How B2B Firms Are Winning Clients With Social Media

By Tony Restell

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Did you miss our live LinkedIn Audio Event discussing the findings of our research into the impact social media can have on B2B firms?

If so, below you can access the recording (and transcript), which we've divided into several short snippets to help you quickly tune into the parts that are going to be of greatest help in ramping up the business wins you get from social media.  

How B2B Firms Are Winning Clients With Social Media

The snippets can be found below in the following order:

- Snippet 1: Why We Decided To Research B2B Firms' Social Media Results

- Snippet 2: What Were The Headline B2B Findings?

- Snippet 3: What Are The Biggest Obstacles B2B Firms Face in Getting Results?

- Snippet 4: What Are Successful B2B Firms Focusing On To Get Results?

- Snippet 5: Examples of How B2B Firms Are Converting Their Audience

- Snippet 6: Instead of Spamming, Focus on Win-Win Approaches!

Hope you get some great actionable ideas from these recordings - and if you'd like to chat through how these ideas could be applied to your B2B business, you're most welcome to book in for a call.

Snippet 1: Why We Decided To Research B2B Firms' Social Media Results

~130 owners and founders of B2B businesses were interviewed to gather input on the impact social media is having on their business. Understanding how other businesses are getting results and uncovering new approaches that are working were the main motivations behind the research.

We also wanted to dispel the myth that becoming highly visible and getting mass engagement is the best route to achieving business wins from social media (and indeed, this is extremely rare).

Full Transcript of Snippet 1

Yeah, so to sort of set the scene we we did research with, or interviews with, 130 odd owners and founders of B2B businesses in the run up to Christmas. And we contacted those people to see if we could get their input on the impact that social media was having on their business. You know, is it really proving to be a big source of client wins and business opportunities for them? Or is it more something where they struggle to point to you know, exactly what they're getting out of the time that they're investing?

And yeah, the the rationale for it a couple of different things. Obviously, Social Hire has been around since 2012. So we know how we get results for our clients. And we have certain approaches that we know that work very well. But I was really keen to try and learn, you know, what else is out there? What, perhaps, do we not know... that are some ways that other businesses are getting great results?

So this was really, you know, opening the door to lots of other businesses and uncovering how they're getting results.

And a couple of other things. I've been really anxious over the last years that so much of the advice, especially on LinkedIn, seems to be around how you can get massive visibility for yourself and your business. You know, what do I need to post to get loads more engagement? What can I do to drive up the views that we're achieving? When should I be posting, what type of content should I be posting, and then advice that you should be spending loads of hours of your time doing all of this as well.

My hunch has always been that I didn't think that there were very many businesses that were actually going down that path and it transforming their business and then getting huge results from it. And so I also wanted to have some data to be able to try and either prove or disprove that that's the case. To really give you all the knowledge of what's most likely to be successful. So, yeah, that was the sort of backdrop to it.

And actually it's been, it's been so good speaking to so many business owners about their experiences, it's formed loads of really good relationships for us. We've actually now carried this research on into this year. So I'm going to talk to you about the findings when we sort of drew a line in the sand at the end of last year, where we had 130 odd firms we'd interviewed. But actually we're interviewing more firms each week, throughout this year as well, and uncovering even more examples. So yeah, that hopefully that sets the scene Becky...

Snippet 2: What Were The Headline B2B Findings?

21 of the 130 B2B firms interviewed cited social media as a significant contributor in securing new business wins, clients, hires, investors, or business partnerships. Meaning the majority of firms investing in social media are seeing very little in the way of tangible results.

Contrary to the advice you should pursue mass visibility and engagement, most of the successful firms have instead focused on building an audience of just a few hundred or a few thousand key decision-makers in their niche industry. They've prioritised visibility with this targeted group over more widespread engagement and visibility. Focusing social media efforts on serving a niche audience, rather than chasing mass visibility, has proven to be a more effective strategy for winning new business, according to these research findings.

