Managing Director, The Shirman Group
Author: 42 Rules for Growing Enterprise Revenue
Twitter: @B2BGuru; Blog: Revenue Orchard
I had the pleasure of moderating a recent SVAMA discussion about the use of social media for generating B2B leads. The panel included three veterans of social media: Brian Halligan (CEO of the award-winning marketing software startup, HubSpot, and new author of Inbound Marketing), Mike Linton (most recently the Chief Marketing Officer at eBay and formerly the CMO at Best Buy), and Zack Urlocker (Vice President of Lifecycle Marketing at Sun Microsystems).
My first question to the panelists was how to convert on-line engagement (through blogs, twitter, facebook, etc.) into qualified leads. The initial replies were about the importance of great content and ubiquitous presence at the major social networking hubs. All of which helps engage prospects, but doesn’t really answer the question. It took more probing from me and the audience, and eventually we were able to build a picture of what it takes to turn social media into qualified leads.
Here is my take on it, step by step:
1. Create lots of content – You don’t have to be a brilliant writer to get your idea across, so don’t spend hours refining. You also don’t have to hire a department-full of writers. Even one person writing regularly can create a critical mass of ideas and insights that your audiences want to read.
2. Promote the content – Be present on the major social media hubs (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) and SEO on Google to drive traffic back to your own site and content
3. Create more content, and market it some more via major social media hubs and Google
4. Create and market more content… (ok – you get it. This is ongoing, and the more the better.)
5. Do lots of testing of different content, marketing, wording, etc. to learn what creates the greatest response
6. Add a call to action to every single piece of content. You don’t need to suggest a purchase. Do give people a next step – viewing more content, participating in a webinar, subscribing to a list, following you on twitter. Always leverage the attention to grow your relationship with the reader.
7. Give your audience opportunities to self-identify. Some of your calls to action should lead to content or an activity that asks for OPTIONAL registration. This is where the transformation from casual contact to lead takes place. Test which questions get replies, and if want high quality data, don’t require that anything be filled in. (Hint: if you email them the content, they will give you good email addresses.)
8. Track interactions to identify the most engaged people. Identify people who have interacted with you in multiple ways. Target them with stickier or higher value interactions and campaigns.
9. Use analytics to determine lead quality based on combining registration data and interaction history.
10. Integrate social media with other tactics. Based on lead quality, respond with a combination of social media, email, webinars, on-line and live events, and sales follow-up.
If you’re a small business, then steps 1 through 7 may be sufficient to produce the desired number of leads. For bigger companies, the more sophisticated, analytics-based integrated marketing approach that includes all 10 steps can drive an orders of magnitude increase in lead volume. Either way, the critical thing to remember is that social media lets you inspire interest and enable interested customers to declare themselves. At the end of the day, those are the best kinds of leads to have.