B2B Case Study: ShipServ

The social media program that this case study is based upon was a joint effort between ShipServ and Velocity Partners, a London-based B2B Marketing agency specializing in technology markets.

So what works for a B2B company? Let’s start by taking a look at a campaign that’s been pretty successful so far. This campaign was driven by John Watton, the VP of Marketing for ShipServ, an internet trading platform for the shipping industry. ShipServ has a global audience and a dispersed community of purchasers who are, believe it or not, quite eager to network.

Goals of the campaign:

  • Raise the awareness of the ShipServ brand amongst our target audience
  • Increase traffic to shipserv.com by 50% in three months
  • Engage with the audience and start to build community

Challenges faced:

  • Limited budget
  • Conservative target audience, late to adopting the internet and Web2.0 technologies

ShipServ’s Strategy:

  • Build an online community of advocates
  • Move communications from broadcast to discussion, engaging the audience in ongoing,open dialogue
  • Nurture prospects through drip feed of relevant content
  • Establish key themes on a quarterly basis, and develop rolling thunder of editorial content

Tactics Used:

  • Launch of the ShipServ Maritime Trading Network Group on LinkedIn in December 2008
  • Joined five other maritime groups on LinkedIn
  • Launch of the ShipServ blog as a container for opinion pieces
  • Opened up a twitter account, taking direct feeds from the website
  • Undertook keyword planning, optimized the website and developed landing pages for SEO
  • Revamped company newsletter to be more point-of-view oriented
  • Distributed humorous viral video

  • Underpinned site with lead nurturing system (marketo) to track visitor behaviour and nurture leads
  • Developed six themes, each of which manifested itself in:
    • A discussion posting on the LinkedIn groups
    • A social media release, distributed via PitchEngine
    • A blog posting


Building the community

  • Built a community of nearly 400 on LinkedIn
  • Attracted nearly 300 visitors to blog postings
  • Attracted over 50 relevant followers on Twitter
  • Over 600 views of the viral video, 62% of which came via email distribution and 18% via shipserv.com/linkedin distribution

Web site stats:

  • Visitors went up by 59% (increase in quantity)
  • Page views went up by 70% (increase in quality)
  • Average time on site went up by 25% (increase in quality)
  • Linkedin and Twitter went from zero to being in top 20 traffic sources
  • Number of leads passed to sales increased by 400%

This is a great example of using social media as a low cost way to build brand awareness and encourage engagement in a B2B space. Ship Serv, and John Watton, are instituting pioneering strategies with social media in a what is usually considered a pretty conservative industry.

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Social Media Monitoring is Vital…For ALL Brands

Today’s post is by guest contributor, Chuck Hemann (@chuckhemann). I began following Chuck’s posts a while ago and respect his insights on social media and the importance of measurement. Thanks Chuck for today’s post!

As the number of individuals joining social networks has climbed, so to has the number of brands embracing social networks as an opportunity to engage customers. What is often overlooked is that there is more to social media than Twitter, and Facebook. The brands who are successful using social media follow a very simple, yet often neglected formula: listen, develop a strategy to reach customers, engage the customer, monitor and measure conversations.  Unfortunately for them, and for those of us subject to their content, they often neglect THE two most important phases: listening and monitoring


Doesn’t it seem like we get an example every week of a company that could have mitigated a crisis if they were just listening to, and monitoring online conversations? This week’s example: Dominos. The thought of a B2C brand, especially one as large as Dominos, not listening (side note: it is possible that they were monitoring, though the delay in which they responded to this crisis would suggest otherwise) to online conversations is staggering. Just because the examples often come from B2C companies, doesn’t make listening and monitoring any less important for B2B brands.


Back in February, Todd Defren of SHIFT Communications had a great post on his blog, PR Squared, about B2B and social media. In it, he mentions some of the typical responses B2B brands give for not utilizing social media, including:


  • “We already know all of our customers”
  • “We have a very technical, specialized product”
  • “Our customers are very conventional”


The reality though, as Todd notes in his post, is that if your customers are online, you should be considering social media strategies to reach them. And guess what? More B2B customers are making their way to social networks. A recent survey of technology buyers by Forrester suggested that 95% of those buyers were at least “spectators” in the conversations on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc…Sure, you could argue that these are buyers who would be naturally drawn to new technology, but do you honestly believe this is a phenomenon that will stay isolated to B2B tech buyers? I don’t.


