The long discussion whether Social Media impacts sales in the business-to-business (B2B) space gets some new basis. According to the Technology Decision-Maker Study by Hill+Knowlton Strategies, many executives and IT managers are in exchange with their peers when it comes to making B2B technology purchases. The study shows the increasing role Social Media plays in driving revenue and reputation for technology companies. Although traditional media is still leading the bunch in tech, word of mouth drives B2B technology revenues in terms of comments from peers and experts.
The research conducted by Research+Data Insights (RDI), a division of H+K Strategies, interviewed 813 IT purchase decision-makers in the US and UK. The basic intend of the study was to understand which communications channels had most impact on purchase decisions, and tried to figure out how much participation theses decision makers put in Social Media, and what makes them contribute content and opinions online.
These were the main findings from the respondents…
- The top two drivers of technology purchase decisions are word of mouth from peers and industry analyst commentary.
- Financial analyst reports, corporate web sites and traditional media sources (both online and offline) followed close after.
- 48% responded that word of mouth from peers frequently changed their decisions about their business priorities, not just their purchase decisions.
- 76% said they actively post opinions and comment on what they read online at least a few times per month, with 49% saying they actively comment at least weekly.
- If marketers want to generate most effective online commentary from B2B decision-makers, the best option is to publish a thought-provoking question related to current events.
- Most impact on final purchase decisions have analyst commentary and consultations.
“We’re seeing a change in how technology purchases are being influenced. Word of mouth from peers and industry analysts has grown in influence significantly since the 2009 study, and social media is the carrier signal for that influence. These findings lead us to strongly recommend communications programs for B2B tech companies that integrate reputational research, social media, analyst relations and traditional media.” Joshua Reynolds, Executive Vice President, H+K Strategies.
Study: European B2B Buyers use Content Marketing & Social Media for their purchase process, process complex though
The “2012 Buyersphere Report” conducted by The Base One Buyersphere Team interviewed 800 B2B customers in the France, Italy, Germany and the UK. The study reports that B2B buyers in Europe are actively using supplier-produced content and Social Media in order to speed up their purchasing decisions. It defines the importance of combining content marketing with inbound marketing tactics like (social media, search, or PR) for revenue generation.
The study concludes that B2B buyers find most whitepapers (86%) and blogs (71%) via web search. However, seminars and videos (44%) get recognition via e-mail. Still, search (71%) is the most important purchasing information sources, followed by word of mouth (55%) and Social Media (20%). However the general use of vendors’ web sites (73%), articles in the trade press (47%), supplier e-mails (39%), and downloaded white papers (20%) suggests that the world has not massively changed in the last two years.
Nevertheless, for the B2B world, face-to-face is again a key element in the influence process. Offline events and webinars get more and more influence on the information gathering and purchase process.
Mobile is on the rise: Accessing information from mobile devices is increasing. 13% are using their tablets and smartphones to access buying data. The way information is shared is still quite traditional though: 90% emails and 44% company intranet. Seems it is still a long way to become social.
In terms of Social Media the study made clear that B2B buyers are more selective when using modern media. LinkedIn generates half of the social media mentions with an increasing trend. When using Facebook for business only 5% were using the platform in 2012 compared to 15% last year. For the under 30 year olds Social Media was more useful than word of mouth. The report suggests that Social Media is WOM to this group which I would fully understand as well.
In the buying process B2B buyers use different information sources at different stages, the study reveals. First they are relying on white papers, industry press articles, and press advertising when they are defining the demand. When it comes to detect suppliers, web search, Linkedin and supplier websites become important. And when the final supplier is selected, supplier emails, Twitter, Facebook and word-of-mouth lose their importance. Interestingly enough, the importance of communities are almost stable in their influence throughout the purchase process. The study makes clear how important a multi-platform communication and clever content marketing strategy becomes in the future.
Those references and quotes would help us raise awareness. It would define and differentiate customer confidence. It would foster our sales funnel. And it would be the key to convert our sales opportunities much faster.
In other industries like hotels or restaurants, there was always a guestbook. People could tell the owners and managers what they liked, why they liked it and what made the location appear different from the competitors. In a B2B world, this was not possible. And there were reasons for it…
Who wanted to ruin the company’s tough won conditions of purchase?
Who would risk annoying their bosses for deeper supplier engagement?
Who said openly how highly rated the quality of a supplier’s communication effort was?
