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Launching marketing messages onto social media? Stop. Telling your unique, compelling story and humanizing yourself online? Stop. Listening with social media... all in hopes of selling B2B professional services?

While most experts advise us to do these things on social media we're actually doing more harm than good. Here's why and what to do instead to create leads and sales and 3 things that can do more harm to your B2B company than good.

Marketing with social media

WHAT?! You read it correctly. Using social media to "get the word out" about your company is a sure-fire losing strategy. Sending out messages is old school, and mass communications based. Yes, you need to have a message, this part is obvious. Yet broadcasting on social platforms in hopes of netting attention that converts to leads is a losing strategy.

Instead, focus on solving customers' problems in ways that you can easily connect to what it is you are selling.

Let's get clear with an example. Consider how professional services firm, ADP is using Twitter and Linkedin for sales leads in business process outsourcing. ADP's sales force is solving prospects' problems and promptly moving them off of social media--DIS-engaging. The professional services firm is successfully using LinkedIn for business leads using a relatively new social platform (LinkedIn) to research key decision-makers; however, how ADP is netting leads and accounts is not new at all.

ADP is using a new tool: Twitter. Yet its success at generating new business leads is not technical nor new. ADP's sales force is using innovative social tools in combination with a very old, effective idea: Solving problems for customers. Twitter helps ADP's sales team open doors with prospects in real time. Worth noting: The problem being solved does NOT always need to be related to what you sell to be effective at getting "the conversation" (about your product) going.

Their sale force is getting past gate-keepers by becoming relevant to the everyday lives of decision-makers who are expressing un-met needs. That's how social media is selling for them and can sell for your professional services business too.

Telling your 'unique story' (nobody cares!)

Avoid broadcasting on social media and resist telling customers all about your business, your "unique story." Instead, promise them a cure for an expressed pain and take them on a journey toward the remedy. Offer them micro-transactions that lead them toward (or away from) your service offering.

Be honest with yourself. What do your potential and existing customers care about more: Your culture, origins, how funny or "human" you are OR your ability to solve problems innovative ways that help them create distinctive market position and grow?

Prospects and customers rarely care enough about your culture, attitude, style or personality to decide on initiating or increasing their business with you on this criteria.

They care FIRST about their own problems or goals.

At best your corporate culture might help you create a point of distinction that influences their decision. It won't get you in the door or under serious consideration.

So if you want to sell more professional services, or generate more leads, start focusing social marketing on the problems, goals, fears, aspirations or skills your customers need to develop--help them do something that is important to them. Yes, for free but in ways that benefit YOU too. Stop placing so much emphasis on telling stories!

Use stories to make a point or bring an idea to life--or prove something to clients. Make stories serve a process that gets you what you want!

So make everything you do with social media answer questions (provide solutions) in ways that provoke a specific response from customers. This engages customers AND creates business leads---focused conversations that you can connect to your products and services.

Listening with social media

Yes, listening and monitoring what customers are saying/thinking/experiencing about you is important. Yet what do most of us do with what we hear? Too often we present metrics like "customer sentiment" to executive officers and walk away. It's no wonder why CMO's are being all but supplanted lately when we broadcast on social media platforms and listen--all without a focus on the process that ties the messages and resulting behaviors together in ways that help us sell better.

The key to selling more professional services services with social media is process. So we must 1) listen and 2) know what to listen for that can be useful to helping us sell, that we can optimize our social selling process with.

Here's the rub: If you're listening (and know what to listen for) customers are always telling you what to blog about, post on Facebook about or what kind of YouTube video they want or need to create success or avoid a risk. They're literally telling you what to do and where to do it with social media!

They're saying to us, "I need guidance here, right now." Today's B2B marketing leaders are jumping in to respond using social media but in ways that involve a social selling process--a new way to generate business leads with content marketing.

In fact, by listening for fears, ambitions, goals and skills customers need to develop we can discover what to be doing with social media--always and in real time. We can know (with certainty) the problems we need to help customers solve, or the experiences they're craving samples of.

We can always tap into new ways to create confidence in buyers who want to be confident and often want to buy our services.

By listening for specific insights on customers' worries, concerns, pains and objectives and feeding this understanding (keywords used, for instance) back into the "social design" of your blog posts, ebooks, Facebook updates, LinkedIn Group discussions, etc. we can create leads and sales--the easy way!

Take action now

Ask yourself: Are you inviting your customers on a journey to get a problem solved or experience something in a powerful, new way... a journey that creates demand for what it is you're selling? If you're not, it's likely you're just broadcasting on social media like everyone else. You're telling stories without connecting them to a sales or lead nurturing process.

You're creating mediocrity. 

So:

  1. Focus on solving customers' problems with social marketing in ways that easily connect to what it is you are selling.
  2. Give customers a cure for an expressed pain and then take them on a journey toward the remedy rather than telling stories that don't serve them.
  3. Listen in ways that help you always know what problems to solve, how to solve them and how to attract the most appropriate bees (best prospects) to your hive (your blog's Answer Center) more often.

Good luck and let me know how you're doing!

Jeff Molander

Published 30 November, 2012 by Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is a professional speaker, publisher and accomplished entrepreneur having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. He can be reached at jeff@jeffmolander.com. He is a regular contributor to Econsultancy. 

