We are social animals. Business-to-Business is no different. They are highly socially active and, whether you like it or not, are getting most of their information from sources that you do not directly control. New research from GroupM and comScore reveals that 48% of purchasers who started with a search engine search for products and subsequently purchased, are taking a social activity as a next step in the buying process to validate their decision.
Regardless of your industry, if you don’t have a business development plan that includes social media marketing, you’re late to the dance. Not so late that everyone has gone home, -actually the exact opposite – ‘cause this is where your prospects are. And a marketing plan that does not include being where your customers are is pointless.
More than just being present, you also need to consider changing the way you or your company participates in social media. So many companies jump onto social media and start doing the same broadcast messaging they do everywhere else. That just does not work in social media. Social media is about joining the conversation and adding value to what your prospect or the community is talking about.
Since your customers are using social media to see what people are saying about your company, if you are not there you are in big trouble. Here are a few ways that you or your company can help validate your customer’s purchase decision using social media:
- One of the most powerful ways you can participate in social media is to answer relevant questions on sites such as LinkedIn, Yahoo! Answers, and others. Not only does this provide a great opportunity to showcase your company’s thought leadership but it has enormous search engine optimization results as well. However, more importantly, your prospects are online asking questions; if you are not answering, who is? Your competition? They are seeking information that will give them confidence in their purchase decision. These questions can be answered by anyone, but if your company has a strategy to search for and respond to these questions, you have the opportunity to gain influence over their buying decision.
- Set up alerts or constantly scan all the online sources or communities that your prospects may be looking at. By doing so, you can gain insight into what is being said - good or bad – about both your company and your competitors. Share this information with your whole business development team to anticipate what your prospect may be thinking or feeling, and be prepared to provide any reassurance that may be needed. This is especially important if there are any negative or derogatory posts about you or your company. Even the largest, most successful companies endure negative attacks. By being proactive and focusing on the positive, you will be able to position your company in a positive light and be reassuring to your prospects.
A necessary step for many buyers is to have their decision validated. While the level of validation may vary, it is still a key step in their buying process. The more urgent the timing of a purchase, the less validation will be required by the buyer in advance of purchase. The more urgent the need for purchase, the more validation will be required by the buyer in advance of their purchase.
Rather than being offer-intensive, you need to focus on where your prospect is at and what they are looking to achieve. For most, the buyer’s focus is more along the lines of verifying the type of results that can be achieved by using your offerings, along with how the offerings can be implemented and supported as well as what type of company you are to work with .
Instead of trying to impose your opinions on potential customers and continuing to drive a “Buy, Buy. Buy” message, you need to participate in social media by assisting with and sharing answers to their questions as well as providing thought leadership. The most effective content you can share during this stage is actual results that your customers have achieved, either through success stories or by allowing prospects to contact customers.
Your customers are looking to have the following (questions) answered during this process:
- Why should I trust your company to help me solve my issue?
- What’s the potential return on investment, and how long will it take to realize it?
- How are people/companies like me/mine finding success with this choice?
By answering each of these questions, you will validate your customers’ purchase decisions. With social media providing an opportunity for anyone to voice their opinion, it is important that you are not only monitoring, but also engaging in the conversation. This means not just broadcasting your product or services but rather entering into a conversation that will assist your customers in their buying process.