Who started positive questions and conversations by themselves without having a need to?
Who rates, reviews and recommends a B2B solution or a product without a need?
Today, people do that. In the B2B space maybe less than in the B2C world. But they do. And a reference in a B2B business has more value, more credibility and more sales power than when somebody likes a chocolate bar or some pair of sports-shoes – especially when not done on a social network but a corporate community.
But there are challenges coming along with this modern B2B reference development…
Companies and brands need to listen and monitor what their community is saying, and where they mention them. They need to categorize the value of a “Like” versus the impact of a comment on a corporate blog. They need to define ways for measurement criteria. And they have to know when and where to store a comment – whether positive or negative.
Positive comments are a blessing. But what if the comment disappears on Twitter after some weeks? What if the Facebook comment losses attention as of permanent posting in a company’s timeline? What value has the “Like” in general, if people don’t value Facebook as a B2B platform? Anf what if your company has a high Klout score but your clients have no clue what the impct of Klout score has for B2B?
Negative comments are an opportunity. Why not take the chance to answer to someone who was disatisfied with the solution or product? Assuming there are other clients experiencing the same problems, challenges, or undeliverables, B2Bs better respond. Is there a better chance to learn in order to get more references? Being “open” is authentic, is valuable, is generating more conversations.
Companies and brands should be grateful. Today, we have platforms where we can get references: corporate communities, forums, blogs, social network accounts and so on. But we need to make sure, we create Social Media guestbooks which display and keep the reference, the business people that have shared them, those that have retweeted, repinned or “re-used” them. Or why did we create and display case studies on our B2B websites for years?
I am asking myself the question, why are companies giving their hottest assets in the hands of Facebook, Twitter and the likes. And why they are not just changing their mindset. Answers welcome…!
We have already shared some information on a Google and Compete study that shows why B2B and mobile have a close connection. And the most relevant information from a mobile point of view can be taken from eMarketer graphic.
The importance of mobile for B2B is partly as business decision makers are frequent travelers, thus most connected business people, and partly as smartphones and tablets have given them a new freedom. And today, we also know from CNBC research that executives in Europe see the increasing value of being engaged on Twitter. B2B managers can and have their conversations anytime-anywhere from their devices.
But what is the marketing potential it offers for companies then?
As business decision makers by their definition have to be fast in their decision making process, today’s professionals need to be connected, informed, and productive wherever they are traveling, or whenever they are in meetings. As of that mobile devices give B2B marketing new opportunities to open up new relationships if using apps, QR codes or video in an intelligent way.
In her YouTube channel, on Twitter and in her blog) Christina CK Kerley shares her knowledge on mobile B2B strategies alongside some good cases. Her latest video gives some insight in how B2B marketers can use mobile to connect the offline and the online world in order to leverage B2B printed ads, to integrate the customers’ voice into video, or to bolster B2B thought-leadership content through images, video and text.
It sounds a bit incredible, but it is still plain reality. The majority of B2B companies still ignore their clients on the social web. Most companies are not listening to their voices in Social Media to draw their conclusion out of their public feedback.
69% of B2B companies don’t give feedback to their customers input in Social Media. The missing process is the challenge for them which they cannot manage. This is the outcome of a recent study by Satmetrix.
Satmetrix is the company which is responsible for the NetPromoter score. This score measures customer satisfaction based on how likely customers are to recommend a business. Being a measurement of advocates and detractors, it might as well be seen as a mirror of business success.
The risk of ignoring still seems to be not interesting for companies if we see the latest results from this study…
- 75% of B2B companies do not measure or quantify Social Media
- 60% of B2B companies do not have an integrated social media strategy
- 56% of B2B companies who measure Social Media just count the comments and followers
- 51% of B2B companies don’t have Social Media tracking at all
- Just 4% of companies who measure social media have any form of sentiment analysis
The survey data is based on 1.180 responses from businesses around the globe, who are all part of the NetPromoter.com community.
Some months ago, Google described in a B2B study how business decision makers are making up their mind for a purchase decision. The web is the first resource when B2B decision makers are on their way to evaluate which product or solution they might buy for their company. And although studies like the one of the Aberdeen Group state that B2B companies can generate more leads when using Social Media, many companies still don’t see the link and the opportunities coming with it.
