Andy DeBrunner is social media manager at Godfrey and has worked with Fortune 100 companies to tackle their social media needs. He was also a contributor to Godfrey’s e-book “Jumpstart Your B2B Marketing.” Follow him @adebrunner or follow Godfrey @GodfreyB2B.

Your customers are using social media. That’s no surprise. So is it appropriate for you to join in on the fun and get your business on board? I know what some of you are thinking. “Sure, I know everyone’s using social media, but my company sells products that cost a ton of money and sales can take years to close. I can’t generate a sale, or even a lead, for any of my products using Facebook or Twitter.” If you just said some version of that to yourself, let me reframe the way you might want to think about social media for your business.

All too often, Facebook and Twitter dominate marketing meetings and boardroom conversations about social media, both in B2B and B2C. But social media is far more expansive than just these two behemoth sites. There is almost certainly another platform that will suit your company’s specific needs if neither of “the big two” fit. To shift your social media paradigm, consider the following types of social media outlets and how they might benefit a company with a long or complex sales cycle:

  • Photo-sharing sites. Is your product visual or design-related? Help inspire your customers early in the sales cycle with a photo stream on Flickr or Instagram, a Tumblr blog or maybe even a board on Pinterest.
  • Video-sharing sites. Does your product have killer demonstrations? Would side-by-side product comparisons help close the deal? If so, video sites such as YouTube or Vimeo could be your golden ticket to capture interest early.
  • Message boards. There are message boards for nearly every industry under the sun. If you don’t believe me, check out coffin-talk.net. All you need to do is find out where your target customer goes to ask questions about his/her job and help answer them. This is frequently overlooked, but can be unbelievably successful in finding customers who are ready to buy. The key is to understand the message board’s particular tone before jumping in with a sales pitch.
  • Industry blogs. You are probably already reading a few of these to stay on top of industry trends. Why not reach out to them to see if you can write a guest post as a representative of your company? This is a great way to get exposure to new audiences and another effective tactic for early in the buying cycle. If you’re skeptical, consider that you’re reading an example of this right now. Of course, if there are no great industry blogs, perhaps you could create your own. Nothing says “thought leadership” like creating the best content in your industry.
  • Professional-networking sites. There’s nothing wrong with cold calling or e-mail campaigns, but a sales team who isn’t engaged on a professional networking site (let’s be honest, we’re talking about LinkedIn) is missing out on a potentially huge opportunity. There is a right way to use LinkedIn, so be sure your sales team knows what they’re doing before they let loose on their own. If done correctly, LinkedIn can be used to generate leads and nurture them all the way through the sale.
  • Social-networking sites. I can’t just ignore this. After all, sites like Facebook and Twitter are quite useful for a lot of companies with long sales cycles, but you need to be smart about how you decide to use your account. Using Facebook and Twitter for customer service or simply as a platform to answer customers’ questions is often a great way to get started, though there are countless other ways to use social networks effectively to hit customers at all points during the sales cycle. Before moving on, I need to mention Google+ too. Recent changes to Google search have made it all but necessary for companies to create a G+ page. As always, research is key, so make sure you go in with a plan if you decide to create a page.
  • Location-based games. If you have trade shows in your marketing mix, location-based games are a great way to engage an audience and capture early leads. Perhaps you could offer deals or contests for people who check in at your booth.
  • Group buying/couponing sites. Group couponing sites have struggled to find their way into B2B, particularly for a complex, expensive sale, so if you have a great idea on how to apply it, I’d love to hear about it!
  • Podcasting. Allured by the idea of owning their own radio show to brand their company, many businesses jumped into podcasting without realizing how difficult it is to create and manage a radio show and quickly gave up. But there are more ways to get involved with podcasting than creating your own show. For example, sponsoring a podcast or volunteering to be a guest interviewee on a popular industry podcast are two “early cycle” ways to take advantage of podcasting without the commitment.
  • Slide-sharing sites. Do you sell to a target who needs to get approvals from an endless line of executives before he/she can sign on the dotted line? Why not create a sharable slide show (or several) that help your customers sell your product up the chain of command. That way, they have the tools they need to make your case when your salespeople can’t be in the room. Done correctly, slide shows can help you generate leads, then help you again to close the business at the end of the cycle.

In the end, social media may or may not be right for your organization for a lot of reasons, but if you think creatively it can often prove to be a valuable part of your overall B2B marketing mix.

