your product; you need to show and build your product’s value along the way. Showing the value of your product or service will entice them to check out those live links within each newsletter edition.

2.) Present a Smooth Format

Newsletters should be adaptable. Your readers today are more likely to open your newsletter within an adaptable ‘smart’ tablet or phone device than a desktop computer. A mobile responsive design is nothing less than essential no matter where it is viewed.

Structure is key to ensure customers read your newsletter. Apply design features such as a vertical format, clear headers, white space between separate items, short line length, short paragraphs, and bulleted lists.

Answer these guideline questions when mapping out your newsletter format:

  • Is the design of your newsletter clean and easy to digest?
  • Is your CTA (call to action) clearly visible? Is it actionable (to complete a sale)?
  • Are the graphics and photos attractive and engaging?
  • Does it complement the letter’s content and your buyer persona?

3.) Timing is Everything

Consider every newsletter that is not opened a case of unlimited and missed profit potential. Keep in mind the peak times when your target audience is most likely to open their mail. Start by guessing as best you can, and then successively establish optimal delivery times using your email platform’s analytics function. Click through rates are at stake! MarketingSherpa had drawn from a survey the best days for maximum open and click-through rates (CTR) are Tuesdays and Wednesdays for B2B newsletters. Well, that’s a starting point for you to begin your own factual open rate data. Yet broad data like this is bound to differ from your own due diligence. Getting this right can make the difference between thousands and millions; don’t neglect timing.

4.) Determine Customer Personas

Newsletters are more personal in tone and voice. Customers will click and read it if they feel that you are directly talking to their hopes, fears and goals. Identifying customer behavior determines your newsletter design and approach. Not all customers segments think alike, even within the same business vertical, so you need to assess the automatically collected data from your email platform’s analytics tools. These are the important points to take note:

  • Measure how people respond
  • What draws their attention and makes them click
  • How much time they spend on your newsletter

5.) Call-To-Action is Key

Using CTAs is what distinguishes a good B2B marketer from a brilliant one. It’s essential to apply calls-to-action within your content to assure feedback, response and results. CTAs can be questions, buttons, or even “freemium” offerings such as case studies and eBooks. It’s important to complement your newsletter’s structure with engaging copy yet structure all newsletter marketing content around those calls to action.

October 12, 2016

How Can B2B Companies Establish a Social Media Presence?

Author: Tom Manke

 

Let’s finally face it – most B2B companies are clueless in nailing their social media marketing strategies. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are being used by B2Cs and have been connecting with fans and potential customers for many years. But it would be fruitless, at best, to replicate these B2C models. With the glut of social media strategies and social CRM software around that probably won’t fit your objectives, it’s difficult for the B2B owner to come up with a definitive social media marketing plan for his company without consultative assistance or a very bright in-house employee.
Your competition is always hungry to eat your share of your marketplace. B2B has much to gain by doing this right, but much, much more to lose if they ignore a proper social strategy plan. Besides, B2B products and services aren’t for everyone; it’s not a common consumer good for people to be really aware that they exist; most successful B2Bs will never have or need multiple millions of clients.

There are today, however, a growing number of B2B companies that are already doing their social media right. Maersk and GE are some companies that have capitalized on content marketing via social media to create brand awareness, improve lead generation, and even complement their employee recruitment initiatives. As an AdAge survey recently revealed, 80{e94e2ba767bb4699e9222271456b83f9fa62b1d15a751de54b235c82994034b7} of B2B marketers plan to increase digital spending next year (up from 67{e94e2ba767bb4699e9222271456b83f9fa62b1d15a751de54b235c82994034b7} last year).

The keyword here is ‘connection’, so while most B2Cs are capitalizing on Facebook to engage with customers and entice potential ones, B2Bs are trying to connect with a more specific target audience. In order to connect with a particular target audience, a B2B owner should determine where his customers live in digital space. For instance, if a B2B’s target customers are employers that need an automated payroll software, then chances are those employers are best reached within LinkedIn.