Somehow Social Media in B2B is not rocket-science. Somehow the challenge is to align competition, commitment, content, context and collaboration -the 5C’s of Social Bsuiness- in order to offer customers the chance to identity with the company. In our eyes, this is the only way to differentiate from your competitors. Let us know if you have good examples how companies are using Social Media in the B2B world. Looking forward to your feedback. Or if you interact as a B2B company successful on the social web, let us know and we might highlight your case in a post. Reach out to us!
The challenge for all B2B companies is to find the balance between inbound and outbound marketing today. And the main question is how to generate leads with Social Media. A new study conducted by Aberdeen Group sponsored by Silverpop and Eloqua, offers some insights in how Best-in-Class B2B companies generate leads through Social Media platforms.
The findings of the study “B2B Social Meeting Marketing: Are We There Yet” show that on average 17% of the Best-in-Class B2B companies generate their leads via Social Media channels. Compared to their peers, this is almost 230% more marketing-generated leads through Social Media than other companies (5%). 84% of the responding B2B companies were using social marketing in some form.
The study differentiates between Best-in-Class (top 20% of aggregate performers) versus the industry average (middle 50%) and laggard (bottom 30%) organizations by using the following metrics…
1. The average annual company revenue growth of 20%, compared with 8% for Industry Average and -3% for Laggard firms.
2. An increase of 10% year-over-year improvement of marketing leads in average resulting in closed business – versus 3% for the Industry Average and -1% for Laggard firms.
3. A lead pipeline of 44% in sales-forecast generated by marketing – versus 10% for Industry Average and 5% for Laggard firms.
4. A 73% annual customer retention rate – versus 27% for Industry Average and 7% for Laggard firms.
The Best-in-Class companies show an outstanding adoption of various social technologies…
- 51% use website social sharing tools, versus 36% of Industry-Average firms.
- 49% use keyword-based Social Media monitoring, versus 39% of Industry-Average firms.
- 21% use social sign-in, versus 8% of Industry-Average firms.
Best-in-Class companies have experienced the opportunity of utilizing Social Media for the sales funnel, and know how to generate leads through social engagement.
- 80% of Best-in-Class companies are more actively engaged in Social Media marketing – versus 73% of Industry-Average firms and 60% of Laggards
- 47% of Best-in-Class companies see expanding lead generation as their primary strategy with Social Media marketing, and 13% cite generating leads as their secondary strategy.
- 23% of Best-in-Class companies said developing clear business processes for social marketing as their top strategy, and 8% cite process development as a secondary strategy.
All-in-all, the study shows the challenge of creating the right Social Media strategy for business when you want to succeed with lead generation via Social Media. But it is not only strong engagement the company needs. It is also the clever combination of using Social Media alongside the right communication techniques like email and SEO, and how Best-in-Class companies succeed here. They are 27% times more likely to integrate email with Social Media than Industry-Average firms, and 33% more likely than Laggards to do so. And they are also 24% times more likely than Industry-Average firms to integrate SEO with social media (even 69% more likely than Laggards).
What is your experience in lead generation through Social Media? How did your company perform, and what else could you add? Looking forward to learning from you…
Although some people still mess about the value of social networking, some platforms have already proven their success and benefit for companies and brands. From a B2B point of view, LinkedIn and Twitter are probably the two platforms that make most sense to marketers.
If Facebook has some value for brands that might be seen more from a B2C perspective. LinkedIn and Twitter have immediate B2B business impact. And business people predominantly use it for people searches it seems to understand their 3 Ps of their business: profession, position and potential.
LinkedIn is the star in this space in terms of business input, lead generation and some deep information exchange with their groups. This infographic from OnlineMBA states some valuable and interesting data about LinkedIn…
- 150m+ professionals globally (LinkedIn company profile stats – February 9, 2012)
- 44m+ members in EMEA region (LinkedIn company profile stats – February 17, 2012)
- registered business professionals from over 200 countries
- executives from every Fortune 500 companies
- 74% have a college degree, 26% even a graduate degree
- 1% of users are responsible for 34% of the traffic
- 1 million new users every 12 days = equals 1 new user per second
- 69% of users with at least $60K annual income
- 39% of users with more than $100K annual income
- 2 Billion people searches in 2010
Sorry, if I am getting emotional in this post… After far more than 1.000 posts, there must be one that is more personal than the rest of this blog: Memories.
I haven’t been alive 1851. Well, I am not alone on that one, right…?! No, I haven’t changed the world.