29 more posts from this author

Comments (12)

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Scott Shabot, VP at SAS DIGITAL

sorry people don't turn to social media for solutions. it is entertainment. so I strongly disagree with your conclusion and think you should try to be interesting and not flood your posts about business.

about 4 years ago

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James Mathew

Heyii... your concept might work but foremost thing that attracts a consumer is the product's appeal which may be a personal appeal, or a utility appeal. I hardly look for any company's page on social networking sites. I use them as a medium to communicate with my friends and relatives.

about 4 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Hi, Scott.
I suppose you would say most people do NOT turn to LinkedIn to get business problems solved but to entertain themselves? This is not what I'm experiencing on LinkedIn.

I suppose you would agree that people aren't actively searching YouTube for videos that help them solve business problems? This, too, is contrary to my experience.

Also, I'm not only writing about/giving examples of businesses that are capturing demand coming FROM social media but those using it to create demand with it. Witness http://www.youtube.com/joneslanglasalle as an example. They are provoking responses w/ YouTube that get conversations going... that result in 6 and 7 figure deals.

You might consider reading the examples I provided in my post. Thanks for considering!

about 4 years ago

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Aston Martin Car Reviews

I like this site..Its nice and it gave us lots of ideas..Thanks for sharing.

about 4 years ago

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Scott Shabot, VP at SAS DIGITAL

Jeff,

I was speaking about Facebook, not sure what people tune into LinkedIn, but FB has a large traffic advantage and I generally don't focus on LinkedIn.

as for a You Tube video. I am all in on video, but how do you get it seen? I think email and FB are the best way to get your videos seen.

about 4 years ago

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Khudadad Alam

Hi Jeff , thanks for sharing three popular ways to sabotage our B2B social marketing strategy. I have learn many from this blog and learning more.
Thanks and regards.

about 4 years ago

Noel Moriarty

Noel Moriarty, Director at Polaris Digital Marketing

There is sense to this. It's the same in the end as 'brochure' websites (you know, the sort that say 'We can tap dance on the head of a pin, get a load of our proud heritage') are missing the point too.

People do use the internet to find answers. When they are in a buying process, it's no different, they have a 'need', a 'problem', and they do research wherever they can find for something that will help solve their 'problem'. That includes social channels.

It's not simply a question of which channels are used, and when, the content also needs to engage. One way outbound content doesn't engage. Listening to the market and addressing their concerns does.

about 4 years ago

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Robert Howells, Website Manager at Elsevier

Number 4 should be not having your VP of a Digital Marketing company comment on a public board that they are not sure what people tune into LinkedIn and don't generally focus on LinkedIn. :)

about 4 years ago

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iWeb Expert

Excellent post.
Very well thought and is very informative.
Do keep it up.

about 4 years ago

Gemma Holloway

Gemma Holloway, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

You make some very good points in this blog, particularly the part about companies focusing on THEIR culture and THEIR news. I think too often people forget what social media is about, it's about building a brand and a community with the potential of leading to sales transactions - who had a baby at your office last week does none of these things.

Your point about listening to social media was also very interesting. I think many companies are very good at focusing on those engaging with them on social media platforms but aren't necessarily so good at utilising this engagement. It's the people actively engaging with your brand that are the ones you have potential doing business with too, so why focus your time on gaining new followers and pointless engagement if you aren't utilising the quality engagement right in front of you?

I really enjoyed this post!

almost 4 years ago

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Scott Shabot, VP at SAS DIGITAL

I think you can build your brand by humanizing it. I don't go to LinkedIn often, but I go to Facebook a lot and I don't go to be "sold". I go to keep up with my friends & find out about events. So if all you do are promoting your company I won't be interested. However human interest stories about your company, the community you are part of and your personnel would intrigue me.

It is a balancing act.

almost 4 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

@Noel... Hi there. Yes, we seem to be on the same page!

@Gemma. Nice to connect with you and thanks for the feedback. This viewpoint of ours is often not one shared by many in social media marketing. MANY out there believe that solving problems is not the key---instead, having personality, showing off your culture, humanizing yourself. This, they say, is the key. I just don't see or EXPERIENCE it this way. I've tried it and it WASTES MY TIME! :)

@Scott... The best way to get your video seen is this (in my experience):

1) Create content that says something that hasn't been said before. Example: reveal an insight that helps the target prospect avoid a risk they have that is, at the moment, unknown to them. Then, provoke a response to earn a lead. Give the viewer something to do---sign up for, download, attend,etc.

2) As you said, the video can be distributed via email. Other options include distributing it to heavily trafficked blogs (guest blogging) where large audiences can notice it. If it is DESIGNED to "go viral" it will. Again, the one thing that is sure to get noticed is honestly NEW information---telling prospects something they don't already know in a way that shows them an easy pathway to take action on the reaction you just provoked.

Also, I'm not sure you're understanding what I've written in the article. Nobody goes to Facebook to be sold. But they do go there to improve their lives, enjoy themselves in some way, etc. So SELLING on FB successfully is simply a matter of giving customers something to do that gives them what they already want---in ways that earn you a lead. This is vague but is described above and in other posts I've made.

almost 4 years ago

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