MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Influence B2B Buying Decisions with Social Media

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What actions do you take to encourage your customers to make a purchase?

The goal for any company is to drive revenue, manage expenses and earn profits.  Companies employ a variety of strategies to encourage customers to purchase their products or services.  These strategies increasingly incorporate different types of digitial media, from online advertising, SEM and SEO to social media, from online video to video conferencing.  Use of any of these customer centric efforts is to motivate customer action.  The ultimate desired action is for the customer to make a purchase, however, there are many other actions that may lead to that purchase.

Much emphasis is placed by B2B companies on lead or demand generation.  The basic premise is that the larger the funnel of opportunity, the greater the number of closed deals.  However, how does a B2B company inspire action through social media?  B2C companies offer special promotions or discounts to their fans and followers.  B2B companies have not, generally, seen increased sales directly related to limited time offers or discounts.  However, they have seen increased webinar attendance, increased whitepaper downloads and website visits when using social networks to enhance the visibility of the companies' programs.

North Plains, a digital asset management vendor (see North Plains case study), participates in many DAM related LinkedIn Groups.  By promoting their educational webinars in the groups, they increased anticipated attendance at their webinars.  Increased attendance equates to increased awareness and potentially increased sales.

The goal is consider what phase of the sales cycle your audience  is in.  Are they building knowledge?  Are they assessing vendors and options?  Or, are they in the decision making phase?  Aligning your content efforts with these different phases can help drive a desired action.  TechTarget shared the following findings in 2009 as related to IT buyers interest in online content based on stage in the buying process. 



This study provides some interesting insights that can help you target your content efforts to drive the desired action.  It reinforces the need for an integrated marketing strategy that incorporates social media, streaming media, marketing collateral and whitepapers, shared across a combination of your corporate website and social outlets.  It reinforces the need for a strategy that aligns content development efforts with all phases of the buying cycle.  It reinforces the need to understand your customer's needs when creating content to drive a specific action.

Social networks are a relevant source of information.  They can help a potential customer increase his/her knowledge of your company and its products.  They can faciliate community discussions.  They can inform a potential customer on where or how to find more detailed information, but can they actually convince a cusotmer to make a purchase in the B2B space?   In my opinion, the jury is out on this topic at this time.  While there have been many reports indicating that B2B marketers have found success increasing awareness and knowledge, I have not seen clear evidence that shows Twitter or LinkedIn, much less Facebook, are driving significant sales of B2B products and solutions.  Companies such as IBM claim to have sophisticated listening tools to help them uncover leads, however that is not a sale.  Perhaps it's a matter of time.  Perhaps it is dependent of understanding key drivers influencing the buying decision and aligning that understanding with the right social networking.

How well do you know your customers?  Stay tuned for further discussion on this topic.

What's your perspective?