This Spotlight on Social Media for Business-to-Business Companies series is brought to you by LinkedIn, where marketers can reach the world’s largest audience of professionals as they network, collaborate and share valuable business insights and information.
Social-media marketing best practices often focus on consumer-oriented companies. While much of that advice can be applied to other kinds of organizations, business-to-business companies face special challenges that can require specialized strategies. I spoke with Kirsten Watson, the director of corporate marketing at Kinaxis — a technology company specializing in supply-chain management and sales and operations planning solutions — to learn more about how business-to-business companies can use social media to meet those challenges. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.
How do business-to-business companies approach social media differently than retail-focused companies?
I think the differences are, “Are you mass marketing, or are you target marketing?” We’re very heavily targeted in our marketing … from the bucket of titles that we’re trying to reach, down to the NAIC codes [of] the companies that we’re trying to get our message to. So that becomes the big question for us: How big is that ocean? And how many of the fish that are in it are applicable to us? And how in the world do we find them?
How does social media fit into your lead-generation strategy?
Everything that we do is trying to create awareness and interest in our solution set and our company. … We always try to drive people to one of our Web properties and the next step would be to convert them. So if we can interest people enough to make that click and come to visit our Web property, we can, by way of having really great content that’s applicable to them at the buying-cycle state that they might be at — given whatever the search term they used or the site they came from to find us — we try and put [forward] for them something of additional value that will create a conversion. And by that, I mean filling out a form, so we’re able to capture their contact information.
Our next step beyond that is that we do leverage … Salesforce, which is integrated with Eloqua, from a marketing-automation-tools perspective. We have two core things that we use within the Eloqua system. [One is] progressive profiling — so we only ask for a little bit of information from you, but as the relationship with you grows, we recognize when you return again and then we start to build up a full business card on you by putting additional questions in front of you to learn about revenue size of your company and your geography and those kinds of things.
And at the same time, what’s happening is, if you understand Eloqua, it’s doing scoring. So we score based on both explicit and implicit data. So we have score values based on, “Are they the right NAIC code? Are they the right role? Is their company of a reasonable size?” And then we score them based on behavior. “Did they respond to an e-mail campaign they were sent? Did they come and visit our website? Did they download one of our content assets?” … And all of this is tracked by original lead source, through both the Eloqua and the SalesForce system. So when the people reach a certain threshold of a score value … we say, “This is a sales-ready lead.” That’s when someone on our sales team will reach out and make contact and try and create that first meeting, to have a deeper discovery call and have a briefing and understand what their needs are and how we might be able to help.
What channel are your social-media efforts most focused on?
Everything we do is … done by design in an integrated fashion. We don’t try and prioritize or over-invest in one [channel], but instead we take a step back and look at the whole. … We try to make some fun of this crazy world called supply chain, which can be difficult and stressful and chaotic. We try to find the funny in that and resonate with people at that level. So if we were to use comedy as one of our tools to attract interest, when people come to our community to consume that comedy, we’re trying by design to make sure that we’re also offering up more credible content around thought leadership and solutions and different ways of looking at things. …
We try to augment any one effort across all our platforms, so … when we do an e-mail campaign, as an example, we try to touch on many things that we have going on across all of our Web properties, be it [a] blog, be it community, be it connects with the [website] because we have a new white paper that an analyst wrote. So we try and … offer up enough flavors of information that we’re going to be able to attract them on some level and then depending on what they choose to then come and click and consume, [they] then are hopefully exposed to the other things that are going to help them learn more about what we do and how we help and some of the customers that we’ve had success with.
How does LinkedIn fit into your suite of tools? Is it just like any other social network, or do you have a different strategy in place?
LinkedIn has this great groups technology where the user community can go in and create groups on all kinds of different specific topics that relate to them … and connect and communicate with others like them, their peers outside of their own four walls of their company, to share ideas and offer advice and help one another. So [we] research the types of groups off the LinkedIn platform by related to things like supply chain and sales and operations planning — which are two key selling propositions of our company — and we try and determine … how many people are part of those groups, but more importantly, how active and engaged are those people and what kinds of things are they talking about and how related might they be to the things that we’re talking about. …
The content we work to publish on those groups is done by way of the thought-leadership content we develop for our blogs. So we will look at a specific group and see it’s focused on things like lean manufacturing. Well, when we develop a blog posting that is related to lean manufacturing, we go and we publish that blog posting as a discussion thread within those groups. And so what happens there is it will create a discussion or commentary where the people that are part of the group will read what we’ve wrote and they’ll kick in and they’ll have their opinion and comment and so forth. And then we get an opportunity to start to engage with those people into a bit of back and forth. …
We’re very conscious and careful about what we publish there. There’s a lot of case of case studies of what not to do. They generally want people talking as peers about topics they care about. So we’re very conscious of not getting in there and selling and talking about our company, but more talking about trends and things that we’re seeing or our opinions on research or an article that we wrote — things like that. So we don’t get perceived as a vendor in their abusing our rights as a member of those groups. We’re very careful about that. And that’s a lesson I would share with anyone working on social media, looking to engage the LinkedIn platform.
Image credit: iqoncept, via iStockPhoto