Why Visuals Matter in B2B

I’ve talked before about the importance of finding content superheroes but I didn’t list the types of content they should produce. My point was that organizations should be looking at the right sources for content ideas — sales, research, IT, marketing, HR, legal and beyond.

How are you visually telling our stories?
How are you visually telling our stories?

This weekend I read through the latest book to make its way onto my shelf — The Power of Visual Storytelling — written by two true content superheroines: Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio.

After reading it, there are a few lessons from this book for B2B marketers to consider.

  • Visuals tell stories. It’s a cliche you’ve read many times now, but images help to clarify complex issues and processes. This can be done via a series of images or by a single infographic, but B2B companies, which deal with complexity and long sales leads, can better educate their stakeholders through simple images. Take a look at these 20 examples of B2B brands on Instagram and these five on Pinterest.
  • Images are an investment. Investing in good imagery is just that, an investment. Your overall strategy for images should be long term — with some real-time exceptions — so you can develop a plan to use them online, in presentations, with social media and beyond.
  • Make your images everyone’s images. Social tools continue to build off of the fact that we want to share images. Think of the transformation made by social media’s early platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn and the focus of new platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. As you build your content strategy online you need to be thinking also about how and where your audience will share them online.
  • Mange your images. Do you have an image librarian? Do you have a process for creating infographics? Is there a flow to keeping your images consistent looking and clean? I can think about several other questions to ask you, but you get the point.
  • Think carefully about your images. MarketingProfs said it best in this post, “Be a content brand, not a brand with content.” When you think about the story you are telling take the time to choose the right images as well as the right places you want to share them. What you need is to have an image plan for infographics, charts, graphics and photos.

There are three things that make this specific book from Ekaterina and Jessica valuable. First, the ongoing list of examples of companies and how they use visuals to tell stories and respond in real-time. The book is a treasure chest full of brands to follow and research. Second, the list of resources to consider for creating graphics is wonderful and does not overwhelm the reader. Third, the chapter on developing a road map is crucial as it focuses on ways to build your program and measure your success.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

Need a Strategy? Start by Playing Games

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Curious George Goes to the Office

Use Storytelling to Draw in Customers

A Look Back at 2013

With the continued rise of digital in 2013 some of the themes and posts here reflected what many people were asking: How do I create and manage content? With so much data coming in what matters most? Where should we focus our efforts? What’s next?

With so many changes in resources, data and issues B2B communicators in 2013 needed to constantly be looking for ways to leverage digital.
With so many changes in resources, data and issues B2B communicators in 2013 needed to constantly be looking for ways to leverage digital.

Here’s a look back at the top posts from 2013:

Do B2B Companies Need Social Media?

Craft Work: What’s Your B2B Expertise? 

Can B2B Brands Inspire?

How B2B Brands Can Leverage Events

What’s Ahead? The Changing Role of Communications

A Manifesto for B2B Communicators

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

What Does Twitter’s IPO Mean for B2B Communicators?

Other Voices: An Interview with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs

Thank you again for your continued readership and interest in B2B Voices.





LinkedIn Showcase Pages Put More Focus on Customers

I’m a long-time believer in using LinkedIn Groups to create communities for B2B brands. In fact, I’ve been using the group pages for more than six years to post content, connect our people with customers and focus on building conversations. During that time, I’ve noticed that not all groups are created equal; some have very good, active dialogues, while others just linger in a one-way discussion.

LinkedIn adds Showcase pages.
LinkedIn adds Showcase pages.

I’ve always believed that LinkedIn is a great platform for targeted, private discussion groups. Making groups private helps to target topics around specific issues, keep out competition and vendors, and allows you to treat these forums like your own focus group.

But LinkedIn’s new Showcase pages now complement the groups, helps to clear up the clutter on company pages, but could ultimately end up competing with – and possibly ending – most company group pages. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as we try to navigate our way through and manage the growing amount of content on LinkedIn.

