Entrepreneur

B2Bs need to increase their social intelligence

(Editor’s note: Umberto Milletti is the CEO of InsideView. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)

Social technologies are breeding a new type of savvy marketing pro, tasked with reaching a more fragmented audience of customers, prospects and brand influencers than ever before. While B2C marketers have started to significantly crack the code, established B2B companies (as well as start-ups in the space) still have to catch up and embrace the “world of social” and reach their customers through channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

For many start-ups and young companies, the real-time buyer information that is shared and accessible across social channels – aka social intelligence – is the “golden ticket.” This data source delivers valuable insight about what customers want and need, but may not explicitly state as such, in their personal or business lives.

Deeper understanding of customer requirements not only helps sell existing products and services, but also provides a new perspective into industry voids for start-ups to further develop products and differentiate from the (often more established) competition.

While the social business tactics are alive and conversation within the “social business” trade is abundant, enterprises and many B2B marketers are embracing these tools at a glacial pace. This opens a door for start-ups to quickly react to market demand, customer feedback and investor or advisor expertise by adopting new – and socially-focused – tactics to drive strong lead pipelines, customer satisfaction and overall brand success.

For early-stage companies, this social savviness typically starts with the CMO, since community managers are too expensive to bring in house, sales professionals are fully engaged in selling and the CEOs are busy driving business strategy.

Social intelligence provides a deeper understanding of prospects’ buying cycles.  These new insights increase sales team productivity by minimizing the time sales reps spend on “cold” prospects – and accelerate the sales conversion for “warm” candidates, leading to higher close rates.

Social media is moving beyond the B2C world. As big B2C brands like Southwest Airlines and Ford Motor Co. mastered the art of social marketing, B2B organizations must also recognize the fact that customers and prospects live hours of their daily lives online, conversing across social channels.

However, B2B social intelligence is more fragmented and niche than a “sexy” consumer brand, which makes the modern CMO’s job more reliant on listening and engagement tools (such as Social Media Monitoring and Social CRM), which provide the much-needed “personal” touch that notoriously lives within small businesses.

Since outbound marketing is deemed interrupt-driven and considered less effective by the customers, companies must find a way to improve the timing and the relevance of their messages. Want to know how to increase your marketing budget as a CMO? Show greater ROI through more targeted outreach.

For example, HR services firm TriNet found that talking to prospects at times of business change – i.e. new management, funding, expansion, etc. – drove unusually high response rates.  Social platforms gave the company timely and in-depth knowledge of these “times of change” windows. The result: An incredible 70 percent conversation-to-appointment rate for the sales team, simply by listening to and engaging with prospects based on social intelligence.

The social revolution is an important part of the ongoing transformation in the way marketing teams learn about, engage with, sell to and sustain relationships with customers and prospects. As savvy marketers are leading the adoption curve, recognizing social intelligence as a key driver to marketing productivity and business success is a critical characteristic to modernizing not only the CMO’s department, but also the business at large.


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