How to succeed with social media for B2B Living Stone

How to succeed with social media for B2B

By | Social media marketing

Are there any B2B companies today who aren’t using social media? Probably not very many. But while most B2B organizations are using social media, many are still not using it as effectively as they could be. In many cases, beliefs that their customers aren’t using social, or even concerns about risk and compliance are holding some B2B companies back. And even for those B2B marketers who are actively using social, calculating the marketing ROI for social media programs can still be a challenge.

So while it might still involve a bit of trial and error, it’s clear that social media is now an integral part of the B2B sales process. Even for the most technical or niche products, prospects today expect to be able to find the information they need online. (And if they can’t find information on your solution online, they’ll turn to your competitors.)

So now that social media is a given for B2B, how do you develop the best strategy for your products and company? Well, just like you do for your other marketing programs, start by defining your objectives, audiences, platforms and how you’ll measure your success. Let’s look at each of these areas in turn, as they relate to social media.

 

Objectives

What result do you want from your social media activities? Do you want to generate leads, build awareness, upsell, engage/retain customers, register users, be a thought leader? Maybe it’s a combination of these, or even all of them. To start, think about how social media will align with your regular marketing activities, and which of your objectives social media can help you address.

You can develop a social media approach to support an overarching marketing goal (i.e. lead generation), but you can also create a social media plan for each separate marketing activity, such as a trade show or presentation, i.e. to build awareness of that specific event. Build this social media support into all of your marketing activities.

 

Audiences

Who do you want to engage with? Prospects and customers for sure, but what about industry influencers, media, your competitors, prospective employees, your community … Go beyond customers and consider all of your stakeholders. In addition to your primary audiences, social media offers a compelling way to communicate with more peripheral audiences, such as community groups and people in your industry.  What are your objectives for each of these audience groups?

 

Platforms

Find out where your stakeholders are spending their time online. LinkedIn is a key platform for B2B, but Facebook and Twitter are increasingly important. Instagram is great for showcasing employee engagement and local events. And as you ramp up into video (with product demonstrations, for example), you’ll need to be familiar with YouTube. Take some time and explore these platforms, to see where and what your prospects and industry members are posting. Experiment with posts and ads to see what the response is, on the different platforms. And while you might decide to focus on LinkedIn to start, for example, you’ll still need to monitor the other platforms for any activity that involves your products, company or field.

 

Measurement

The great thing about social media, of course, is the precision it gives you in measuring the response to your online activity. You can quickly and easily see the size of the audience achieved for each post, as well as the engagement (likes, shares, clicks, etc.), and all conversions (downloads, signups, etc.) Familiarize yourself with the dashboards for each platform, and check them frequently. Or for real-time insight into the impact of your digital marketing and how it supports your goals, sign up for a service such as SONAR, Living Stone’s digital marketing analytics tool and reporting service. SONAR aggregates all analytics from social media channels, Google Analytics-driven online pubs, e-news engines, and APPs into a single score, to provide you with precise information on the global impact of your digital marketing activities.

 

Quality content

Your digital content needs to be the best quality possible, for several reasons. First, you want your website visitors to find all the information they need, quickly and easily. Testimonials from other users, complete technical information, comparisons to similar products – make sure it’s all on your website, so that visitors don’t have a reason to leave and go over to your competitors’ solutions. And actual visitors aren’t the only ones looking at your website.  Google is also analyzing your content, and the quality will determine your Google ranking and how easy it is for people to find you online.

Voice of Customer sessions offer deep insight into your target groups

Voice of Customer sessions offer deep insight into your target groups

By | News, Reference Marketing

Can you hear what your customers are really saying? For many marketers, the information they receive about customer comments or complaints is mostly anecdotal. A key account manager might mention that clients really like one particular product attribute, or that they have no use for another. The business development team might pass along what they’re hearing from prospects. Comments on social media or on your website give you some insight, but typically only capture feedback on a single topic or event.

How can you guarantee that you fully understand the thoughts and thought processes of your targets or stakeholders with regard to your products, services, company or marketing programs?

Voice of Customer sessions offer a formal, structured way to capture the opinions, perceptions and suggestions of your audiences, and include in-depth analysis and recommendations based on the results. These aren’t quick phone calls that annoy the caller on the other end of the line. Instead, these are scheduled, one-on-one interviews, with trained interviewers who take your targets through a list of carefully-crafted questions, documenting replies and probing for wider insights. They also offer a respectful, professional way to show customers that you truly value their perspectives.