Obviously. Many of the companies on this infographic could not make this happen…
However, in 1999 something happened that I did not expect those days, or when I started my career in the B2B marketing and media world. It was disruptive in my B2B marketing life. Ok, I admit it was no innovation…, maybe some tiny idea and thoughts were those days. It was a milestone for me personally. And a tipping point in my business experience…
Getting an award is something that gives people a career kick. No Grammy. No Oscar. No… whatever. Having an award from the company that is mentioned at the beginning of this chart is something special to me, especially when you were young, inexperienced but eager to become better and better in business. When United Buisness Media bought CMP in 1999, I achieved a Salesperson of the Year award from CMP. Big emotions, big memories, I can tell you…
This infographic is not only rewarding the importance of content marketing, it also shows that content marketing will remain to be relevant and thrilling in the future. However, it might shift more and more from text to audio-visual touchpoints? We will see…
PS: Thanks to Mai Nguyen to ping this through to me…
In 2011 Social Media caught the attention of most businesses and their bosses. Dream Systems Media visualized the most important data in a nice infographic that illustrates the main Social Media stats in 2011 and gives a starting point for 2012. The summary of data was done by Sarah Evans at AdAge.
As most of us know Facebook has grown their business to 800 million active users which is an increase of incredible 200 million users in one year. LinkedIn and Twitter were also very successful. LinkedIn has 135 million active users (64 million in North America alone!). Twitter knocked down the 100 million user barrier.
Some more key stats that the infographic points out…
- The average Facebook user has 130 friends and likes 80 pages
- Every week there are more than 3.5 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook
- 56% of consumer are more likely to recommend a brand after becoming a fan
- 55% of Twitter users access the platform via their mobile
- 40% don’t tweet but monitor conversations
- 34% of marketers have generated leads using Twitter
- 30% of B2B marketers are spending millions of dollars each year on Social Media marketing
- Almost 30% of these users are not tracking the impact of this marketing
- 20% of Google searches each day have never been searched for before
And, believe it or not… From the more or less 7 billion people on earth 4.8 billion have a mobile and only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush.
Following up on the webinar “Social Media for B2B companies – tactics, tools and techniques” that I held today from South Tyrol, I have promised to share one of the latest Google studies on B2B marketing.
At their event “Thing B2B 2011″ Google introduced the results of their new B2B study. It refers to business decision makers and how they make their way to buying decisions, which tools they are using and which technical platforms influence their purchase process.
The study “Connecting with the Customer” (video) asked 1.600 B2B business decision makedrs from various industries. The results were then combined with the latest findings of a Compete Clickstream study. The Compete study is tracking website conversion rates of a panel that is based on 2 Mio. consumers.
The study concludes that 30% of conversions on activities like whitepaper downloads, Email, Calls or other pull activity happen after two weeks time, or even at a later stage. It also states that -not surprising- in order to reach B2B decision makers the Internet is the best choice. 57% of the respondents say Internet advertising sticks to their mind versus 34% print. Only 16% say TV ads have a lasting effect on them.
When B2B decision makers are in a purchase process, they make use of the following sources…
- 71% Internet
- 41% Professional organizations
- 39% Tradeshows
- 37% Catalogue
- 33% Consultants
- 31% Direct Mail
- 11% TV
The leading online resources where B2B decision makers go to…
- 73% Search engines
- 51% Brand websites
- 45% Online reviews
- 42% Websites of professional organizations
In the following video Sam Sebastian, Industry Director at Google reviews the most important results of the study “Connecting with the Customer”, and makes clear that Social Media has the best effect if it is connected with all the other marketing activities companies are running. The review is followed by a dscussion between Paul Miller, Vice President of eCommerce at Grainger; Kathy Leech, Director of Brand Communications at BP; Andy Markowitz, Director of Global Digital Strategy at GE. Just watch it…
Business decision makers are a challenging shopper category. However, the study makes clear that the Internet is the place to reach them easily – some website chat software allows you to interact with individual customers in real time. Mobiles and Social Networks are becoming more and more important in the lead generation process, too. One in three B2B clients who searches for information on their smartphones also uses Social Networks for research purposes. Sam Sebastian, Industry Director at Google summarizes the findings in three bullets:
1. The Internet is the new tradeshow
2. B2B customers search early and often across the Web to information
3. Think orchestration, not integration
Maybe I would have chosen a different third point… “Think stimulation, not penetration!”. But that is my view…