It’s Time for B2B Social Media Marketing to Generate Leads

A B2B Voices Q&A  With Kipp Bodnar and Jeffrey L. Cohen

I just finished reading The B2B Social Media Book: Becoming a Marketing Superstar, by Kipp Bodnar (day job at HubSpot) and Jeffrey L. Cohen (day job at Radian6), hot off the presses this month. I recommend it. Despite the title, it doesn’t try to encompass everything you need to know about B2B social media marketing.  Rather, it tries to open the lock box to social media lead generation. Frankly, that’s the way we’re going to get a lot of B2B companies to start to take social media more seriously.

I’ll follow up with a longer review but I had a chance to ask Kipp and Jeffrey a few questions after reading the book, and here’s what they had to say!

Aaron:  You both obviously have a lot of passion for B2B marketing in general, and social media specifically. Why? Where did that come from?

Kipp: It is what I have always done. Since the beginning of my career I have worked with B2B companies mostly at marketing agencies and then here at HubSpot. I love the challenge of B2B. B2B marketing is the ultimate in problem-solving and storytelling. It is awesome.

Jeff: I, too, have always worked for B2B companies, including marketing agencies that focused on B2B and companies that sold through distribution. It is more exciting to live in a world where the product quality and company knowledge are the basis of a sale, rather than the correct Pantone color. The longer sales cycles require companies to build customer relationships that can be nurtured, rather than offering promotions and discounts.

Aaron: What is most misunderstood about B2B social media marketing?

Kipp: For me it is reach. In traditional marketing, B2B companies obsessed over narrow targeting because executing marketing tactics was expensive. Social media has changed this. Narrow targeting hurts B2B companies online. Bigger reach is needed to generate word-of-mouth and leads online. Even if a social media follow isn’t a potential fit as a customer, they have the opportunity to share your content with someone who is, but this is impossible to predict. Thus the need to actively build reach online. 

Jeff: The notion that social media marketing is a business-to-consumer-only activity is most misunderstood. Many conservative B2B companies think that just because there is less volume of conversation around their company, products and industry, that social media is not for them. This ignores the benefits that social media brings to search, and the ability to leverage and share the knowledge and expertise imbedded in B2B companies to build and nurture relationships required for lead generation. 

Aaron:  Why the intense focus on lead generation in the book?

Kipp: Lead generation is the genesis of B2B success. Marketing must generate leads and revenue to survive. Yes, branding, public relations and other aspects of marketing are important, but they can’t compensate for the lack of a solid lead generation strategy. If lead generation is sound, all of those other aspects of marketing can supercharge it. 

Jeff: We know that social media adoption is very slow for B2B companies, no matter what online surveys say. We chose this important slice of social media activity, lead generation, because when success, it demonstrates real value of social media. It is much easier for C-Suite executives to endorse rolling out social media across an organization if it has already generated revenue through this one approach.

Aaron: I especially liked your more integrated focus on bringing prospective customers along a path from initial reach to signing on for content (like liking a page) to ultimately responding to a call to action and becoming a lead. Give us an example or two of who does that well.

Kipp: Breaking Point Systems down in Austin, TX is crushing it. They sell network testing equipment, which is a high-consideration and long buying cycle B2B purchase. We featured their vice president of marketing, Pam O’Neil, in the book. They have an awesome blog, a website that is super SEO-optimized and a social media presence that is engaging and drives traffic and leads back to the website.  Pam told us that they have a 2800% ROI from their online leads. 

Clear Risk is a finical services company in Canada that is also doing a great job. They have an awesome Facebook page, Twitter page, LinkedIn Page, blog as well as a calls-to-actions and lead generation offers. 

Aaron:  What about nurturing existing customers?  Private B2B communities are big in some industry segments like enterprise software, for instance, but this seemed to be less of a focus in this book. Why?

Kipp: Honestly, that is another book. You’re right. Lead nurturing as well as customer retention is huge revenue-centric application for social media. We just didn’t have the real estate to cover it properly in The B2B Social Media Book, so we decided to save it for another one. We think that having a solid customer generation strategy is the right first step, and too many companies still need to improve that. Lead nurturing is the next step.

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About Aaron Pearson

Aaron Pearson is a senior vice president in the technology practice of Weber Shandwick, a global communications firm. He is also an adjunct instructor at the University of St. Thomas Opus School of Business, where he teaches a master's course in communications technology. His B2B experience includes industries such as healthcare, manufacturing and agriculture, as well as functional audiences from IT to HR.

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