This is for the naysayers who think that social media is an alien terrain for B2B organisations. 

This is also for those working within B2B who need to present a case to those higher up that social can work for their company. 

This is also to celebrate the many B2B companies already using social in a way that puts a lot of B2C operations to shame. 

Creating a satisfying customer experience for your social followers is not about mimicking what B2C companies do, it's about finding your own voice and your own strategy.

What should be your tone of voice?

It's no good trying to be as anarchic as Paddy Power or to convey a similar sense of fantastical wit like Waterstone's Oxford Street, especially if you're a medical supply company. 

What can be off-putting to B2B companies is that the constantly trumpeted 'best brands on Twitter' tend to be the funniest, or the ones quickest with the Photoshopped image relating to a trending topic.

That's great if you're a pizza takeaway brand with 50,000 followers expecting a bit of light entertainment.

However there are many companies out there that we consider the quiet champions of social. The ones who are always open, listening to customers and replying helpfully and quickly with any kind of enquiry. 

To be good at social just means being there with open ears and having a primary focus on customer service. I admire B&Q far more for their cheerfully, delivered-within-a-couple-of-minutes replies then other brands for their newsjacking of trending topics. 

If you're afraid of being funny or you think it's inappropriate to your audience, don't worry about it because you don't have to be.

The key is to be human. To communicate in a natural, personal manner that shows there's a real approachable team behind the account that is there to help. 

However if you're in the right field, a light touch can certainly help.

Social customer service

This is essentially ‘after-care’ and can be delivered in a number of ways. 

When a client or customer has purchased a service or product from you, go and follow the individual buyer and product on Twitter. This will create an instant connection and they will likely follow you back.

Then perhaps after a week or two, why not follow up the purchase with a direct mentioned tweet (using the @name first) asking how they’re getting on?

Don’t be overzealous about it though, just in case you come across creepy. Also make sure the customer service agent includes their name in the tweet so the recipient knows there’s a genuine human behind the message.

You should definitely be monitoring the whole of Twitter for mentions of your company name (whether direct mentions or not, and also any possible variations of spelling too) and engaging with them directly, whether it’s a positive mention or a negative mention.

In fact, definitely if it’s a negative mention.

And of course you should be delivering customer service on social as a matter of course anyway, whether the enquiry is from a regular customer or not.

Remember to be personal, empathetic and speedy in response. Even if you have to take a customer onto a different channel (due to sensitivity of information or length of reply).

If you can’t answer the query without thorough investigation, it’s important to at least state that you’re looking into it as soon as you can.

Content marketing

B2B companies are quickly entering an increasingly socially connected and digitally savvy world, and this in turn is helping them find new and innovative ways to connect with customers. 

The problem occasionally for B2B is in finding the excuse to connect with new or existing customers.

We are heading towards a connection-based economy rather than a blatantly sales focused one, and as customers are provided with more and more choice and are increasingly in control of their own online experience, they will quickly ignore any company with an aggressively sales based attitude.

So how do you maintain engagement on social in a way that keeps your brand at the top of your customer’s mind without ‘coming on too strong’?

Content marketing is a brilliant way to develop rich customer experiences, and social is a key way that helps you focus on an individual whilst reaping the benefits of a larger audience seeing it. 

Content can be anything from videos, webinars, tools, blog posts, how-to-guides, news, Q&As, images, photography, infographics, podcasts... basically anything produced via any media that isn’t a simple press release or mission statement. 

Providing content specifically tailored for your customers is an excellent way to build up a relationship, not just at the beginning of a sales cycle where new buyers can be nurtured, but throughout the lifespan of your relationship.

The main difference between using content for B2B, as opposed to B2C, is in the use of different content at various levels of the sales funnel and the customer lifecycle.

However content can also be used for brand awareness, to attract, quantify, engage and nurture leads, as well as for customer retention.

The difficulty is that B2B content can often be aligned to fairly complex products and appeal to particularly niche industrys. B2B companies may also have clients in a range of verticals, making it harder to tailor content from existing materials.

The trick is to create something personal and relevant to your customer, yet shareable and appreciated by a wider audience.

Real-time marketing

Is agile marketing for B2B companies just a pipe-dream? According to our B2B Real-Time Marketing Report, 65% of B2B companies are carrying out some form of real-time marketing, and 87% agree that “real-time marketing is essential”.

The idea of B2B marketing being slow-paced is thankfully becoming redundant.

As our lifestyles become increasingly ‘always-online’ the more we demand rapid and personalised responses from the companies we engage with.

It’s also true all B2B customers already have experience with B2C vendors and their expectations may well be the same. B2B companies must try to match those expectations as best as they can.

The customer journey undertaken by B2B clients contains multiple decision makers with varying agendas, remits, and goals which has led to the common misnomer that real-time is an unrealistic concept. 

However even B2C real-time marketing requires a certain amount of pre-planning. Real-time marketing means offering the right content at the right time.

B2B and B2C companies that have the right marketing processes in place will be better able to offer up content and engagement at time that a customer considers ‘now’.

We asked our respondents “what do you perceive as the main benefits of real-time marketing?” 

Better customer experience is the clear winner here. Replying to customers as quickly as possible with relevant information also has the knock-on effects of improved customer retention, improved conversion and better brand perception. 

In conclusion…

Modern marketers know that the internet puts people in control. Prospective buyers and brand advocates alike are going on a journey of their own making.

It’s about the creation of engaging content, being exceptionally helpful on every channel and connecting with your customers on the social platforms of their own choosing, which will help create meaningful customer experiences and therefore position your company as the only choice for the future.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 13 January, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (4)

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James Pearce, Marketing Manager at Scientifica Ltd

You say all this, but I've never had a response from eConsultancy on Twitter.

over 3 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

We're pretty darn good at replying quickly and helpfully on Twitter. Many apologies if you've slipped through the net though. Anything we can help you with?

over 3 years ago

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James Pearce, Marketing Manager at Scientifica Ltd

Not particularly, it seemed pretty odd to not "practice what you preach"! Maybe I'll try again at some point ;)

over 3 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Marketing Consultant at Atomise Marketing

Hi James, I'm in charge of the Twitter account most days, and always try my best to reply to people every day. As Christopher says, I'm sorry if you've slipped past me, I'll need to re-enforce our brand search terms!

over 3 years ago

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