I’m excited about this latest offering from LinkedIn since it can help narrow the conversations and topics, which ultimately is what a good B2B sales or marketing person needs to do. Here are my four reasons why I like the new Showcase pages:

  1. The administration feature allows multiple stakeholders to own and manage these groups. B2B companies can now provide multiple owners to pages, which makes sense as social media grows in importance. In addition, well-organized B2B companies will leverage product, marketing and communications teams to oversee showcase pages. This continues to showcase the need for B2B companies to better organize and manage content across functional disciplines.
  2. The sponsored post option is a major bonus at targeting customers by region, title, company and industry. LinkedIn continues to win the B2B marketing game as it focuses on connecting buyers to sellers and sellers to buyers better than any other social platform.
  3. As Mashable points out, Showcase pages allow companies to narrow content onto a specific product or offering and target end users. More targeted content should lead to more insights into what people want from your brand and marketing content, and should allow you to better track what you are trying to measure. And the simple “Follow” or “Unfollow” button makes it easy to start/stop seeing the feed. It’s a small feature, but is definitely more easy than joining or un-joining a LinkedIn group, and face it, any way to make the user experience easier is a plus.
  4. While several posts have pointed out here and here that this is a great way for brands to build content, I actually take the view that this is betters news for customers. Which is the point, isn’t it? This move from LinkedIn actually makes it easier for customers to follow the content they actually want from B2B brands. So, yes, it does help companies, but over time the real focus moves toward connecting with customers. And that’s exactly the point LinkedIn was trying to make.

So far I really like what I see in terms of the ease of use, the consistent look with Company Pages, and the focus on having an easy end-user and brand experience. Like any new social iteration, it will take time to figure out how to leverage the pages and make them of use to your customers. Should you do them across every product line? Or just your services? Do you even need them? And how will you build awareness and community around them? These are all questions you should be thinking about in the coming weeks as B2B companies roll out Showcase page.

Now I’m just hoping LinkedIn would bring back its event/calendar feature — I guess I can’t have everything — but there are alternatives.

We continue to get inundated with new technologies and platforms  As a reminder, my golden rule is do a few things and do them well. You will be better served as an organization and a professional by doing so.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

Keeping Your Messages Connected

Can B2B Brands Inspire?

CME Group Builds Impact on LinkedIn Using Exclusive Groups

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

Keeping Your Messages Connected

One of the more difficult things to do in communications is to connect everything — integrated marketing communications (IMC). It looks good on a PowerPoint slide, but implementing it can be filled with obstacles. Add to our workload all things real time and digital and the task becomes even greater. Here are some thoughts on how to keep your teams and your channels of communication working well together.

How are you keeping your messages connected?

Keep it Simple. Not your messages (more on that later), but your processes. How do you manage news distribution to all of your channels? What about white papers and research? Do you actively share information internally — an how — or are your teams finding it difficult to know what to distribute? If you have not created a cross-functional team I would suggest you look at how to develop one as a goal (and don’t forget about working with IT).

The Images You Choose Reflect Your Brand. The images you choose for your website, printed materials, blog posts and social channels are important. Please don’t leave the decisions for choosing them to an intern or junior staff member. Remember, you are not the only one posting links from your website and materials online around the Internet — your partners, customers and other stakeholders are as well. Take a serious look at the images you use and where you source them from in order to make them align with your brand.

Leverage What Exists. If you are not posting news stories and information from your website daily you need to change your habits. Consistency today matters and daily reminders of your news, events, research and more sent out via social media can make an impact.

Speak with a Voice. Your messaging matters and you invest a lot of time to keep your spokespeople up to date. Because of this, you’ve had a good group of spokespeople for years and they all stay on message. But what about your digital team? What about your employees? In order to ensure your digital team is in line with your overall enterprise you should consider training them. IN addition, having a clear set of guidelines on how to speak as the company and for the company are important. Write them down. Finally, make sure you are working with compliance and employees are very clear what they can and cannot do in social media.

Don’t Forget Employees. Simply communicating to employees is not enough. Remember, employees will also see your advertisements, social posts, website and news stories about you. This group of stakeholders can be your most passionate group of ambassadors and getting them to help tell your story – by submitting photos, ideas, feedback or content — is an important task for you.

