Digital and social media marketing was a topic of high interest at this year’s NAMA CTW Show. There I was able to discuss a variety of B2B (business to business) social media platforms while placing a primary focus on the value of creating a strong and business-building LinkedIn profile. In case you missed the event, this article features the basics of dedicating your resources to create the best online marketing program for your company.
As I told the OCS operators in attendance at CTW, my premise in counseling any B2B marketer is that potential clients and customers typically do two things when they receive a sales pitch or a business card: they go back to their offices and check the company’s Website first, and then the LinkedIn profiles.
Why? Because a business’s Website and its executives’ LinkedIn profiles have become the primary and necessary online marketing credentials of the 21st century.
As Figure 1 shows, you don’t have to “dive into the deep end of the pool” to be successful in the digital/social world; you can wade into the shallow end at your own pace.
The linchpin is a robust database of online contacts built using three primary tools: your Website, LinkedIn and Twitter. Once built, you can use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool such as Salesforce or Infusionsoft (which offers lead capture, CRM and email marketing). It is critical to keep your firm top-of-mind by using outbound email marketing to feature your products/services, to make special offers, a free consultation, or other actions that convert contacts into active prospects.
Websites need to be clean, useful
The most important elements of your Website are a clean and easily navigable homepage and a prominent, value-added Call-to-Action (CTA). They are essential for collecting information on new contacts that can ultimately become viable sales leads.
To create an effective CTA, you should offer something of value in exchange for the Website visitor’s name and email address. (Note: It’s best not to ask for any other information, such as a phone number, because you don’t need it at this stage and you’ll see lower click-through rates on your CTA.)
Examples of valuable CTA offers include:
“Grab this discount now by….”
“Our popular newsletter can be yours today if you.…”
“This limited time offer begins now; simply fill out….”
“We have a special deal for you today if you….”
And by making your CTA dynamic — flying in from the right side of the homepage, the left side, the top or the bottom — you will instantly capture attention. But make it easy for Website visitors to opt out by ensuring that there’s a visible “X” for them to close the CTA if they’re not interested.
Two other important aspects of maximizing your Website as a lead generation tool are search engine optimization (SEO) and Google+. Both can drive more visitors to your homepage, where they will find your CTA and ideally opt into your valuable offer.
SEO should require little explanation since it’s so ubiquitous in online marketing today, but, simply stated, SEO is focused on growing a business’s online visibility through paid or organic (non-paid) search engine results. For a great (free) online tutorial on SEO, go to: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo.
Another option to boost your Website traffic is Google+, which just relaunched on November 17. Google said the new version will make it easier for users to connect with others through Google+ groups and find content through its “collections” and “communities.” The bottom line is that maintaining a company profile on Google+ can help with SEO because Google continues to capture 80 to 90 percent of all online searches. And when potential customers search for operators like you, you’ll want to be on the first page of those search results.
The most powerful business social media tool is LinkedIn
With 118 million members in the U.S. alone, LinkedIn has become the most powerful social media platform among business people from all industries. While Facebook for Business is trying to compete, nothing comes close in terms of credibility and sheer popularity. LinkedIn boasts that two new members sign up somewhere in the world every second of every day.
While future columns will explore its business-building power in greater detail, the fundamental keys to success on LinkedIn are a detailed personal profile and making solid “connections.”
Your profile should include fully completed sections, such as the professional headline (and photograph), the summary, experience, skills & endorsements, recommendations and groups. Make sure the written portions are honest, genuine and reflect what you can offer to those with whom you wish to connect.
To build a robust group of connections, there are two essentials. First, use LinkedIn’s automated connection requests function, but delete the pre-written, impersonal message, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” substituting it for a personal message that uses the person’s first name and reflects how you know that person.
Second are LinkedIn’s groups, which enable you to connect to other members with whom you share a common interest. For instance, LinkedIn has a “Vending Industry” group (10,000+ members) and a “Coffee Connections” group (19,000+ members), as well as other groups in our industry.
Most importantly where LinkedIn groups are concerned, forgo lots of groups that include your peers in favor of joining those where your prospects can be found. LinkedIn members are allowed to join up to 50 groups and 50 sub-groups, so make sure to join popular business groups in your city or town, or groups in industries that you have targeted as great customers for your business.
Finally, through LinkedIn’s groups and long-form posts, you can push content out that positions you as an expert in vending, coffee service and/or micro markets. Doing so doesn’t have to be a chore because LinkedIn allows you to re-post articles and existing material that you believe will be relevant to your connections and your fellow group members. You can even “share” another LinkedIn member’s content with your own connections!
Twitter can generate leads or awareness
With more than 500 million Tweets being sent each day, Twitter is becoming a stronger and stronger tool for businesses. You first have to decide if you want to use Twitter to simply generate awareness for your business or generate leads.
To do either, you can exploit the connection between Twitter and LinkedIn very successfully. For instance, every long-form post you publish on LinkedIn can be Tweeted by checking the Twitter box provided before you submit the post. Similarly, you can drive your Twitter followers to your LinkedIn profile by writing thought-provoking Tweets that include your LinkedIn profile link.
The best way to build a robust following on Twitter is to follow others, including existing customers and prospects, in hopes that they will reciprocate. Since a single Tweet only allows 140 characters, to gain any traction on this particular social media platform, you have to be consistently active. So finding an online “dashboard” tool, such as Hootsuite or Buffer, that allows you to pre-schedule Tweets in batches can save you time and ensure your followers receive your Tweets regularly.
Creating a profile for your business can pay off. A 2014 study conducted by DB5 + Twitter revealed that 50 percent of Twitter followers visited or shopped at the Websites of small- and mid-sized businesses (SMB) they follow, 60 percent purchased from a SMB because of something they read on Twitter, and 43 percent said they intended to make a future purchase from a SMB.
Finally, a word about content, which sits in the middle of Figure 1. To be successful with any social media platform or digital marketing tool, you have to “push content.” In fact, online content expert Hubspot’s 2015 State of Inbound Marketing report revealed that those who regularly published social or digital content were 13 times more likely to generate positive inbound responses from their sales and marketing targets.
So, whether you’re a social/digital pro or just a beginner, determine whether you need to dive in or wade in. But either way, it’s time to get your feet wet!
John Healy is CEO of Healy Consulting & Communications Inc., a traditional, digital and social media marketing firm that strives to ensure its clients’ relevance while fueling their growth and success. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.