Who uses Voice of Customer sessions?

Companies use voice of customer sessions for a wide range of reasons. Some organizations use them for new product development, to help shape product form and function, attributes and positioning. Others use the process to refine marketing messaging, to ensure that global marketing campaigns resonate and send the desired messages in all countries and regions. In many cases, an attribute that is very important in one country has little relevance in another. And sometimes, what seems benign in one part of the world can carry a different, even negative meaning in a different locale.

Defining important regional differences was one of the key results of a recent voice of customer project that Living Stone conducted for a healthcare technology company. The company, which develops and sells high-priced equipment and systems for blood processing to hospitals and blood centers, wanted to test the marketing messaging platform that it had developed for a new, flagship technology. The messaging platform, which would be distributed and used worldwide as the basis for local marketing tools, was very detailed, with specific messaging relating to the refreshed product design, new device features, benefit enhancements and the expanded software.

28 interviews across 17 countries guarantees messaging that sells around the globe

For this project, Living Stone organized and conducted 28 interviews in 17 countries, either in English or the local language, whichever was preferred by the interview subject (including Chinese, Turkish, Russian, Italian, Spanish and German – to name just a few). The interviews were conducted with sales and marketing representatives of the company itself as well as prospective customers and current users of a previous version of the solution. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and where necessary, translated to English, creating a significant base of quantitative and qualitative data on the new messaging platform.

In addition to identifying important regional differences, the results clearly indicated which parts of the messaging had meaning for the targets, and which statements were unconvincing or not relevant. Living Stone then revised the messaging platform, incorporating prospects’ and customers’ needs and interests precisely, ensuring that the messaging was right on target. The result: deep insight to support a successful global product launch.

What do you need to know?

Voice of customer sessions can provide all kinds of information. They can be used to learn more about customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and retention, or even to find out the reasons why customers have left your company. They can be small or large, providing data and analysis to power a product launch for example, or background to support a local email campaign.

What would you like to know about your targets? At Living Stone, we’re experts in Voice of Customer research. We can help you define what it is you want to learn, organize the interview process, analyze the results and provide you with recommendations for action. Contact us for more information.
How to integrate inbound marketing in your trade show strategy

How to integrate inbound marketing in your trade show strategy

By | Strategy & Planning

Are trade shows even relevant anymore? Now that prospects can find all they need to know about products and services online, do they still want to spend time and money to attend a trade show?

If you’ve ever spent an hour staring at your computer screen trying to stay focused on a webinar, you’ll understand the allure for trade show attendees. It’s one thing to look at product information on a website. It’s quite another to meet the team behind the product or solution, and have the chance to ask questions, learn about what’s coming in future, and even make suggestions on product development or direction.

Benefits of trade shows

So for trade show attendees, there are lots of benefits in attending in person, including networking, building face-to-face relationships, and diving as deeply as possible into the companies and solutions they’re interested in. For exhibitorslead generation and sales are of course the primary goals, same as they’ve always been. And trade shows are also a great opportunity for organizations to learn more about customer needs, and solidify customer relationships.

Other elements to consider in the inbound age

For some organizations, trade shows have long been viewed as a ‘standalone’ marketing component, managed independently from other marketing programs. But to maximize your trade show ROI, you need to fully integrate inbound marketing into your trade show strategy.

Download our step-by-step guide on integrating inbound marketing into your trade show strategy

The experience for trade show attendees has changed

Since all the information they need is online, they don’t need to carry around a branded tote bag with reams of sales collateral anymore. Instead, they want to visit your booth, perhaps sit and relax, and talk with key people. They want quick and easy ways to access relevant product information online, on their mobiles, and they want to feel ‘in the know’ about your trade show activities and announcements.

And let’s not forget about the industry influencers who will be at the trade show. They’re looking for the next big thing, or the next big company. Gaining a mention in a blog, or a social media post, from a key influencer in your field is invaluable, so make sure to keep these influencers on your radar.

So how can you support these needs with inbound marketing techniques? With an inbound plan tailored to the event.

Add some inbound goals to your trade show plan

First, consider your trade show goals. Your primary goals are probably lead generation, sales, and relationship building. So how about adding some new inbound goals, such as:

  • Increasing traffic to your website
  • Increasing your social media following
  • Signing up more email and/or blog subscribers

And just like lead generation and sales, these new goals can all be easily tracked.

