Born to B2B Social

Welcome to social media marketing

It doesn’t matter if you’re churning out great content for your B2B blog. If no one is reading you, you’re going nowhere. No prospects. No leads. No nothing at all.

Lead Generation

Pay-per-click has traditionally been one way of getting visitors to your website and still has a role to play. If not, Google wouldn’t still be pushing so-called “sponsored links”.

It maybe beneficial though, that as the owner of a small-medium business, to also consider using social media channels to win some traffic and generate really meaningful leads. That’s not because pay-per-click doesn’t work. It’s just that with all those chunky costs you’ve got, pay-per-click isn’t always cheap. And anyway, given the lengthy B2B purchase cycle, social media lead generation might actually be a more effective path to go down.

Word of (Digital) Mouth

Just as we listen to our friends when they recommend or refer us to a business, the same goes for social media connections on sites like Twitter or Facebook.

Even the big guns are witnessing the power of social. For example, this week, Martin Clarke, who runs Mail Online (British newspaper The Daily Mail’s website), revealed that 10 percent of the site’s UK traffic is generated by referrals from Facebook.

According to Clarke, who was speaking at the Society of Editors annual conference, only Google delivers more traffic to their site!

A number of our clients are also witnessing similar figures. At a meeting today, I was going over some stats with a client that revealed Facebook sends them over one third of their traffic – second only to Google.

Make Social Work for You in Your Area

Forget dreaming of business from Chicago, Oslo or Cannes, as a small business with local knowledge and local contacts, you should also be using social media to target local people – especially if you own a bricks and mortar store. But even in the B2B space there’s plenty of room to connect on social channels with other local businesses.

In a country like Sweden, were we don’t really have many people (approx 9 million), B2Bs have taken advantage of the Twitter hashtag #svpt to connect with other B2Bs, generating a local dialogue of sorts.
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Do Your B2B Communications Bore?

On Thursday night last week I scuttled off to talk B2B communications and social media to a bunch of people who work for a B2B company that have twelve offices throughout Sweden. After showing them how social media represents a paradigm shift in the way we communicate, I looked at examples of how other companies working within B2B convey their sense of personality and key competences on the web.

Facebook, Blogs or Twitter?

As I was talking all things social, the majority of my presentation looked at how other businesses use social communications channels in the B2B space.

Looking at a rather dry selection of B2B communications on corporate websites, I complained about how much they were lacking in personality and then contrasted them with a few examples I like including my friends at Arment Dietrich.

I chose to showcase Gini’s sites because they do two things that B2Bs can really learn from. They both

  • show personality and
  • build trust and credibility.

Personality

What I like most about Arment Dietrich’s blog, corporate site, and Facebook page is that they ooze personality. Particularly that of CEO, Gini Dietrich.

On the blog there’s a weekly vlog that shows Gini – cycling gear and all, or maybe a hotel backdrop – answering a crowdsourced question from the Facebook Page. For example:

As I’ve written before, this kind of B2B communications gesture shows that the people that run a company are approachable.
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B2B? Get Out of Facebook

I‘ve resisted starting a Facebook Page for Jontus Media for a good while now. Don’t get me wrong. Pages are great for some of our clients and I can see that they generate a lot of value and are worth sticking with.

The one thing that I notice though, is that the clients that seem to do best with Facebook are either non-profit, educational organizations, or those that purely focus on building a large community. Not B2B businesses looking to make a sale.

Nothing Actionable

The Wall is great for micro-blogging, status updates and getting quick messages out to your community. It’s also a useful channel to quickly respond to questions, post links to your video and audio content marketing. And in short, Pages often successfully drive traffic to online hubs where you’ve got more actionable landing pages in place.

If you’re a B2B organization looking to really kick start your online marketing and communications, I’m not convinced Facebook Pages are right for you. Many people that I talk to seem to want to jump on the Facebook Page bandwagon without actually figuring out what end result they aiming at.

“Everyone else is on Facebook,” is something I seem to hear on a regular basis. But investing in yet another channel that needs commitment, nurturing, and regular participation might not be the right thing for your business.

Things to Think About

Customer Service & Crisis Management
For me, Twitter is easier to work with if you’re looking for a channel to monitor and respond to customer questions and complaints.

Applications like HootSuite and TweetDeck make it really easy to track real-time mentions of your business. Whilst some might suggest that Facebook is a great place to respond to customers because there’s more space on a Wall than Twitter’s 140 characters, Twitter is great for a quick fire response. You can include a link to a FAQ or post on your B2B blog or a YouTube video from your CEO responding to the crisis.