Full Transcript of Snippet 2

Yeah, some really, really interesting findings. So the first thing I would say is of the 130 odd firms that we interviewed, 21 of them have made social media a really significant contributor to their business, that's to say they are getting very, very significant amounts of new client business, or making new hires for their company, or attracting investors or getting new business partners through what they're doing on social media.

So firstly, obviously, that means the vast majority of companies who are investing some effort in social media aren't getting lots of client wins, and really tangible results. So if you fall into that category yourselves, you know, you don't need to feel too bad about that. You're certainly in the majority, if that's what you're experiencing.

But there are enough examples there of companies that are really getting fabulous results, that it should be a real eye opener to everyone that, okay, if we were just to do some things differently to what we have been doing the scope for this to impact our businesses is really, really massive.

And I should say, if you go to the homepage of Social-Hire.com, you'll see a link there to access the full findings of this research. And within that, we've listed out those 21 examples and what type of companies they are, what they do, and the kind of results that they've been getting, so you can see those for yourselves.

But the focus was on B2B firms. So the kinds of firms we're seeing getting really big client wins from social media are businesses like management consulting firms, training companies, recruitment businesses, some technology platforms selling to other businesses, speakers, a whole range of lawyers, solicitors, accountancy firms are in there as well.

So lots of you on this call today, you work in a type of business that is very similar or a very close parallel to some of the firms we're seeing getting really big results. So that'd be the first thing I would stress.

The second thing that I would stress is that my hunch was right. So of those 21 companies, there are only a couple that have been getting really big social media wins from being very, very visible, and getting huge engagement on what they put out there. The vast majority of these firms getting results have gone down the alternative route - which is to say, actually, as a business, there are only a few hundred, or there are only a few thousand key decision makers in our industry that we need to win over in order to absolutely transform the fortunes of our business.

And so almost all the examples you'll see are firms that have just focused their efforts on, you know, building up an audience of their ideal clients, and not worrying about their posts getting massive visibility and massive engagement, but rather focusing just on being seen as experts for what they do in the particular niche market, you know, that they're most concerned about?

So, yeah, a really eye-opening result, which of course, isn't to say it's not possible to get results from you going out and getting huge visibility on LinkedIn and other social sites. It absolutely is. But most people are chasing that dream that's being sold on LinkedIn and elsewhere, and they're never getting to the point where they've got the kind of mass visibility that's actually getting them results.

Whereas the firms that are focusing on building up an audience just in the particular niche that they serve - and then being visible just with that audience - they are proving to be far far more effective and successful. So yeah, those would be the headline findings from the conversations so far, Becky, and actually what we are hearing from the interviews we've been conducting since the new year, is very much reflective of this as well. It's really the exception that someone is getting lots of business wins through being super visible and famous. And it's focusing on niche audiences and building those and serving those that is where almost all the wins are coming from.

Snippet 3: What Are The Biggest Obstacles B2B Firms Face in Getting Results?

One big challenge is the lack of consistency in applying social media strategies, a consequence of firms' "feast and famine cycles" - where they are very active at certain times of the year, but less so at other times due to the demands of delivering on client assignments. Companies that are getting major wins have found ways to implement social media consistently by either employing dedicated staff / freelancers, or engaging specialist social media agencies.

Not having a proven social media strategy tailored to their sector and type of business was another major obstacle. This often resulted in firms putting in effort but then not seeing any real results beyond heightened visibility.

Full Transcript of Snippet 3

Yeah, this was really, really interesting because this was an open question to people. But we kept hearing the same things again and again.
 
And the two biggest things that I would hear talked about were, firstly, a lack of consistency. And in professional services firms in particular, you know, this is often referred to as "the feast and famine cycle", that, you know, if you are a project management company, or you're a consulting firm, or you're a training company, or a conference organiser or something like that, you know, there are periods in the year when you are completely flat out, serving the clients that you've won in the business and delivering on, you know, the projects that you've sold, or whatever type of work it is that you deliver. And then there are a few points in the year where things go quieter, just because you know, projects have come to an end or whatever. And so that is often referred to as the feast and famine cycle.
 