How would a B2B company ever know if their customers were using social networks without monitoring the conversations first? Better yet, how would they know if customers wanted to interact with them on that level without monitoring? None of us graduate high school and then immediately start giving strategic counsel to our clients do we (Doogie Howser‘s need not apply)? No, we listen to professors and industry experts educate us on the proper techniques and then we engage in the process. Why should social media be any different?


So I will ask you…why aren’t more B2B companies at least listening and monitoring for customer conversations? Is it because they view social networks as a novelty? Is it because they think their customers aren’t using these tools? What could it be? We’d like to hear from you!  


Chuck Hemann is the research manager for Dix & Eaton, a communications consulting firm, where he helps lead monitoring, measurement  and competitive intelligence efforts for the agency’s clients. You can connect with Chuck on Twitter and at his blog Measurement PR-spectives. The views in this post belong to Chuck Hemann and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of his employer.

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So you want to be a B2B communicator? Know your customers.

As an adjunct professor it never comes as a surprise that the majority of students I teach do not know what B2B communication requires, let alone even define it (Hint: it is not Back to Beer).

So let’s discuss what I feel is one of the key distinctions of doing successful B2B versus B2C communications – understanding your customers.

As communicators one of our basic mantras is to know who the end users of our products and services are in the marketplace. All of our strategies and tactical outputs should remain focused on communicating our messages and delivering on our brand promise to end users. No matter if you sell consumer goods or technology services, you need to recognize your customers’ wants and needs. That is a value-add from our efforts to our companies and clients.

So what makes B2B customers different? Here are five distinctions I see of B2B v. B2C customers

1. Customers in the B2B space typically have longer purchasing cycles. So instead of purchasing your products or services in a day or week it may take weeks or even months. This presents great opportunities to drive home our messages and value proposition, but at the same time it allows your competitors to do the same. The focus during this time now becomes building trust and differentiating our brand against our competition.
2. Customers in the B2B space often buy from our competition and can even compete with our other customers. We need to emphasize in our communications that we have to treat our products and services individually to each customer in order to build trust, loyalty and deliver on their needs. Remember, it is a long purchasing cycle and over time you can build strong loyalty or lose it all.
3. Both B2C and B2B customers are interested in customer service. The difference is that B2B customer service begins well before any sale is ever made or even considered. From a communicator’s standpoint we need to build our winning argument with case studies/references as well as third party endorsements during this time. These “outside influencers”, such as industry analysts, become a key component of our efforts to build trust with potential buyers. Find the people outside of your company that matter to our customers is always an ongoing initiative.
4. A B2B customer is typically more sophisticated than a B2C customer and has a deep understanding of our products or services (which means they also can be very skeptical). Since there already exists a great degree of knowledge or a high interest in learning about our offering, we must communicate in a way that talks specifically to them. This means you need to have a very complete understanding not only of what your company does but what your customer needs.
5. B2B customers buy your products because they will use them to help their company grow, become profitable, and stay competitive. This means you need to stay focused on communicating the value of your offering to them. They will not be entertained by funny animal mascots or snappy slogans. They want (need) a product or service to keep them competitive.

Even though this is a brief list, it feels like asking someone to name the top baseball or hockey players of all time. The list will change or evolve or could even be missing something. So tell us what you think.

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Allan Schoenberg
Director, Corporate Communications
CME Group — A CME/Chicago Board of Trade/NYMEX Company

Do You Know What Your B2B Peers Are Up To With Social Media? 4 Ways To Find Out

When I talk to various people within business to business organizations (who are still spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on traditional marketing by the way) I ask them if they are leveraging social media as part of their overall marketing strategy.  I get the same responses:

  • “We don’t have resource(s) to monitor that sort of activity.”
  • “We are still having a challenge building a business case for management on how it’s directly tied to the bottom line.”
  • “We’re not sure how to measure these efforts.”
  • “I don’t think it ‘fits within our corporate culture.’”

Well, whether it’s within your corporate culture or not, the facts are that more and more B2B companies are embracing social media.  Even more importantly, your potential buyers are using Web 2.0 technologies like blogs and user-generated videos to learn more about your products and services.   

Whether or not you’ve added social media to your marketing strategy, you need to keep up with it because your competitors are doing it, and it’s important you know what’s going on out there. 

Here are four simple ways you can monitor B2B social media activity.

Look who’s on Twitter – C-Levels in B2B are now using social media

ExecTweets  created by Federated Media, in partnership with Microsoft, segments executives who are currently on Twitter.  You’ll find top executives from B2B companies like Eastman Kodak, Sun Microsystems, and CISCO tweeting about various topics.


