B2B Social Media, 13 Steps to Create Your Pipeline

When people think about online conversation, the topic of B2B social media seems to be a hot trend.

Just like the B2C marketplace, sales professionals in the B2B space are always asking “how do I sell with it?” and often coming to the conclusion that good business simply isn’t attainable using social media.

Just for the record, I think that the statement “Social Media isn’t for B2B” is simply ignorant.

Social media is simply a buzz phrase.

So let us take the buzz out of B2B Social Media.

What we are really talking about is a prolific amount of information about people you want to do business with, along with an enormous wave of people self identifying themselves as having a need you can fill.

This is the ultimate sales perk- knowing more about your target market and what they need. You simply have to identify them, establish your value, and ask for the sale.

With that said, a majority of B2B sales professionals simply don’t know how to build a proper online lead generation pipeline and establish the points it connects with real world business processes.

To help with this I have written down these 13 steps to creating a sales pipeline.

13 Steps for B2B Social Media

1- Understand Your Existing Process

Think about what you currently do in the real world. Sketch out a process map of your current sales cycle. You need to identify several points in your real world model so that you can properly evolve it into a Web 3.0 version. Some basic items to identify for your B2B Social Media process:

  • What basic process points do you have?
    (identify target market, identify prospect type, attract interest, make contact, lead follow-up, etc)
  • How long do each of the above process points take?
  • What is the total length of your sales process?
  • What is your average conversion rate at each major process point?
  • What is the average value of a sale?
  • What is the average lifetime value of a client?
  • What traits separate a good prospect from a great one?

2- Define Your B2B Social Media Support Team

Hopefully your B2B social media endeavor isn’t a one-person show. Using the process points above, bullet list the core people that you touch base with during your sales process. It is important to note that these may note be people working with your company. They could also include external agencies or department partners. They could include entities such as:
  • Core vendors
  • Existing clients (referral sources)
  • Event coordinators
  • Secondary professional service vendors
  • Customer care
  • PR Firm
  • Marketing Agency
  • Other sales team members

3- Understanding Online Analytics

This is where I tell you to own your game.

You may have an amazing sales leader or marketing department, but don’t trust them to be developing ground-breaking sales ideas. If you want to be a super star and A player, you need to earn your own place in the world.

The best place to start understanding this is in how digital metrics drive your business. Today’s business marketplace rewards competitive thinkers. Ask your marketing or web development team to be included on site stats. Ask them what type of numbers they collect. Common tools include Google Analytics or Omniture. Ask them about them main things driving exposure and traffic to your sales effort.

When you have that basic information, you can put on your thinking cap and look at marketplace numbers.

A good place to start is Google Trends and Insight –  look at keywords related to your business. These sites will tell you what related searches happening. If you are having problems exploring: simply go to Google and search for your services or the name of your company (or competitors) and take note of companies purchasing advertising on Google for those terms.

When you have spent a while exploring those numbers, take a look at your top five competitors using Compete and Quantcast. These services allow you to see how traffic is finding your competitors.

Be wise: learn from them.

4- Listen to Your Market Conversation

Explore the social chatter happening in your niche of B2B Social Media. Word of mouth and brand buzz is driving people back and forth from search engines to conversation platforms (Google, Facebook,  Twitter, Linkedin)

You can discover some of this chatter by doing site domain and keyword searches using SocialMention and Addictomatic. You can also explore the live stream of conversation using Twitter Search, while looking at Google Instant (the stuff that appears during your search, as you search) is a way to see Google trending on live information.

If you find some important topics that you want to keep track of them by setting up Google Alerts (common things to track are your name, business name, and competitors. High value clients and prospects are also good ways of building relationship points.)

5- Develop a strategy

Don’t jump the gun.

We know sales is important to you. You should really give thought to what social media benchmarks you are trying to reach. As a sales pipeline, you may be looking to fix specific parts of your current process. You can’t have a healthy $$$ and closure rate until you have refined the entire process. Money is only deposited in your commission account if the lead completes the whole process.

