How One SMB Makes B2B Social Marketing Work - InformationWeek

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8/31/2011
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How One SMB Makes B2B Social Marketing Work

Content is king, whether you're marketing to consumers or other business, says midmarket firm that's succeeding through social channels.

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Business-to-consumer social marketing comes with compelling, PowerPoint-friendly bullet points like this one: Nearly two-thirds of adult Internet users in the United States use at least one social site, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. But for businesses that count other businesses as their customers, the case for social can be tougher to prove.

That's not necessarily keeping them on the sidelines. Take IVCi: Like other small and midsize businesses (SMBs), the videoconferencing firm succeeds by doing more with less. The 175-person company does roughly $75 million in annual revenue and has become one of the top resellers of the major telepresence systems, such as Cisco and Polycom. After some experimentation, social has become a critical cog in the company's broader marketing plan--IVCi director of marketing Adam Kaiser ballparked a 10% uptick of late in social media referrals to the company's website, adding that traffic from those sources increases every month.

"It continues to build," Kaiser said in an interview. "We've been off to a good start with [social media], and it will become a larger part of our demand generation."

Kaiser counts blogging and shareable content alongside Facebook and other channels in terms of importance. That's in part because it contributes to IVCi's strong organic search results for most industry keywords. Yet while search engine optimization is a big piece of the puzzle for IVCi, Kaiser said it also underscores the importance of social media to his company--even if B2B videoconferencing might not sound an overnight sensation on Twitter. In fact, to hear Kaiser describe his company's social efforts might sound much like a consumer marketer would.

"Someone can search for a product name and we come up, which is great, but it doesn't really show our value," Kaiser said. "Through social media and our blogging efforts, we can put out thought leadership content."

In other words: part of the return on investment for IVCi comes from differentiating itself as an industry expert--instead of sticking with "we sell you boxes," as Kaiser put it.

That's particularly important because of the B2B nature of IVCi's business, Kaiser said. While it occasionally fields a rush order for a piece of equipment, sales cycles are more often a matter of months--and sometimes a year or longer--for high-end products such as customized, immersive telepresence rooms or audiovisual integrations in boardrooms and other meeting places. That made other channels, such as advertising on Google's AdWords or Microsoft's Bing-Yahoo platform, frustrating at times.

"There was no way to connect an initial click to a final sale," Kaiser said. "It was incredibly difficult making that connection through the technology we had."

IVCI recently began automating how it tracks and manages online leads using Pardot. Kaiser said the ability to track leads at an individual level from generation to sale was the key driver. He'll soon start doing the same with social referrals using new features such as integrated social media profile data for prospects, as well as automated social messaging. Pardot unveiled those enhancements Wednesday at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce event.

Kaiser's parting advice for other SMB marketers planning to go social: Content reigns in the B2B kingdom, too. He recommends loading up the content silo before launching a social marketing program--and making sure you're equipped to keep those stores replenished.

"If you put all these tools in place but you don't have the content to put out there, you're just spending money for nothing," Kaiser said. "In order to differentiate yourself with [social media], you have to be producing content people want to read."

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara, Nov. 14-17, 2011, and learn how to drive business value with collaboration, with an emphasis on how real customers are using social software to enable more productive workforces and to be more responsive and engaged with customers and business partners. Register today and save 30% off conference passes, or get a free expo pass with priority code CPHCES02. Find out more and register.

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