Participate in real-time conversations about B2B marketing on Twitter

Create a column on TweetDeck or search the #B2B hashtag on Twitter where B2B marketers are sharing interesting perspectives, links and stats. 

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Use Google alerts to index tweets and any other activity going on with your company

Be sure to set up Google email alerts for your organization. Google indexes and notifies you via email every time your company, name or whatever you decide to monitor comes up.

Talk to other B2B marketers/companies about their social media strategies

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Yes, it’s pretty straightforward, but how many of us these days actually pick up a phone and talk to each other? Additionally, some of us B2B marketers are still fairly new in the social media world. For that reason, it’s important to seek out and speak with other marketers or companies who have been there, done that.  Sure, there is a whole lot of information out there, but picking up the phone and actually speaking with someone about it is a change of pace and refreshing way to get feedback.

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Have you launched a successful social media strategy at your company yet? Let us know how you’re doing – plusses and minuses.  This is what this blog is all about!

4 Great Reasons to Start a Social Media Program as a B2B

A lot of B2B marketing professionals or departments have wondered what, if any, benefit they would get out of adding social media components to their marketing plans. Isn’t that for consumer-facing companies?

Here are 4 ways to start thinking about incorporating social media within your company:

Thought Leadership

  • Provide valuable information that establishes your company as an innovate thinker in your industry.”uhren replicas”  The end goal is to position yourself as an industry leader.
  • You could post a blog on useful industry information, again providing timely and innovative content to your readers.  Kinaxis has done a good job at this with their blog, The 21st Century Supply Chain.
  • Develop a complete content production”replique montre” program with such things as eBooks, white papers, webcasts etc and utilize social media channels to disseminate your information.
  • Part of the concept of a content production plan is that the information that you’re outputting is ultimately connected to your brand in the eyes of the reader.


Marketing Profs has a great post about the benefits of social media for B2B companies.  I won’t re-invent the wheel, as they “replique montre“did a great job in explaining it. They focused primarily on the research advantages it offers, with the following highlights:

  • Conducting research to understand more about a prospect’s or client’s “buying desires.”
  • Finding decision makers for certain products and services.
  • Extracting names from a given community for lead generation.
  • Getting answers to questions, reaching out to other experts.
  • Finding joint-venture marketing partners and creating various “cooperative opportunities.”
  • Connecting with past customers, keeping them up-to-date.

Brand Outreach

  • People often gather online around common interests or professions.  Many are employed in their field and, if not in a decision-making position, are at least closer to the decision-maker than you may be.  Join in their conversation in a valuable way.
  • Sponsor groups or networks that offer a forum of exchange and engagement for people that might be in what you consider your “target company” (see above).

Communication and Customer Service

  • The ability to connect with customers and clients in a way the offers 2-way communication and conversation can greatly increase relationships between parties.  Rethink the way you communicate with your clients.
  • Use new technologies to streamline the flow of information. Offer a platform to discuss pertinent issues and share knowledge on such topics as R&D, sales, supply chain, production and marketing.

Welcome to the B2B Voices blog

What makes the business of business-to-business (B2B) communication so special that we have banded together to create an entire blog on the topic? Is there really a difference between B2B and B2C communication? What can we learn from B2B communications and communicators?
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Communicating to a business versus a consumer does create different and unique challenges; however, at the end of the day many of the same principles, theories and tactics remain at the foundation. In fact, the great myth surrounding B2B communication is that it’s about communicating to the business. On the contrary, in the B2B world relationships are critical, and communicating to individuals becomes critical.

So here is a sample of what you will find as we begin our venture into the blogosphere with you.

Case Studies: We learn from others. We learn from benchmarking. We learn from having great conversations. Part of what we hope to accomplish is to talk with professionals on both the consulting side of the B2B space as well as the communicators inside great B2B companies. We hope these conversations give you new ideas and help you build new relationships.

Connecting: This blog will be used as a platform to help connect professionals doing B2B communication. While we may be doing the heavy lifting on topics for this blog, we hope to be able to connect others in the B2B community in order to network.

Strategies and Tactics: Weighing in on the old and new will be a part of what we discuss.”nike air max pas cher” We will of course look for your feedback, but challenging old assumptions and exploring new ideas is something we all will explore.

We hope you enjoy reading this blog and more so we hope you add your thoughts.
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And we’re off…