Create a dedicated landing page for the trade show

You’ll likely be offering a range of CTAs before, during and after the show, including downloads (white papers, product information, etc.), raffles or contests, and signing up for email or blogs.

Create a landing page just for the trade show, and funnel all trade-show related activity through it. That allows you to highlight your show offer or tagline on the landing page, and allows you to very easily track each CTA.

An easy step-by-step guide on integrating inbound marketing into your trade show strategy

This is just the start in planning how to integrate inbound marketing into your trade show plans. To learn more, we’ve created an easy step-by-step guide on integrating inbound marketing into your trade show strategy.

It’s a checklist of inbound activities that you can use to power and promote your trade show involvement, and strengthen the integration with your overall inbound plan.

Sustainability in B2B companies

Missed opportunity: are you optimizing your sustainability reporting?

By | Sustainability

First things first – is your organization already reporting on its sustainability practices? More and more companies are engaging in sustainability reporting, as this study from KPMG demonstrates, for all kinds of reasons. For some it’s now legally mandatory. In Belgium, for example, large enterprises employing more than 500 people are now legally obliged to report on their social and environmental impact. This is in line with EU Directive 2014/95/EU, which stipulates that large companies in member states must now disclose information on their sustainability and diversity practices, effective for financial years beginning on or after January 1, 2017.

The EU rules on non-financial reporting only apply to large public-interest companies with more than 500 employees. This covers approximately 6,000 large companies and groups across the EU, including listed companies, banks, insurance companies, and other companies designated by national authorities as public-interest entities.

As an SME, should you report on sustainability?

What about small, or medium-sized companies? For now, there is no legal requirement for SMEs to disclose this information. Still, lots of them are doing it. Why? Because the world is changing, and so are the expectations of today’s business partners. As customers and investors become accustomed to reviewing the sustainability practices of large companies when making decisions, they’ll increasingly expect to know about the sustainability efforts of their smaller business partners, too.

The reason that the EU directive isn’t being applied to SMEs – for now – is the belief that having to do this kind of reporting places a disproportionate burden on smaller companies. But is that true? It is the case that at smaller companies, high-level execs are more likely to spend most of their time on sales, rather than financial reporting, and they might not have the bandwidth to add to their reporting resources. Small companies’ markets are usually smaller – focused on a niche, a region or a country, for example, rather than the entire world. And in terms of ‘impact,’ it can be hard for a small organization to see how its activities can make much of a difference to global issues like poverty, or human rights. For many SMEs, it can seem like there’s not much to actually report on.

The truth is, sustainability reporting for small and medium sized companies can be very powerful. First of all, through the analytical process of reporting, businesses gain insight into their own performance, and can identify ways to improve. And second, even if you’re a smaller company, it makes good business sense to offer greater transparency and highlight your sustainability practices. Your audiences want to know about your approach to sustainability, no matter what size of company you are. In fact, many organizations require proof of sustainability before they’ll partner with you. And third – effective sustainability reporting can actually increase your company’s valuation.

» We’re organizing a free infusinar: “Why include sustainability in your B2B marketing story?” on Tuesday 16 October.

How can SMEs join the sustainability discussion?

So what’s the best way for a small or medium sized company to join the sustainability discussion, and effectively present your sustainability practices?

To start, make a list of the sustainability aspects that are relevant for your organization. Or, even better, ask your stakeholders to make the list together with you. For some companies, water consumption is more critical than carbon emissions, for example. Then highlight the responsible activities your company is engaged in, relative to these aspects.

Some examples: Has your company taken steps to ensure fair practices for everyone involved in producing your product, all the way along the value chain? Are your products made using recycled materials? Or what about your offices or manufacturing sites? Does your facility practice water conservation? Have you switched over to LED lighting? Have you embraced new business models, such as leasing instead of sales for example for lighting systems, roofing systems or any other type of ‘product’? Or are you reducing your CO2 footprint by promoting car sharing, company bikes, etc.?

There are many ways to do business in a sustainable way. At Living Stone, we can help you build your sustainability marketing story and put it into practice so that it reaches your stakeholders.
Contact us for more information

Free info session

Living Stone is bringing together two sustainability experts (Maarten Geerts & Marjola Maes) to share their insights at our free info session: Why include sustainability in your B2B marketing story?” on Tuesday 16 October.

why you should be talking about your company’s sustainability practices Living Stone

Why you should be talking about your company’s sustainability practices

By | Sustainability

If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s nobody there to hear it – does it make a sound? It’s the same for your organization’s sustainability practices. If you’re not actively promoting your sustainability initiatives, you’re missing a key opportunity to strengthen your company’s reputation and perception in the public eye, as well as your corporate valuation.