I also think what does it for me is that a lot of Twitter usage is on mobile devices. Yes, I know Facebook works on mobiles too but getting your instant response out on Twitter via your mobile or PC is much more likely to be heard by other stakeholders like journalists who wouldn’t necessarily be following your Facebook Page.
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More on B2B Blogging & Conversions

I‘ve got a guest post up on Mark Schaefer’s brilliant blog today about how business blogs often fail to convert visitors into clients.

By means of a follow up I was thinking about how we as online communications, marketer and PR folk can convince businesses that they really should invest in blogging.

It’s Not About Conversion

When it comes down to it, my experience with clients has shown that blogs aren’t really about converting to sales. Yes, they might be an important part in the process of generating a sale, funnelling site visitors to specific landing pages; but as anyone involved in B2B marketing will tell you, the sales process is much longer than B2C. You have to convince different levels of an organisation that your product or service is just what you need. And persuading everyone through to the top brass can take time.

So I tend to see blogs are part of that initial journey to the sale.

For small online businesses, or would-be internet marketers, blogs are a vital cog in the sales wheel because so many internet marketers make their money with affiliate links or the sale of ebooks or training courses. But the techniques they use, won’t / don’t necessarily wash if you’re selling printers; or consultation services.

So What Are B2B Blogs Good For Then?

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Google Wave & B2B Marketing

google_wave_logoWe were really excited at Jontus Media when we first heard about Google Wave. That video on YouTube blew us away and we imagined Google would be taking online communications to the next level, making it easier to collaborate over the web.

We got our invites really early on and gave it a whirl, trying it first out as a collaborative note-taking space at a Stockholm conference.

But as we tried to get our heads around it, it quickly became apparent that the product itself just wasn’t what we were looking for. After looking at other options we settled on Basecamp, which makes working as a virtual agency a blast, and haven’t looked back.

Google Wave – A Marketing Lesson

As you might have heard, Google put the final nail in the Wave coffin announcing that it was killing it earlier this week. I must admit it came as a bit of a surprise given the resources that had been put into building the Wave brand.

It was supposed to radically change the way we communicate online: Email 2.0 for millennials and other interested parties.

But after all the publicity, the hype and the interest generated around the product – people were paying for beta invites on Ebay, for goodness sake!– Google didn’t follow through.

Development seemed to stall despite the release of a few Wave templates; and it didn’t play nicely with Google Docs.

And then Google really shot themselves in the foot by releasing another highly promoted online communications tool: Google Buz.
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Creative Approaches to B2B Marketing

I‘m a firm believer in creative online content. The kind of content that makes you stop and soak it in for a moment – like the Old Spice videos. Or a Seth Godin E-book.

creative content

Go on, get creative!

If you’re working in the B2B sector and looking to marketing your services or products online you need to embrace creativity if your content marketing is going to dazzle and increase sales.

Content is King, But Creativity is Queen

I don’t mean that you should put creativity or razzmatazz ahead of substance; getting your key value proposition across is essential. Nevertheless, the creativity that underscores a piece of online content is an important part of the marketing process. The Net has all but replaced TV as the go-to medium but text alone is losing some of its sparkle; in the last two years video and audio have begun to feel just as natural on the Net. After all, there’s a reason YouTube is the number 2 search engine on the planet!

Creative Strategies

With the Net increasingly the domain of mixed (or multi) media, content marketing strategies have had to change. Getting traffic to your website isn’t just a matter of great writing. It’s also about search engine optimization, participation across social media channels, and building communities of engagement.

Throwing money at a project isn’t the be all and end all of strategy. Sure, large companies may be able to throw money at creative teams in the pursuit of standout content, but that doesn’t always ensure success. Just ask Cisco. They aped the Old Spice campaign and no one seemed to notice. [Read more...]

Conversations vs SEO

Daniel Hindin, over at SpinSucks wrote an interesting post about business blogs and conversations. I chimed in with my own two cents this morning because being the sceptic that I am, I couldn’t help wonder if that kind of B2B blogging strategy means you’re less likely to turn your traffic into customers if you put the emphasis on conversation rather than lead generation.

Perhaps lead generation is too crude a term but you know what I mean. There’s this whole school of thought that blogs are:

  • great for SEO
  • get you near the top of Google
  • can help you target keywords
  • and provide traffic to your website.

And as any blog marketer knows, traffic is a prerequisite for sales.

My own approach to business blogging is a combination of blogging whatever takes my fancy, coupled with a mirrored with a hefty dose of SEO strategy and the desire to make a living.

I used to blog as purely a means of creative, self-expression but that died away after I changed career and started my own business.

I’m yet to consciously set out to be more conversational on this site. I try and do that on Twitter. But I have taken considerable steps over the last year to increase my traffic through SEO and keywords.

