B2Bs find it tricky to leverage social for leads, but its value is not in doubt
Business-to-business (B2B) marketers—more anxious than ever to capture viable leads—are enamored with social media. They tell stories of introducing new products via social, saving money when questions about their products are answered by followers from other companies and earning credibility when influencers tout their brand.
B2B marketers know intuitively and anecdotally that social media brings them good leads. But when it comes to proving that social marketing shortens the sales cycle and delivers revenue, things get hazy. According to a new eMarketer report, “B2B Social Media Lead Generation: Best Practices for 2013,” B2Bs still haven’t found a proven formula for exactly how social helps close a sale.
Nevertheless, marketers are so enthusiastic about social marketing’s effect on top-of-funnel engagement that they say social is here to stay. It has become a core element of their lead generation efforts. And they have hammered out a number of best practices that are worth sharing and emulating.
“Social media marketing is no longer a nice to have—it’s a must have,” said Mark Yolton, senior vice president of digital, social and communities at business software and services purveyor SAP. “Our customers expect it. Our competitors are all doing it. And unless we embrace and excel at social media marketing integrated into the full marketing mix, we’ll be at a competitive disadvantage.”
This focus on social media marketing amounts to more than fishing where the fish are. As part of its ongoing series of interviews with B2B marketers, eMarketer queried digital experts from companies such as SAP, Xerox and Adobe about the value of social media for lead generation. As those interviews made plain, social has become a primary lead generation tactic for B2B marketers.
While tried-and-true B2B marketing techniques such as search engine optimization (SEO) and email still bring plenty of prospects to the door, social media entices them to enter a dialogue, pick up some information of value and step into the sales funnel. Social provides an environment where salespeople can develop a relationship with potential purchasers. Moreover, according to a January 2013 survey of both business-to-consumer (B2C) and B2B marketers at small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) worldwide by Social Media Examiner, it provides a host of other benefits as well.
There are plenty of challenges, however. B2B marketers complain that it is nearly impossible to track leads captured through social through to sales. Nevertheless, through trial and error they have learned that social media’s value for top-of-funnel engagement and for nurturing targeted leads makes it a vital marketing tactic.