As digital continues to dominate the way we market to our customers, it is more important than ever before to have not only a strong presence online, but a trusted and credible one. Attracting new clients requires a different way of thinking.
Traditional business models of “attack marketing” or tele-prospecting where the communication is inherently one-way with a limited audience, are no longer the only way to find new opportunities.
Now, “attract marketing”, a self-serve, content-rich approach, allowing prospects to find you online is steadily becoming the way to go. This approach also fosters healthy two-way dialogue giving the seller an opportunity to really focus on the pain points of the potential customer.
According to a report from the IDC, at least 75% of the business-to-business (B2B) buyers and 84% of C-level/vice president executives use social media to help influence their buying decisions – again reiterating the importance of this major shift in marketing.
Think of a scenario of when you walk into a store and the sales representative immediately starts to inundate you with sales pitches on the latest promotions. The natural response could very well be frustration since you’re not being given the ability to just experience what the store has to offer without incentives being thrown at you. This strategy can easily have a negative outcome resulting in a potential prospect turning around and walking out the door simply because they didn’t feel relaxed enough to shop at their own pace. Perhaps if they had been given the time to go through the items, they may have found something of interest resulting in closed business.
This concept can be applied when it comes to marketing to B2B audiences online.
LinkedIn's report "The Social Bridge to the IT Committee" gives some great insight into how IT prospects – and B2B prospects in general - need to be communicated with online. Although three years old, the trends discussed in this report hold significant, if not more relevance today.
So what do IT prospects want?
Putting it simply: They want to know what they can learn from your organization that will help them in their decision-making process. What is your business’ value-add as an industry thought-leader?
IT consumers do not want an influx of sales-driven marketing collateral in their inbox or automated sounding in mail messages – these will end up in the trash before you know it.
Instead, the relevance and value of the content you provide and the quality of your online interactions will have a significant impact in their decision-making process and their desire to build a relationship with you.
This LinkedIn report highlights some key factors to remember when rethinking your marketing strategy:
When developing your online marketing approach, it is crucial to remember that key decision-makers do not always fall within the IT department. These individuals are largely cross-functional now with members in the finance, sales, marketing, and facilities team all making a significant contribution to the process. Your strategy should target this entire group. According to the findings in the report, there is a deep interest in IT Committees wanting to engage with vendors on social media, so this is an opportunity that must not be overlooked.
Content is Key
The more valuable, relevant and helpful content your business provides, and the more you proactively engage with your audiences online, the more you will position your company as a well-respected thought-leader within the industry. This will dramatically increase your social authority. Generally, you want to follow the 80/20 rule: 80% engaging, relevant content and 20% self-promotion. Coming across as too self-absorbed could adversely impact your image and keep prospects away. Remember, they want you to educate them and help them in their buying journey.
Put a Face to the Logo
IT prospects will also be more attracted to engaging with an actual person representing the company, rather than just the company logo. So it’s important to assign a community manager(s) to actively engage in groups and cultivate healthy conversations with IT Committees.
Of course, continue to post content to the company page, but have the community manager(s) drive that content further by sharing it on their channels and in relevant groups to start conversations with the right people. This will enable prospects to keep your brand top of mind and have a specific person to go to, once they are eventually ready to pursue the next step in the buying process.
LinkedIn's Sales Navigator is a powerful tool that can provide great B2B value in the social selling process. With greater insight and visibility into a much wider network of people, you have the option of getting as granular as you want when finding IT committees you are looking to build relationships with. You also have the ability to view profiles based on mutual interests or recent mentions in the news, which can be great conversation starters.
Overall, building and sustaining a healthy and credible online image in today’s world takes time, dedication, adaptability and commitment to long-term success. It is not a means to an end, but a journey with continuous evolvement as new trends emerge.
To read the report in greater detail, download your copy here.