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Social Networking Meets B2B Marketing

Written on August 9, 2011, by in Categories: Business, Internet Marketing, Social Networking 2 Comments

After releasing the first version of its forecasting and management tool for small businesses,60mo, a 10-person startup in Cleveland, Ohio, needed to raise capital. Buchholz’s first choice was Lightbank, a new fund in Chicago. Buchholz tried all the usual channels — phone calls, emails, submitting through Lightbank’s website — but received no response.

So he Tweeted, “Hey @Lightbank, we should chat sometime. Mid-westerners gotta stick together, yo.”

Someone from Lightbank responded immediately, setting up a meeting for two days later. Buchholz left that meeting with an offer.

“With email and phone, [a company] can ignore you, whereas with social media, when you publicly mention them, you’re calling them out to some degree,” says Buchholz. “They want to appear as though they’re plugged in, transparent, and communicating with the world.”

Some people might think of social media as a B2C (business-to-consumer) play, but it’s really a better fit for business-to-business sales, according to Jeffrey Cohen, social media marketing manager for Howard, Merrell & Partners, a strategic branding and advertising agency based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

According to Social Media Examiner’s 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 52.6 percent of B2B companies said they’ve been using social media for one year or longer, compared to 46.2 percent of consumer-facing companies. It also found that the smallest businesses often reap the most benefits, and that 61 percent of B2B companies had formed a new partnership as the result, compared to 51 percent of companies selling to consumers.

“In the B2B environment, there tend to be long sales cycles, often sales are based on existing relationships, and there’s a committee of people making the decision,” Cohen points out. Profiles on social networking sites allow pros to showcase their expertise — and check each other out. “If you’re hiring an accountant or lawyer, they may have passed a number of standardized tests, but at the end of the day, you have to trust they know what they’re talking about,” says Cohen, who is also managing editor ofSocialMediaB2B.com.

Where To Go

When you think of B2B networks, LinkedIn probably comes to mind first. Launched in 2003, it’s the big gorilla of professional networking sites, with more than 100 million members in over 200 countries and territories, and some 7 million small businesses on board. Many see it as a recruiting and job-hunting tool, but the percentage of users actively seeking jobs is only 15 percent, according to Ryan Roslansky, director of product management for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

“People come in to build and manage a professional identity, create and strengthen business relationships, share knowledge and opportunities related to their careers, and make smarter and faster decisions,” Roslansky says.

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