WP Scribe SEO Plugin

As I’ve noted before, since I installed the SEO plugin the weekend it launched, I’ve seen a considerable rise in traffic to this site. I also get better results in Google and, as it happens, better conversion rates.

Although I love the conversations I have and witness on blogs, I tend to regard blogs as a strategic channel for business growth (and a way of making new friends interested in the online communications industry)! That’s why I was interested in Danny Brown’s post last week recommending Arkayne, a similar plugin to Scribe that seemed good for business.

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

Even my customers seem to see business blogs as a stepping stone to business. For instance, I always ask new customers how they found me and last week’s response was fairly typical:

“You were at the top of Google for the phrase I searched for,” the client told me. “And your blog offered what I was looking for. That’s why I contacted you.” [Read more...]

Can You Build a Community Around Your B2B Blog?

So you’ve been running a business blog for a while now. Maybe it’s hosted on at a different domain to your regular business site, maybe it’s not. Maybe you try to be more informal, more conversational than you allow yourself to be on the “real” site.

But what if it’s not working?

  • What if 90 percent of your daily traffic is from new visitors that don’t hang around?
  • What if Google Analytics tells you that your I came, I saw, I puked (Bounce) rate is 80 percent plus? (Tip: Check out this site for the best on using Google Analytics
  • What if no one’s leaving comments, questions or retweeting your posts?

And what if the Hippo (Highest paid person in your organisation) is complaining that the business blog that was given the OK earlier this year is failing miserably and due for the axe and your job along with it?

Nightmare on B2B Blog Street

b2b community When disaster strikes and you’re failing to build a significant community around your business blog, it’s time for action. Ask yourself some searching questions and try to develop a strategy that you can implement and monitor to turn things around. What’s more, make sure you put a system in place that will measure your progress!

Do the Data

Rather than just making a subjective assessment of your site and flaying around in the dark as you try to turn things around, turn to concrete data. Look at what Google Analytics tells you about the performance of your site (Cf Content Marketing and Google Analytics 101 – podcast).

For example, three of my favourite questions for clients are:

  • What are the top entry pages for your blog?
  • What pages get the most clicks from unique users?
  • What pages have the highest bounce rate?

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Your CEO Should Participate in Social Media

It doesn’t take long to discover that not that many CEOs actively participate in social media. Just last summer, for example, ÃœBERCEO noted that only two of the Fortune 2009 list of the top 100 CEOs had Twitter accounts!

If your B2B is using social media channels like YouTube, Twitter, Flickr or a business blog, here are some reasons your CEO should be regularly involved:

Participation, Active Involvement

CEOs should not be isolated from customers and potential customers. In fact, your company can seem more in touch with its audience if the CEO actively participates.

Of course, CEOs are, by nature, busy people; however, they should be part of your content marketing strategy. If B2B CEOs are regularly:

  • tweeting
  • writing a CEO blog,
  • appearing regularly on YouTube or
  • a podcasting

your marcom strategy can bring your CEO closer to your audience.

It’s not necessarily about involving them on EVERY channel, but your CEO should be involved somewhere that is clearly marked. For example, one of my clients, Stockholm University, draws attention to the vice chancellor’s blog as part of their social media strategy.

If you regularly receive a lot of discussion about your services on Twitter, get your managing director micro-blogging. From a customers point of view, there’s one thing to make contact with customer services and another to actually connect with the CEO of a company who takes your issues or comments seriously.

Beyond B2B Crisis Management

It’s typical to see the CEO wheeled out onto YouTube or the company blog if a crisis hits. There they are apologizing, assuring customers the matter is being dealt with blah blah blah.
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Online Content Marketing for B2B Mobile Users

I’ve been on at you fairly recently to make sure your B2B content marketing is optimised for the mobile market, but as of today you really need to get with the program.

b2b content marketing mobile

How mobile is your content?

Mobile company Orange announced today that there’s been a 150 percent year-on-year increase in data usage on mobile devices specifically in the B2B sector.

The hike in data is partly due to the popularity of accessing email out of the office but also B2B mobile users turning increasingly using their smartphones for web browsing and Apps.

Orange UK director Anthony Keyworth reckons mobile apps will drive increased usage up over the next 12 months, with more B2B mobile apps set to emerge in the next 12 months.

What does this mean for your content marketing?

Simply, you cannot just sit back and ignore mobile internet access any longer. Not as a business and definitely not as someone working in the B2B marcoms industry.

There’s plenty of interest in mobile marketing as Junta 42′s content marketing spending study revealed earlier this year that of all content marketing areas, only mobile marketing rose year-on-year.

The big guys are putting resources into this but even if you’ve got a small business you need to be actively thinking about developing mobile specific websites and mobile applications as part of your content marketing programs.
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