We see a lot of gurus sharing recipes to transform social media (in particular LinkedIn) into a highly efficient B2B revenue generating machine. Some of them share good pieces of advice, I am certainly not questioning this. The real question here, for any company whose revenue model stems from complex sales, is: what should I expect from B2B social networking?
I use social media a lot, to learn about on any B2B marketing & sales trends which could help me reach my objectives, as a marketer. My main clients are sales, pre-sales and business developers, so my success as a marketer mostly depends on my ability to contribute to their objectives. I believe we will all agree on the fact that the best KPIs to evaluate this is potential revenue, opportunities, whatever we call them.
This being said, the next question is: can B2B social media marketing help me achieve my company’s goals, in terms of revenue. Probably, yes. But at what cost?
It is all about alignment between B2B sales & marketing
As explained by Sales For Life, “Social media marketing and social selling operate as parts of a single mechanism for driving revenue, but only when sales and marketing work together effectively”.
B2B social media marketing, simply put, is a branch of content marketing, consisting of delivering the right content you created at the right place, under the right format, with the right timing, to influence clients or potential clients on moving to the next business stage. Employee advocacy is the exponential lever which can transform social media marketing into a powerful communicative machine. Employee advocacy allows you to reach a much larger audience and have your message be seen by an exceptionally larger audience.
B2B social selling is a way for your sellers (most sales, pre-sales and business developers) to use social media for engaging with potential customers, with the clear objective to accelerate the revenue generation process. In comparison to social media marketing, it goes much further than employee advocacy, it is clearly online prospection. This approach certainly needs to be properly orchestrated for the following key reasons: territory management, no overlap between different salesmen targets, tone of voice, what level of aggressiveness the sellers can adopt and making sure everyone is following the rules of ethic social selling, and so on.
For a B2B company, I believe that (1) social media marketing, (2) employee advocacy and (3) social selling should be three steps to reach, one at a time, but which are completely interdependent to each other. Step 2 cannot be achieved without step 1. Though step 3 can be run in parallel of step 1 and 2, as social selling targets a population which is complementary to the one targeted social media marketing and employee advocacy. Some will disagree, but what I have already observed in the B2B industries since 2009, makes me think this way.
As a decider focused on revenue generation, you must be interested in social selling, besides the brand awareness and indirect business acceleration hidden behind B2B social media marketing. If you call a specialized company tomorrow to help you implement a strong social selling approach, if you are ready to invest a significant amount of resources, money, time and a lot of energy, yes, you will increase your revenue. That is for sure. You will also understand that this type of approach will require you to re-think, re-consider and re-build the whole way you have been communicating since the initial existence of your organization. This is heavy. I’ve contributed to such projects in the past. And most importantly, you will need the help of marketing to make it in such a way that will not damage the reputation of the company. Many companies dived into social selling too fast and are now biting their fingers about it.
B2B social media marketing + B2B employee advocacy + B2B social selling = B2B social networking
Whatever approach you want to implement in your company (pure social media marketing, pure employee advocacy, pure social selling), it will be efficient if the strategy establishment and implementation comes from the top business managers of the company, and not essentially (as is often the case) from digital marketing highly-educated stakeholders CMOs and CDOs. Every business unit director, every sales and pre-sales director (indirect and direct business) should be globally involved and locally in charge of a long-term approach, tracking the efficiency of the strategy.