Report your social and environmental impact
Many organizations don’t talk about their corporate responsibility programs. Or if they do, it’s limited to a mention in the annual report, in line with their national reporting regulations. New reporting rules, including the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive, which requires large companies to publish regular reports on the social and environmental impacts of their activities, mean that companies are starting to articulate their positions on a range of issues, including environmental protection, social responsibility and treatment of employees, respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery and diversity on company boards.

In Belgium, large enterprises employing more than 500 people are also legally obliged as of this year to report on their social and environmental impact. Across the EU, many companies are still finetuning their sustainability reporting approach. In countries with existing reporting rules on corporate responsibility, including Germany, Sweden and the UK, the new EU directive has been aligned with existing requirements. In countries where the rule is new, the approach and law is still under determination.

But even where sustainability reporting is the norm, these initiatives aren’t, in many cases, crossing over to B2B marketing and communications. Climate change is one example. What is your company doing to limit carbon emissions, locally as well as throughout the supply chain? And how do these initiatives benefit your company, your customers, etc.? How is your organization making a difference?

If you’re not talking about your organization’s response to climate change, you’re not alone. Even though we’re seeing the impact of climate change across the globe, a recent KPMG study[i] of 4,900 companies from around the world showed that only 28% referred to the financial risk of climate change in their annual reports. And of those 28%, how many are publicizing their approach to managing this risk?

The truth is, for many organizations, sustainability reporting is a fairly new speciality. But as it becomes more prominent, it’s critical to incorporate it into all B2B communications – even for smaller companies for whom the new EU reporting directives don’t apply – yet.

» We’re organizing a free infusinar: “Why include sustainability in your B2B marketing story?” on Tuesday 16 October.

Why is sustainability reporting important?
There are numerous reasons:

Your investors and customers are increasingly making decisions based on their perception of your company as a responsible global citizen. If you’re not communicating about your sustainability achievements, they won’t know about them. And that will be a competitive disadvantage.
More ratings agencies (DOW, Moody’s, Nasdaq) now rank for sustainability. To gain investors, you need a good ranking. And new ratings agencies (Sustainalytics, Standard Ethics, etc.) that focus on sustainability rankings for public companies are gaining ground. Large banking/finance groups are already taking into account these sustainability rankings to allocate (advantageous) loans.
You need to be sustainable to operate in many markets, and bid for business. Many authorities and governments and also large companies require proof/transparency before they’ll partner with you. Because your activities are as important to their sustainability ranking as their own operations, the entire value/supply chain is taken into consideration: not only the company itself is evaluated, also the organizations and people they deal with are taken into account.
There’s a huge perception value in promoting your sustainability practices – for your employees, your community and your business partners.
Why bury your sustainability achievements in your annual report? As a B2B marketer, you’re perfectly positioned to champion your organization’s sustainability initiatives widely, and make it easy for your audiences to understand your focus on sustainability. It’s not just ‘greenwashing.’ Communicating about your sustainability efforts helps create a competitive advantage.

Want to learn more?
Living Stone is bringing together two sustainability experts (Maarten Geerts & Marjola Maes) to share their insights at our free infusinar: “Why include sustainability in your B2B marketing story?” on Tuesday 16 October.

[i] ‘The road ahead,’ The KPMG Survey on Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2017, Lead authors: José Luis Blasco, Adrian King. https://assets.kpmg.com/content/dam/kpmg/be/pdf/2017/kpmg-survey-of-corporate-responsibility-reporting-2017.pdf

5 digital marketing strategies that you need to know Living Stone B2B marketing

5 digital marketing strategies that you need to know

By | Lead Generation

As a digital marketer, finding the right digital marketing strategies just keeps getting tougher. It’s a moving target out there – as soon as you find an approach that works, the online game shifts and your targets move on, leaving your online tools in the dust. Banner ads offer a good example. Once a staple in the digital marketer’s toolkit, banner ads have fallen sharply out of favor. It turns out that many millennials, both male and female, simply ignore all online banner ads. The impact of banner ads on other age groups is eroding too.

Some marketers go so far as to say that banner advertising is dead. Well, a brief tour around the internet will show you that this isn’t the case, but it is true that many internet users find banner ads annoying, intrusive and unhelpful.