Here are some important pointers for B2B marketers to step up their game on social media:

  1. Create a Master Plan
    Before you create an actual social media content marketing plan, it’s best to determine your marketing goals, objectives, and budget strategies. You need to define your primary social media marketing goals then come up with a substantial set of KPIs (key performance indicators) to set expectations. Start with a big idea and ask yourself how you can share this idea through social media.
  2. Map out your Social Communication Plan
    Customer engagement starts with content. Content types can range from blog posts to videos and even infographics, but the real question here is “does your social communication plan have effective direction?” The idea here is to establish a coherent and relevant social media communication plan to project your B2B’s mission and vision.
    If you’re using your company’s LinkedIn page to share Drake’s latest music video, then you have some serious planning to do. Always keep in mind that your social communication must be directed to your target audience, hence, relevant content is required to engage with them to gradually win their favor.
  3. Amplify your Brand Message
    Every company needs allies. It’s important to create bridges so you can enhance your online clout. If your personal clout is pretty decent, then you can leverage this to promote your company as well. Colleagues, current customers, and industry experts are your assets to amplify your B2B’s product. Always highlight how your product is a solution they need so they can share your content to their networks and get your brand recognized and remembered.
  4. Capitalize on LinkedIn
    tm
    B2B owners and marketers all love LinkedIn. Nine out of ten B2B companies have a LinkedIn page which they use to connect with current customers and potential leads. These B2Bs are aware that LinkedIn is the most dependable destination of their target audience. Not only is LinkedIn an effective tool in reaching potential customers and converting leads, it’s the most modern and targeted traffic driver essential for successful B2B social media presence.
October 7, 2016

Finding Ways to Increase Leads? Check Out These 6 Essential B2B Strategy Questions

Author: Tom Manke

Business owners nowadays are made to feel that they can easily handle their digital B2B marketing strategies. A number of digital marketing tools are offering ‘sure-fire’ ways to improve lead generation through social media ad platforms or search marketing software, which really leads to conflicting data situations where B2B decision makers get lost. Reality checked – entrepreneurs aren’t all digital marketing-savvy; most aren’t nor should they be tracking a fluttering confetti of partial solutions. Creating a digital marketing plan is definitely a challenge to many B2B owners.

As a B2B entrepreneur, where do you begin? Do you think creating a Facebook company page is enough? Are you applying a content marketing strategy to reach your target audience? Every business owner has a set of questions lingering at the back of their mind, and many of them never get around to starting. Others of you hammer together complex B2B marketing strategies right from the start which makes no sense at all without a company ‘philosophy’ to underpin the strategy. If you want to establish a sound and feasible B2B strategy, you should start with basics.

Here are 5 basic questions that will help you create the essential B2B strategies to improve lead generation:

1.) Why Do I Need a B2B Strategy?

A business is off to a great start by establishing its foundation through a strategy. In a recent survey, 51{e94e2ba767bb4699e9222271456b83f9fa62b1d15a751de54b235c82994034b7} of B2B companies don’t have a clear sense of what a B2B strategy is. It’s crucial to determine your target audience, create a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, and assessing your target customers’ buyer persona. This will help you know how to market your product or service seamlessly within and across relevant channels.

The survey also reveals that the most effective and popular content marketing materials are: social media content (93{e94e2ba767bb4699e9222271456b83f9fa62b1d15a751de54b235c82994034b7}), website articles/blog (78{e94e2ba767bb4699e9222271456b83f9fa62b1d15a751de54b235c82994034b7}), infographics/videos (75{e94e2ba767bb4699e9222271456b83f9fa62b1d15a751de54b235c82994034b7}), and eNewsletters (80{e94e2ba767bb4699e9222271456b83f9fa62b1d15a751de54b235c82994034b7}). Keep in mind that not all content can work for your business nor is it equally effective for each particular platform; you need to tailor-fit relevant content to reach the right target audience.

2.) Why Does My Business Need a Website?

If your business doesn’t have a website then it doesn’t exist. Your website is your company’s face on the Web. Picture it as a salesman that optimally projects your company’s mission and vision, products or services, and of course, the solutions intended to help your customers.

Yet an effective website should be enhanced with lead generation tools, CRM analytics software, and enticing content. Making your website relevant to your target audience also puts them as ease about referring your business to their colleagues and peers. Always keep in mind to personalize the content by talking directly to potential customer once he lands on your home page. Before you begin to write or have it written for you, compose and collaborate on a short ‘statement of purpose’ and a ‘statement of audience’. Now build your content. All of your website content is severely anaemic and stilted without one of each to guide the content creation.

