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How to Use Social Media Effectively to Reach B2B Customers

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Social media marketing is great for reaching consumers, but what about those in the business-to-business (B2B) world? Contrary to many people's expectations, reaching B2B customers through social media is not only possible, but highly effective. Jason Falls, coauthor of No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, presents some ideas on how to use social media to make your B2B marketing efforts stand out.

How Does It Work?

Marketing to the business customer is not different. There. I said it. I feel better.

You think I'm nuts, right? Well, maybe I am, but let me explain how marketing to the business customer through social media, at least, is not different.

What one factor in a transaction do you try to manipulate through your persuasive marketing techniques? The decision-maker. The decision-maker is not a business, a logo, or a brand. The decision-maker is a person.

I would argue that there's no such thing as business-to-business (B2B) marketing, especially in the social realm. Instead, think of it as person-to-person (P2P) marketing. The decision-maker (a person) still has to be convinced that you and your company are trustworthy and can bring value to the decision-maker's business. And that proof doesn't come through corporate letterhead or flashy sales DVDs. That proof comes through trust, created in the relationship you build with the decision-maker.

Social media marketing offers a number of opportunities for you to find, connect with, and build relationships with decision-makers. Perhaps you offer outstanding insights and advice for businesses like those you're targeting through a blog, content on social networks, or even YouTube videos. Maybe you just connect with prospective customers via LinkedIn and discuss topics of the day in their industry via a LinkedIn group. However you approach it, the opportunity is there, in social media.

Like any other person with a problem, decision-makers are searching for answers. They may search via Google. If so, your blog posts would have a good chance of being found if they're optimized for keywords based on the types of problems that decision-makers may have. Decision-makers may search via conversations with their connections on social networks. If you sell the top-of-the-line HVAC product, wouldn't you love to see a Tweet from a purchasing director, asking about high-end HVAC systems?

ShipServ is a maritime global shipping company that manages big boats to ship huge quantities of products around the world. In an effort to increase awareness of the company, driving more website traffic and new leads, ShipServ began producing customer-friendly content on its website, revamped its lead-tracking system to include social channels, and established a LinkedIn group to foster discussion with interested parties around the maritime shipping industry.

The results? A 59% increase in web traffic and a 400% increase in sales-ready leads.

How did it happen? ShipServ became useful to its target audience, providing a discussion environment (a LinkedIn group) for the industry as well as interesting and helpful content on the website. As of this writing, ShipServ's latest value-add for readers was a whitepaper on the essentials of online marketing in the maritime shipping industry.

While that may not be something you'd hurry off to download, the companies who ship and sell through maritime means probably think, "Hey, I need to read that!" And who do they have to thank? ShipServ.

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