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.