3.) Do I Need Organic Search for My Business?

Everyone appreciates a great website with engaging content and enticing visuals. Thing is, is anyone aware that your website exists? How likely will they search that second page of results? This is where SEO and SEM comes into play; you need to have a sound organic master plan before its incremental deployment, especially if you are vying for attention on a world stage.

Your SWOT analysis will also help you determine how you deploy this organic search plan. Remember to focus on questions such as: “Who are my target customers?” and “What solutions do they seek?” Careful answers to these will help reinforce your content marketing plan at large, including your website content. A proper organic search plan forms a backbone of strong relevancy for your target customers that search your product/service online.

4.) Do I Really Need Social Media to Promote My Business?

Almost always you do, yet not every social media platform works for all products, and some of these public platforms may be omitted with advantage. Also, seek to determine the proportion of your target prospects’ time and frequency on Facebook and LinkedIn using each ad platform for research. If you already know that your product or service is not for everyone, then it’s important to tailor-fit your content for the appropriate platform – Facebook is more relaxed; LinkedIn more buttoned-down.

The idea here is to determine your target prospects and a few key buyer personas before you begin. Matching an accurate social persona to your product is essential to that product’s long-term awareness culture on the web. If your business is selling video games then you might easily reach your target customers on Facebook or Twitter, but if your business is CRM enterprise solutions then LinkedIn is the best fit for your product. Remember that promoting your product requires meticulous research gathered over months and years to determine their browsing behavior and frequently visited sites. Beneath everyone the marketing ground is shifting every day. Beneath everyone.

5.) How Do I Start with Lead Generation?

Most any business owner can purchase lead generation software and apply it on his website. But making the most out of your content and lead generation tool is a different story. Combining new and relevant content with lead generation tools will help sustain brand awareness. This is called brand nurturing. Best practices include call-to-action buttons, email newsletters, and content freebies like white papers and infographics to sustain customer and prospect engagement.

The key here is to create relevant content complemented by effective CTAs for customers to learn how your product will benefit their business. Always present your product or service as a solution that they need.

If you are ready for the next level of lead generation about which your competition is still sleeping, this has become the next gold rush of ’49, and you can own Sutter’s Mill. Technology and strategy now exists that enables new leads are combed, filtered, and presented at your out-bound sales team’s doorstep asking for their help. In fact, your existing inbound team can now be seriously down-sized. Looking for a level playing field? Not me. Nor should you.

6.) How Can Analytics Reporting Help Me?

Once you’re able to create content marketing plans for organic search and social media marketing, it’s time to determine your KPIs (key performance indicators) every month and quarter. When you know what traffic is working, and how it changes over time, you can quantify the value of your ongoing content efforts if you have the right reporting tools properly set up. Analytics reporting doesn’t just mean Google Analytics. That’s important for webpage views, average time on site, and bounce rate, but  if that’s all you choose to do, you are mostly playing a passive game on the sidelines, and also allowing current customer attrition (people going somewhere else!) over time.

What if you could determine how much traffic by source is filling out the lead forms you have out there, watching webinars or buying your product/service? Modern analytics reporting, expertly set up, can really drill down there to reveal how much revenue you are pulling by source: how much revenue is coming from organic vs. PPC vs. social media? These numbers can translate into substantial recommendations to improve areas in your content marketing strategy. And that’s extremely close to everything that affects your bottom line.

 

These are our basic guide questions for B2B owners who want to start to build an effective content marketing strategy. Keep in mind that a B2B strategy isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, so you also need to tailor-craft a specific B2B content marketing plan for your business. Do you have B2B questions you want to share with us? Send it our way and comment below.

September 27, 2016

LinkedIn as the Ultimate Content Marketing Tool for B2B Marketers

How LinkedIn Can Enhance Content Marketing for B2Bs

Is LinkedIn still a job-oriented site? Or, has it outgrown its original job seeker social media site to evolve into something much more powerful.  The BlueGreen Digital team sees  LinkedIn as a leading marketing opportunity for industry-specific companies.

LinkedIn has been a great platform for industry professionals and young job-seekers. The platform continues to be a useful tool not only for the HR industry but for B2B companies as well to identify and hire talent. It’s not a secret that LinkedIn has also rolled out its advertising features to SMEs and B2B companies which enables them to enhance their lead generation strategies and increase brand awareness for their products and services.

