Slope of enlightenment
I say using Social Media to generate pipeline and drive revenue has surpassed the “peak of inflated expectations,” the “trough of disillusionment,” the “slope of enlightenment” and is on the plateau of productivity,” to use Gartner terminology.
In short, Social Media is more efficient and effective, in most cases, than classical techniques to increase awareness, exploit WOM (word of mouth), leverage OPR/N (other people’s relationships/networks) and exploit vicarious experience. The reason is speed, access, medium infrastructure and formalization of relationships and influencer networks. I am not saying abandon classical approaches but to embrace social media in demand creation efforts from beginning to end.
Goal of Demand Creation
The goal of Demand Creation is to find a pool of prospects that is ready willing and able to buy—either now or within a time period (12-24 months). The tough part of the task is that there are so many companies (about 6M says the US Census bureau). Granted, no one competes against 6M companies (www.census.gov/econ/smallbus.html) but there are on average at least 50 companies out there that compete with you directly or indirectly via their marketing message. To complicate matters, a prospect can’t establish unique positioning for each of these 50 companies. As a result, the messages become so generic that many companies get bucketed into a category that a prospect has already defined in their head.
Even if you are selling to your installed base and have full contact information for a customer, your emails, phone calls, direct mail and sales calls may go unanswered as individuals determine if when and how a company can communicate with them. If you do not have a database with full contact information for suspects and prospects for your served market, the challenge to build a pipeline is even greater.
Leverage Social Media
In short, there are 3 primary ways you can leverage a social media plan to increase awareness and generate interest, regardless of whether it is a B2B or B2C sales:
- Buyers are most likely to do something the way they did it before, assuming there was a positive outcome.
- If a buyer has no direct positive experience they reach out to their trusted advisors (friends, peers, colleagues, trusted advisor, etc.).
- Next, buyers will look for vicarious experience—identify with someone that is deemed to be ‘like them” so that their action can be justified/rationalized as ‘their” behavior.
- Or, buyers need to be influenced by establishing a connection.
- Finally, buyers will need to be educated (I am ignoring laggards that will buy about the time the product/service has been replaced by a new product/service but it is “safe” because everyone else did it and the price point is low).
At the end of the day, organizations are using social media to generate pipeline. B2C organizations have led the way but progressive companies in B2B are learning and incorporating this technology and techniques to build pipeline as well. This is key as it has been documented that most buyers become aware of an organization and begin the research process months before the classical marketing techniques or a sales person ever connects with an organization. The physical costs of social media are usually much less than those associated with traditional programs, but the strategic thinking and tactical execution is more time consuming as it is more than simply creating a Facebook page, creating a Twitter account and some SEO.
For more information about how to build an efficient and effective social media plan, please visit Go-to-Market Resources.