The following post is taken from my monthly collumn over at B2B Marketing
B2B lead generation in its traditional form consists of many outbound marketing activities; for example ads, telemarketing, email marketing, and pay-per-click. All of these are broadcast in their very nature. However, some of these activities are now increasingly becoming ignored by prospects who favour one-to-one communications. This shift in behaviour effects not just the success of lead generation but your future marketing budgets.
Savvy marketers now regard social media as an important channel of the marketing mix whereby conversations and content referred to as ‘inbound’ marketing can attract, engage and nurture leads.
The value of social media used for lead generation in comparison to outbound marketing activities is a lot more cost-effective. What this means for small and medium sized businesses is that they can now compete with larger corporations because they can leverage social media to their advantage through effective engagement and creative content at lower costs. For larger corporations the risk is that, if they do not adopt or engage in social media, they will lose a slice of the prospect pie.
When looking to generate leads through social media, the first step is to get heard by cutting through the noise. This is where your social media brand outposts such as Twitter, blogs and LinkedIn communities are important as they are the launch pad for creating interesting conversations and engaging content.
Both the conversations and content you are producing can be promoted through seeding, sharing and optimisation throughout social media. This allows your content to be found through social search and increases your chances of prospects engaging with content and spreading it further throughout their own social networks.
Traditional processes still work
Marketers should look to revise traditional lead gen processes such as scouring newspapers and trade publications for new business opportunities by using social media tools. For example, you can now use RSS readers to pool RSS feeds from trade publications as well as from competitors. The RSS readers enable you to keep up to date with industry announcements and potential opportunities that you can add to your prospect database and follow up.
At the same time it is essential that you have a listening strategy in place whereby you can monitor conversations taking place within blogs, forums and most importantly Twitter so that you do not miss out on opportunities. Expanding upon your listening strategy further, effective monitoring of conversations will provide you with the intelligence enabling you to engage in discussions within Yahoo Answers, Facebook groups and LinkedIn Q&As.
You should look to develop networking opportunities using social media, for example you can search for prospects within Twitter. Once you have added them to a list, you can create bespoke content for specific leads in order to create conversations and optimise this content to spread further through your other brand outposts and social networks to increase the potential of reaching more prospects.
Make sure that you balance all content with conversations so that the dialogue is not one way to ensure you are not reverting back to the traditional broadcast marketing methods.
Securing future social media budgets
Once your conversations and content are discovered, the goal is to funnel visitors/traffic toward target destinations such as a bespoke landing page whereby the user can enter in details via data capture and become a prospect. Social media activity inevitably costs money in terms of both time and resources, therefore in order to secure a budget for future social media spend you need to generate as many leads as possible that will eventually result in sales.
Some of the best tactics used to generate leads are value-added, for example creating blog posts offering advice on how to carry out business processes that compliment a company’s products and services thus increasing subscribers and increasing ratio of leads. It is important to remember that the quality of leads is controlled by the quality of the content and targeting.
As with all marketing activity, and social media is no exception, it needs to be measured in order to determine success and increase business intelligence. Use multivariate testing within your communications, analyse the data to track visitors, leads and customers across every channel that you are using within social media. This information will help inform where future budgets are best invested and what content works.