LinkedIn has garnered more than 430 million users as of Q1  2016. As a B2B company owner and marketer, you should be aware that LinkedIn is the de-facto platform to reach hyper targeted industry segments. LinkedIn has emerged into a proven platform to reach your target audience through content marketing.  Content marketing isn’t rocket science; however, a meticulous understanding of your target audience’s avatar will determine how you will create a relevant content marketing strategy.

Here are 5 ways to jumpstart your content marketing strategy on LinkedIn.

1.) Create Your LinkedIn Company Page

Most first-time LinkedIn members intend to hire an employee or find a job. As a B2B marketer, you’re on LinkedIn to establish your company, build brand awareness, and of course, determine and reach your target audience. It’s quite simple to create a company page on LinkedIn – the primary requirement is that have a personal LinkedIn account. Once you create a company page then it’s time to draft your content marketing initiatives.

2.) Establish your Presence Using Targeted Content

Where to start?  Let’s consider what the typical LinkedIn user does on LinkedIn.  The top uses are: hire employees, find a new job, research a company, or simply to find relevant content that will complement their work. Now that you understand the typical user, you can further hone this down to your target audience so you can create your content. Keep in mind that LinkedIn isn’t Facebook, hence, avoid “casual sharing” or sharing content just for the sake for sharing.

Once you create a LinkedIn company page, establish a voice and set of content types that will reflect your company’s mission and vision. Remember that the buyer personas of your target audience should determine the type and velocity of content you will share using your LinkedIn company page.

Example:

If you build SaaS financial products for consumers, create stories and examples of people using your technology to solve a problem.  Showcase a story, beginning with a problem, how your software provided a benefit, and the ultimate solution.

3.) Content Marketing is Storytelling

Once people connect and follow your LinkedIn page, it’s time to build out both your content plan and editorial calendar. Remember that people are following your company page because they expect to learn from you and familiarize themselves with your product or service. Content such as blog posts, infographics, DIY videos are vehicles to deliver your content to the end consumer. The key is to create branded content to reach your target customers, even if many of your followers aren’t customers, they can actually share or refer your page to their networks.

Weaving a story into each piece of content is critical for engagement.  Ask yourself key questions to help create the story.

a) What is the story and narrative behind the company or product?

b) How do you connect with your customer base?

c) What type of stories appeal to your customer avatar?

d) Beyond branding – how can you use the story to generate demand?

e) How can you combine content and a story to deliver value for the user.

Identify key messages you want to span multiple pieces of content.  Perhaps “value” is one of your messages.  To help reinforce this message, ensure all content touches on the “value” of your solution to the buyer or to the marketplace.

4)  User Generated Content

As you build your presence on LinkedIn, you can begin leveraging user-generated content to promote your brand. The customers and vendors you’ve worked with in the past can provide testimonials that make your brand and individual team members stand out. Any kind of testimonials from peers are major trust signals that can help you close deals faster and generate more leads.

5.) Create a Presence in LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn is about creating new connections and sharing insights. Once your LinkedIn company page is up and running, you can explore relevant LinkedIn groups that you can share your page with. This will help you improve your visibility and awareness about what your company is selling. Always remember to present yourself to groups not as a salesman but as a thought leader and solution provider.

Example: If you’re selling a CRM software, avoid hard selling, the correct approach is to share substantial insights about how CRM software can help increase sales or enhance their business. Eventually, you can share how readers can benefit using your software.

When you target groups, it is important that you look at a group as a long-term prospect, and not a place to simply post a single piece of content and move on.  Becoming a fabric of the group is critical to your success.

6.) Nurture your Leads

Content creation and group engagement will pave the way to lead generation. Every piece of content should have a purpose and benefit to your audience. As your content generates leads, it is important to nurture each lead.  This will help move the lead through the funnel.

What is the key to nurturing a lead?

Nurturing requires follow-up on a consistent basis, coupled with new content to provide value for the lead.  Humanize each piece of content.  Drop the sales pitch, and speak like a real person.  humanize your content, talk like a real person.  Project an aura of approachability through your content so customers feel comfortable engaging and asking questions. An inquiry could turn into a sales opportunity, and eventually, a sale.

Authors:
Brian Anderson and Daniel Wright

>