Do not ignore opportunities to achieve secondary benefits: these could be long term or involve shifting perception of your company brand. If you can locate elements of associated business processes (step 2 above) – you can claim recognition for elements that were traditionally outside of the ‘sales silo’

6- Use the best tools, not the cheapest

I could go on and on here… but don’t let FREE screw up your B2B social media sales pipeline. There are plenty of FREE tools that are entirely usable and worthwhile (I even designed a few of them.)  There are also thousands of screwed up and barely functioning ideas. Do not let your time, personal motivation, and opportunity be negatively affected by using unreliable or FREE tools.

When looking at a tool or service, ask current users about performance and/or do a search for reviews on Google (take reviews with a grain of salt.)

7- Develop A Content Strategy

This is where you commit to doing some things on a consistent basis in your B2B Social Media plan.

Think ‘out of the box’ for what you can contribute that makes you different from other sales professionals.

This is a good time to ask:

  • are you are a good writer? If yes, blogging may make sense
  • are you good on camera? If yes, video interviews could be good.
  • are you good with a camera? perhaps snapshots of events and experts?
  • are you ‘always connected’ ? you could dive into Twitter / Foursquare

*Bonus idea: think about your professional brand as an individual. As a B2B sales leader… you need to think about ways of establishing your brand and identity online.

8- Create an online conversion funnel to collect leads

Going back to step 1, think about the digital points you need to define.
The general stages of a conversion funnel are:

  • Awareness – how will people find you?
  • Interest / Relationship – why will people care?
  • Benefit- why will someone buy what you have?
  • Conversion – how will you make the sale?
  • Lifetime Value – how will you make money long term?

9- Establish the Administrative Stuff

Winning people over and converting them to good business isn’t about being fast. It is about consistency and reliable relationship building.

Think about the process points and tools you need to make your life easier. Leads may go into different content management systems, different e-mail or follow-up lists, or simply into the trash. While leads may be placed into different silos, be sure to track where your leads originated from (i.e. social media.) This will allow you to track your sales ROI at the end of each sales cycle to see if your social media efforts are producing good results.

When tracking leads, look for common pieces of information that identify high-value prospects. Over time these numbers will help you identify key decision makers and hone your sales to a razor edge.

10- Think about maximum conversion

I know I said “own your game” – but a key part of being an A player is knowing when to hand off the ball to someone else.

When dealing with your conversion process and sales closure rates, don’t be greedy.

Pay attention to what makes you money and what costs you efficiency. If you find a prospect that isn’t your “piece of cake” , work with your peers to identify who can best convert them.

Prospects are often like a difficult type of farm crop: sometimes you need a specialized farmer to turn grapes into wine.

11- Build relationships

Depending on how your strategy took shape, you could be looking at hundreds of people on Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter (or some site I have never heard of)

This is an important time to focus on what you love.The great part of social media is that it provides some amazing insight to who people are and what they like.

You can find some interesting tidbits of information using people searches on Facebook , Twitter, Linkedin, 123people.

Once you have a picture of who these people are, you may want to think about playing personal match-maker with people who have similar interests. If you can leverage a personal interest with your professional target market, you will discover that your closing rate goes up! People tend to like it when they can talk about personal interest such as sports, the outdoors, or sky-diving in a client/prospect relationship.

12- Review Everything. Rinse, Repeat.

Your B2B Social Media lead pipeline is a process with multiple cycles.

It is critical that you don’t ignore logical segments that you can review. The easiest way to review information is to add a step to your pay and commission structure (monthly, quarterly, etc) and develop a routine for investigation.

When going back through the process, don’t try to throw away the entire wheel or entirely remodel the process. Locate one or two elements that affect your process and make a concentrated effort to improve those items. This will prevent you from being exhausted, while also protecting you from accidentally discarding functioning portions of your B2B social media lead process.


Understand & Help Your Referral Partners

Business requires networking. B2B social media is no different.

When you going through this process you should invite your referral partners to participate and share information. This provides you with a great reason to build additional relationship strength with your referral partners and give you a chance to find economy of scale and learn from each everyone’s mistake and success points.

If you involve just 2 or 3 people in the B2B social media lead process with you:

  • break-up and test different options and report back to the group what works
  • leverage more expensive tools that everyone can share
  • leverage more expensive training that everyone can learn from
  • get fast access to educated help during ‘crisis’ situations
  • can get support with “behind the scenes” items like SEO or article voting

Have you developed some process steps for developing your own B2B Social Media campaigns?
Let me know via retweet or in the comments below.