Related Posts

25 Responses to “Social media for the complex sale: Where should you start?”

  1. [...] Social media for the complex sale: Where should you start? [...]

  2. Jim Nista says:

    Excellent post – relationship development and management is critical for sales cycles of all shapes and sizes.

    • @adebrunner says:

      I couldn't agree more. Many times people think their sales cycle is a LOT shorter than it is but it's important to remember all of the steps that led to a sale. For example, a roofer may think they have a short sales cycle because someone calls them up, asks for a bid, and schedules the appointment all in about a week or two. But they might forget that the person had a leak in the roof 2 years ago which got them thinking about putting in a new one and the customer has spent the last 2 years passively shopping and waiting for the right time/chance to buy. Glad you liked the post.

  3. @lerentech says:

    Great article. We sell business to business professional services and I've seen first hand how social media can help bring in new clients and help build relationships and new deals with existing customers. LinkedIn is great for B2B and you can tie your Twitter directly to it to post to both at once.

    • @adebrunner says:

      Glad you liked it! LinkedIn really can be extremely valuable, especially in the professional services industry. Do you find that your clients/prospects are paying attention to you and your company on LinkedIn?

  4. @JamesBrauer says:

    Great suggestions to share with others. Looking forward to checking-out some sites for forum marketing.

    • @adebrunner says:

      I'm glad you liked the suggestions. Forum marketing is almost always overlooked for some reason but tons of business people (particularly those in niche industries) still rely on them to get their most difficult questions answered. If you have representation on all of the relevant boards, then you stand a very good chance of getting some high-value business out of it. The biggest caveat with this is that there tends to be an extremely low tolerance for straight selling. It's important to be a helpful member first and foremost. If you can do that, people will trust you and your recommendations later on. This one takes some time to develop, but it can definitely be worth it. Good luck!

  5. [...] Andy DeBrunner is social media manager at Godfrey, and has worked with Fortune 100 companies to tackle their social media needs. He was also a contributor to Godfrey’s e-book, “Jumpstart Your B2B Marketing.” Follow him @adebrunner …More By Guest Blogger [...]

  6. If you want sales conversions, it's time for good old fashioned "push" media – and our recommendation is always Radio! It's the closest you can get to the best advertising in the world – Word of Mouth – and we promise to never say anything bad about your company on the ads you buy! What a concept!!

    • @adebrunner says:

      I think radio (and other push media) can be extremely valuable and effective for many products and services, but it can always be complemented by other marketing strategies (sometimes social media). Similarly, social media can't stand on its own, but I think it's always wise to keep exploring ways to engage your customers.

  7. I genuinely feel this site demands extra focus.
    I'll likely be back to examine more, thank you for the information.
    1 issue I just desire to say is the fact that your Weblog is so fantastic beneficial for us.
    I hope you'll preserve in posting new posts & many thanks for sharing your great experience among us.

  8. Great post. Well done.

  9. Joe Anderson says:

    Thanks for sharing it! Awesome post in a very interesting subject.

  10. Good piece with practical suggestions. Companies have always done 'social', but the cost of it has restricted it to big clients: the golf days, sports tickets, awards dinners. All of them served to keep the company 'front of mind' and engage. I've had plenty of conversations with sales staff who wanted to invite a few more clients to an event, though the budget wouldn't allow it. Social media allows the same thing to happen for a much wider range of clients: exactly what sales people often say they want. I think a difference is that sales people tend by nature to be gregarious, so face to face appeals in a way that virtual socialising doesn't – at least to those who haven't tried it. As with so many things, perception is powerful. If it can be seen as an extension of what an individual or company would like to do anyway, rather than something new, it perhaps becomes more acceptable.

  11. SeoInVogue says:

    This is the best article that I have read in a few days on how to use Social media marketing, I was suffering from the same issue of where to start the campaign now I know what to do !
    My recent post On the Top

  12. [...] Ken Horst – “Social media for the complex sale: Where should you start?” While most B2B companies are heavily invested in their social channels today; many are finding that for at least Facebook and Twitter, these may not be the best channels for companies with a longer sales cycle.  The good news is that in this post, the author lists 10 other social media outlets that B2B marketers could use to help prime the pump for those longer sales cycle products and services. Via SmartBlog. [...]

  13. [...] Social media for the complex sale: Where should you start?: Social media and online engagement is much more than just Twitter and Facebook. This post suggests many online spots where you can engage your target audience. [...]