What about your thoughts? What are some ideas, thoughts and tips that help you keep your messages and content connected?

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read the following:

Are Your Spokespeople Social Media Trained? 

What Does Twitter’s IPO Mean for B2B Communicators? 

What are Your Future B2B Digital Plans?

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

Who are Your Content Superheroes?

Social Media Management

Blogging isn’t Supposed to be Easy

Download: Aligning Campaign Effectiveness and Content

From The Oriella Digital Journalism Study study
From The Oriella Digital Journalism Study study


I continue to be impressed and enthused at the quantity and quality of B2B-focused content online. The discussions around content and analytics continue to drive B2B conversations. Here’s a weekly rundown at what you may have missed.

@b2community: The Evolved 3 C’s of Marketing [Infographic] http://t.co/6YkIcar09W

@juntajoe: Great example…How to Spark a Meaningful Connection Through B2B Content http://t.co/GZBdC6Efkz via @CMIContent

@btobmagazine: Study: Marketers question online advertising effectiveness http://t.co/3wHXjvL7tk @Adobe

@eloqua: 9 Internet Trends Charts You Need To See  http://ow.ly/lWiZ7 via @BrennerMichael

@pauldunay: B2B Lags Behinds B2C in Online Customer Satisfaction http://t.co/MvhQbpXKCs

And more content you should read:

@PaidContentUk: Global study shows more journalists embrace social media — Germans not so much http://t.co/vpUMA9Ltjp

@pgillin: How the world has changed: Economist survey finds #analytics now most desired #marketing skill http://ow.ly/m0wOj

@journalismnews: Twitter opens up its analytics platform. Now everyone can check the performance of their tweets http://t.co/wT5LT34RTk via @tnwtwit 

@donbart: Comments encouraged! New Post: A New Framework for Social Media Metrics & Measurement http://ow.ly/lXIn3 #MeasurePRt #SMMStandards


The Next Chapter for Social Finance and Three Things to Consider

Some of the biggest news the past two weeks in social media surrounded the SEC’s announcement and Bloomberg’s news around social media. But what does this mean for communicators? While this is a big win for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it means we need to be even more engaged as communicators with these platforms. First, let’s look at a round of each announcement.


Securities Exchange Commission

The Wall Street Journal does a quick FAQ on the news and what it means. Over at CNBC they tell investor relations professionals to relax and enjoy some sleep. And Dominic Jones points out that the “devil is in the details” when it comes to interpreting the guidelines. So while the guidelines are meant to help companies, did anyone think of investors? Managing the information is important and Hootsuite offers some thoughts (we’re a Hootsuite client — and here’s a list of financial services firms currently using Hootsuite).  In 2010 I wrote about why investor relations professionals need to use StockTwits, and Howard Lindzon sums up his approach to what they have done and the SEC’s announcement:

“No matter what others call us or think, Stocktwits is a NEWSWIRE. Information is flowing from one to many, all day, every day and it is full of context.”


Bloomberg Terminal

The others news came from Bloomberg and that they were now adding Twitters posts about companies to their terminal feeds. Mashable offers a screen shot of what this will look like. And Venture Beat points out that this won’t be a “firehouse” of tweets, so we’ll need to see what is chosen and what is not. With many financial companies still blocking social media, the importance of this is that people in the markets can now gain access to tweets that matter. And as Joe Weisenthal pointed out during the crisis in Cyprus Twitter was beating most other sources.

Why This Matters

Back in 2011 I pointed out that social finance had arrived. Traders, analysts and financial firms were already mining Twitter for data. The news this month continues the evolution of social finance and further emphasizes the importance and seriousness of the information that is being shared. Here are three things B2B firms need to think about as the SEC and Bloomberg help advance the significance of your posts.

