Right now, we’re seeing an increasing number of tech business startups intent on disrupting the B2B scene. These startups are armed with superpowers in the form of web-based services, smartphone apps, and smart technologies. It’s an interesting time as we watch the business playing field levelled by smaller B2B startups that sprout up and execute great ideas to enable businesses to improve trading relationships. Let’s not forget, while B2B startups aren’t as sexy as the latest crazily named consumer app, B2B businesses tend to exhibit a useful characteristic: They have a propensity to make money, quickly. This contrasts with typical B2C businesses that tend to seek user uptake and growth, and then figure out afterwards how the hell to monetise.
All around us, social media is being used effectively to help businesses with their credibility and visibility, although we’ve noticed that many B2B businesses fail to recognise the benefits on offer. B2B businesses often ask questions like, “why do we need to be public facing when we only deal with other businesses?” The answer is simple: it makes commercial sense to be seen by, and engage with, client businesses and influencers, and particularly as a B2B business it makes sense to be seen to be a thought leader and influencer in your space.
…our experience shows that your B2B customers are unlikely to engage with a facebook post even if it’s relevant to their business
We recommend that B2B businesses focus on particular social networks, such as Twitter and LinkedIn. We sometimes see B2B businesses showcasing themselves on a facebook page, but we’ve yet to see an example of this working usefully. People use social networks to socialise. All of your customers and prospective customers will be on facebook. Let’s face it, everyone is. But our experience shows that your B2B customers are unlikely to engage with a facebook post even if it’s relevant to their business. In contrast, Twitter and LinkedIn connections typically comprise commercial relationships, and so speaking to representatives in that context is very effective. You’re still not going to directly show much in the way of new business, and we’ve talked about that in our blog about customer acquisition, but retaining and strengthening existing relationships with B2B clients is priceless. Getting a new B2B customer can be a big achievement, but keeping them is another, and ensuring you get a lifetime value from a B2B client is key because the acquisition cost is typically very high. That said, while B2B customer acquisition is expensive, one of our customers benefitted from a new customer via social media which has effectively enabled them to use our services without cost for several years. But don’t rely on it.
We often say that social helps on an above-the-line basis when it comes to customer acquisition. That makes it difficult to measure but you can be sure it’s there.
Another of our B2B2C clients provides specialist plugin technology for hoteliers. This tech enables consumers to find out what local attractions are available whilst reviewing a hotel to make a booking. The technology is clever and can be populated by the hotel easily to include and emphasise specific points of interest, and even adapts to accommodate the changing seasons. Why is this relevant to social? Well, recruiting hotels as customers is an expensive undertaking owing to the ever increasing range of technologies available in the tech travel industry. While social media isn’t used here to directly recruit hotels, most hotels use Twitter and so connecting with them on social networks familiarises them with your brand and engenders trust through illustrating knowledge in the field and being state of the art. We often say that social helps on an above-the-line basis when it comes to customer acquisition. That makes it difficult to measure but you can be sure it’s there.
One Thanksocial client sells fine Californian wine online on a B2B basis. The vast majority of their suppliers are on Twitter (in this case wineries in the US) and likewise the clients they supply to (who are mostly high-end shops and restaurants in London). This B2B company has an exclusive deal with suppliers whereby they are the sole importers of the wine, and the supplying winery is always keen to ensure representatives are strong advocates in the market for their wines. Indeed, some of the wine is only permitted for sale at Michelin starred restaurants.
Our wine client gleans tremendous credibility from their strong Twitter following and the strong levels of engagement from other suppliers and their restaurant companies. Wineries are delighted to see how their B2B client is not only promoting their wines, but being included in direct consumer dialogue. There are some instances when end-consumers are included in social engagement with the supplier. On Twitter, we have seen and encouraged the final consumer (the person drinking the wine in a restaurant), engage with the owner of the winery who has toiled to create the wine. This is an exciting chain to behold, reminding many of us why we do what we do. It brings newly found levels of authenticity to the table.
Social media can help a B2B business after funding by strengthening client retention and helping engender trust with new clients.
Another of our B2B clients provides a branded consumer tech device through supermarkets. While the company is reliant on selling the hardware directly to consumers, they do so through supermarkets who naturally command the footfall and clout of the consumer. Our strategy with this client seems at first counter-intuitive because the client’s goal is to engage directly with consumers, just like a B2C company would: through our social media management services, the company reaches out to consumers and engages with them directly on facebook and Twitter, engaging with the consumers, chatting to them, hosting competitions, and retweeting positive experiences about the product. This engagement is highly visible by prospective and existing supermarket suppliers who draw faith from the high consumer engagement, and our experience shows that they’re demonstrably more likely to stock and restock the consumer product. Getting into a supermarket is a major challenge for a B2B company and having prospective supermarkets see an active twitter feed can help secure that invaluable shelf space. There are broader lessons here.
Social media can help a B2B business after funding by strengthening client retention and helping engender trust with new clients. It can also help with supplier relationships, and can be used to command an authority in a very specialist field. Our experience shows how it’s important to produce regular content for sharing, such as White Papers and blogs from leaders in the company. This content can be very effectively amplified through social channels, as we discussed in our previous blog, here.