So what are the digital marketing strategies that will keep you ahead of the curve?
Consider these 5 ideas to keep your digital marketing on target:

1. Blog more and blog better
Blogging is one of the most powerful lead generation tools you can use. But your blogposts have to contain useful, relevant, and high-quality content. If your blog posts are badly written, or don’t contain much useful information, they won’t be ranked highly on Google. And without a good ranking, you may as well not blog at all. Choose topics that are important to your targets, create an editorial schedule and make sure that your copy is compelling, fresh and inviting.

2. Hold more webinars and live events
Showcase the experts and expertise in your organization. It doesn’t cost a lot to put on a webinar, or create a podcast. It’s an inexpensive way to engage your different target groups. You could offer information sessions for prospects, or user tips for your customers. A live event will of course cost you more, but offers the opportunity to build face-to-face connections. For all types of presentations, your content has to offer real value, same as for blogposts. And with webinars, podcasts and live presentations, your speakers have to be energetic and engaging. Viewers will abandon the webinar, or tune out of a presentation, if they find a speaker boring. And the added value for webinars, podcasts and live events is that you can re-use the content in multiple ways, such as offering a full version or portions on your website, your YouTube channel, etc.

3. Improve your email marketing game
Email still offers a great return for B2B marketers. With marketing automation, you can stay in close contact with your prospects and customers, with targeted, customized emails that build and strengthen relationships, without spending a lot of money. Studies show that the ROI for email is higher than for most other marketing techniques. More than half the global population uses email, and it’s still the best way to quickly and easily reach your audiences with tailored messages. Of course, you need to make sure your email marketing complies with GDPR regulations.

4. Try native ads
This is the future of marketing, say many experts. Native ads look like the other posts on whichever platform they appear on. They might be labeled ‘promoted content’, or ‘sponsored post’, but their format matches that of the other posts that users see. So they’re not disruptive or annoying in the way that a banner ad can be, because they fit easily into the feed or stream that the user is viewing. The more closely they match the regular posts, they more successful they are at gaining eyeballs and clicks. Try a few native ads on the platforms where your targets are active.

5. Don’t forget social
Whatever social media platform(s) you’ve chosen for your marketing plan, you need to monitor all other social platforms just as closely. Your audiences are on social, and if they’re talking about you – or even worse, complaining about your products or your organization – you need to intervene and manage the conversation. The trick with social is to engage with all commenters, even the ones who are posting negative messages. But make sure your responses are respectful, informative and helpful, no matter how aggressive your commenters might be. You don’t want to start a public argument that you won’t win.

Want to learn more about digital marketing for B2B?
Sign up for our Infusinar on Sept. 27, on How to Create a Knockout B2B Brand.

How to build a digital marketing plan that works Living Stone

How to build a digital marketing plan that works

By | Strategy & Planning

If you’re a B2B marketer, just about everything you do now falls under the umbrella of ‘digital marketing’.  Your marketing strategies have evolved into digital marketing strategies, which in turn guide your digital marketing plan. And in today’s world, you’ve got to have a great inbound strategy to reach your prospects – and you’d better be optimized for mobile, because that’s where and how your targets are searching.

Infusinar event inbound marketing

27/09/2018: How can B2B companies create a knockout brand in the inbound marketing age?

By | Events

Branding in the inbound marketing age means branding on the internet—and the internet moves pretty fast. Brands can be built up in an instant, and destroyed just as quickly. Companies need to be more active, more vigilant, and more knowledgeable than ever to achieve maximum return on the investment it takes to establish a knockout brand.

How can B2B companies create a knockout brand in the inbound marketing age?

Some steps are essential – by creating a meaningful voice through content creation, establishing themselves on the channels that matter to their customers and, most important, tracking responses and interactions to these activities.

To share our insights on creating knockout brands, we would like to invite you to our Infusinar:

How to create a knockout brand in the inbound marketing age on Thursday September 27 at Barilinga, Oudenweg 42, Beerlegem.

During this session, you’ll learn how to build a knockout B2B brand, and all the ways that it will help you to:

  • Generate valuable leads
  • Connect with your customers
  • Generate more sales
  • Establish a solid reputation

Gunther Walravens and Anne-Mie Vansteelant, Managing Partners @Living Stone, will share 8 actionable steps you can take to establish a winning B2B Brand in the inbound marketing age.

Register here