  14. [...] Ken Horst – “Social media for a formidable sale: Where should we start?” While many B2B companies are heavily invested in their amicable channels today; many are anticipating that for during slightest Facebook and Twitter, these might not be a best channels for companies with a longer sales cycle.  The good news is that in this post, a author lists 10 other amicable media outlets that B2B marketers could use to assistance primary a siphon for those longer sales cycle products and services. Via SmartBlog. [...]

  15. [...] Ken Horst – “Social media for the complex sale: Where should you start?” While most B2B companies are heavily invested in their social channels today; many are finding that for at least Facebook and Twitter, these may not be the best channels for companies with a longer sales cycle.  The good news is that in this post, the author lists 10 other social media outlets that B2B marketers could use to help prime the pump for those longer sales cycle products and services. Via SmartBlog. [...]

  16. Dave Young says:

    We created a process that makes podcasting a snap for a company and repurposes the transcript into a blog post/article. We even have a rapid brainstorm exercise that helps you generate a year of topics fast. 37 minutes. The brainstorm generator is free and easy. We do all the hard parts.

  17. [...] Ken Horst – “Social media for the complex sale: Where should you start?” While most B2B companies are heavily invested in their social channels today; many are finding that for at least Facebook and Twitter, these may not be the best channels for companies with a longer sales cycle.  The good news is that in this post, the author lists 10 other social media outlets that B2B marketers could use to help prime the pump for those longer sales cycle products and services. Via SmartBlog. [...]

  18. [...] ShareShare Raising Your Business ProfileOn Social Networks Social media is responsible for changing much …ia can be a powerful tool for advertising. Read the following article for ideas on how to use social media marketing. To successfully market your business on social media, you should take advantage of Yelp. Yelp is an online community where real people review local businesses. Yelp carefully filters its reviews to protect against scammers, and the Yelp community of reviewers is very close-knit. Positive reviews on yelp can bring your business legitimacy and help attract new customers. Make sure to monitor yelp for people's ideas and suggestions about how to improve your business and help yourself achieve the best rating possible on the website. Is Halloween coming up? This is the perfect occasion for photo contests. People are going to dress up and carve pumpkins. You could ask your friends and followers to take a picture of themselves in their costume using one of your products. This original idea will attract more visitors to your page. Do not neglect LinkedIn. LinkedIn is less popular than Facebook or Twitter, but you can find extremely influential users on this site. Add a LinkedIn 'share' button on your articles, and chances are that someone who shares your content on LinkedIn will cause dozens of people to share it on other websites. You can get more people to share your content by offering them something if they re-post your article or status. You could send them free samples, or feature them in your next post. You will have to find something that motivates your audience and that does not cost you too much. To get more people to share your content, find ways to make it accessible to those outside your target audience. Give your posts a humorous slant, and always avoid using technical terms. Even if your followers are able to understand what you're saying, they won't share unless they think their friends will be able to understand too. Take advantage of in depth Twitter search tools like HootSuite and find out what your target audience really wants. If you see someone discussing a problem that you can help solve, send them a message! Directly engaging people will give your site a personal approach, and when people see how helpful you are, they'll want to follow you. Be careful with the voice you use when advertising using social media channels. People engage with social media websites to interact with friends and be social, so they will be especially skeptical of "marketing speak". Try and get on your customers' level and speak using their language and slang to maximize your results. In conclusion, social media has changed human interaction. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow people to share content with each other in a flash. This kind of power makes social media a great advertising tool if used in the proper manner. Remember the ideas from the article above and you should be able to successfully use social media marketing. [...]

  19. Andy, Great article! Dreamforce’ 11 focused on integrating enterprises with social media to achieve not only a comprehensive, 360-degree view of customers and prospects, but also a more mobile workforce. With the explosive growth in CRM space and apps, combined with various social media options on top of the always-on technologies, it is no wonder sales reps report increasing difficulty in sustaining dialogue with their prospects. There’s too much noise. Sales enablement means getting out of the baazar and into a private room with your prospects. Face-to-face video conferencing will give you an edge – instant mobile communication, valuable face time with your clients, and no tether holding you to one video location. You can build client rapport and boost sales. Social media and sales can go hand-in-hand with the right mix of technology. For more see my blog http://blog.pgi.com/2011/how-to-create-a-powerful

  20. for businesses i'd say twitter and then facebook are the two priorities.

Leave a Reply