  1. It’s time to revisit your guidelines and disclosure rules. If you haven’t sent the news about what just happened to your compliance and investor relations teams then stop reading and do that now. If you are still pitching internally to use social media this will show that you are on top of the news and give you further leverage to discuss how you can build your social media strategy. At the very least, it should continue to build your relationships internally, and that’s always a good thing.
  2. What you post matters (even more). Think carefully about how you word, when you post and what you want to say about your firm. And don’t be afraid to repost extremely important information. As information gets posted in more venues, and now pulled into the Bloomberg terminal, content management gains in influence. I would also continue to pay attention to what Bloomberg does with social media and integrating it across all of its media.
  3. Register for StockTwits. It’s value as a company just went up, but more importantly for you it’s value as a reputation tool to promote and protect your brand just increased. If you are not using it for your company then integrate it with your Twitter account (and don’t forget to add your Hootsuite account). And if you’re a PR Newswire client (we are) you get the added benefit of having StockTwits on your side too.

I’m a long-time believer that social media can be a catalyst for change within B2B organizations — from sales to investor relations to content management — and this month was significant. The amount of discussions online around what the SEC and Bloomberg have announced, both in agreement and disagreement, makes the value of what has been accomplished in the past decade of information exchange and disclosure both challenging and exciting. As communicators, it’s just discussing “why” we should use these tools but the thinking has advanced to “how” we use them.

Do how do you think this news changes social finance? Or is it business as usual? Let us know.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

What drives your social media strategy?

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy

How Well Do You Know Your Social Network? Probably Poorly

Five lessons learned after five years of B2B social media

Do most online communities fail?

What drives your B2B strategy?

Tuning into your industry

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Need a Strategy? Start by Playing Games

Using Social Networking Sites in B2B Businesses

A B2B Summer Reading List

This past July, I traveled to Chicago with my wife and kids for our first family trip back to the United States since our move. The trip for me was split between working in Chicago and taking some time off to relax with friends and family. As always when I travel, I like to catch up on my reading and this trip proved to be a good opportunity to do just that while I was relaxing on the beach. Here is a summary of some posts and stories I found interesting that you may have missed.

The beach...time to relax with some B2B reading
The beach…time to relax with some B2B reading

Is Pinterest Pointless for B2B Companies?

One of the hottest social networks the past year has been Pinterest. As this post points out, there are a number of issues besides content to consider with Pinterest.  We started using Pinterest at the beginning of this year and while the traffic numbers may not compare to other social networks, we have certainly learned quite bit from a design standpoint for our website. Still have doubts? Here are four reasons from Karlie Justus why you need to consider Pinterest.

Want a Better Blog? Get Others to Write for You

If your B2B blog needs some help with content there’s no better place to explore than the blogosphere for help. We enlist a number of contributors to OpenMarkets who help us find and analyze content. If you don’t have time trying to find someone that’s not a problem either; fill out your information at MyBlogGuest and get ready to be pitched ideas.

Data, More Data, Data Everywhere

A great story in BtoB Magazine on data continues to highlight what I’ve been talking about on this blog — we are awash in data and while this presents many opportunities it also comes with great challenges. In fact, 79% of respondents in an IBM study “believe that over the next five years, the complexity of the data will be high or very high.” One key takeaway for me from the article — there will be plenty of job opportunities for marketing analytics in the future.

 Social Media and the Marketing Mix

Steve Reeves reminds us in this post that social media marketing should focus on the customer. He provides three good ideas how we can take our efforts online and transfer that knowledge to sales. The one important talking point from his post — think like the customer.

China’s Social Media Ambitions

I’ve written before on the importance of Weibo and looking east for social media growth. Storyful has an excellent post on the trends of social media in China that is a must read. Whether your company has any ambitions in China you cannot ignore the rapid and fast-moving digital networks taking place there.

Venn Should you Do a News Release?

This Venn diagram from Sarah Skerik is a great visual looking at the options available to corporate communications professionals when thinking about information distribution. The takeaway? Don’t think of these options as exclusive choices; we have a number of ways to now communicate and measure our messages and this post is a good display of how to help you decide.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

How are you measuring influence?

Are newspapers fading?

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

What drives your social media strategy?