But how that translates into social media is all the companies that were getting really fantastic client wins and results from social media, they all have been able to find ways of doing social media - and what they do on social media - really, really consistently. So they've extracted their social media strategy and their day-to-day activities, from being reliant on people who may not always have the time to be able to do what needs to be done.
 
Correspondingly, amongst all the firms that, you know, can't really point to any particular client wins and business wins, being able to be consistent on social media was one of the biggest things that just came up time and time again. So it wasn't necessarily that they didn't view social media as being important and didn't prioritise it. But they just found that with whatever it is their business does, they really struggled to consistently apply, you know, what they were trying to achieve on social media. So that would be the first obstacle. So if in your business, if you're listening to this, and you're thinking, you know, we do try and do quite a lot on social media, but it is patchy, you know, we do have periods of the year where we're much more active and trying to achieve a lot more, and other periods of the year where we really dial back how much we're doing on social media; that is probably one big contributor to why you're not getting better results than then you are at the moment.
 
All the firms that are doing really well, they'd either dedicated someone in the business to doing this, whose time was ring-fenced, so that it wasn't, you know, derailed by other things when the company got busy. Or they'd hired in, you know, a freelancer or a contractor to do that, or they'd engaged a social media agency like Social Hire, to do that.
 
So that was one of the big obstacles. The other one that came up a lot was having a proven strategy. Or, to flip that on its head, not knowing what works and what doesn't work in the particular sector that they served. And so often, when I was talking to people, they had put quite a lot of effort into social media. You know, they had grown a bit of an audience, they were doing a lot of things that were good, but they hadn't figured out how to turn what they were doing into something more than just some visibility for the business. And so, not having a proven strategy in place was another big, big issue.

Snippet 4: What Are Successful B2B Firms Focusing On To Get Results?

Businesses getting great results and business wins are consistently doing three things: they have a plan for growing their audience, they have a plan for building trust and credibility, and they have a method for converting their social media audience into tangible leads or potential business partners.

To grow their audience, businesses are using approaches such as growing their LinkedIn networks, creating targeted LinkedIn or Facebook or WhatsApp groups, and actively fostering relationships within those groups.

Building trust and credibility is also crucial in gaining future clients, with consistency being key in maintaining visibility with ideal clients.

Lastly, converting the social media audience into tangible leads and initial meetings is essential. This can be done through running events such as business breakfasts or networking drinks, launching podcasts or writing reports to initiate initial calls with potential clients, or any other approach that gets a warm meeting rather than leading with a sales pitch.

Full Transcript of Snippet 4

Yeah, let's dive into that. And actually, before I do, let me just talk about those businesses that are getting results from mass visibility. If I give you a couple of examples there, one person I spoke with was granted "LinkedIn Influencer" status, when LinkedIn first rolled out LinkedIn influencers. So that's the badge that people like, you know, Richard Branson have, you know, that gets you absolutely millions of followers on LinkedIn.

So one person I spoke to had been granted that because they happened to be doing some work with LinkedIn at the time that that feature was rolled out. They've ended up with millions of followers, and hundreds of thousands of LinkedIn newsletter subscribers as a result. So unsurprisingly, given they've got that much visibility, they've been able to derive business wins from that pretty consistently. But when you and I, on this call, look at replicating that, it's pretty clear we can't replicate that; that was a one off bit of good fortune that that person got that other people can't just just replicate.

And the other thing that we've seen are business owners who took the COVID years and because their businesses had, you know, imploded so much, you know, for quite a number of months, they just decided that they were going to invest intensively, their time, in building up relationships and visibility on LinkedIn. But in a way that it would be very hard for any of us to replicate today, because who's going to stop working in their business for the next six or nine months, just to grow, you know, their presence on LinkedIn. There's very few people on the call, who will be able to do that.

So what are firms doing, that are getting results who haven't gone down that mass visibility route? I mean, they're, they're pretty consistently doing three things. The first is they have a plan in place for how they're going to grow their audience of their ideal clients. And for some of them, that's, you know, they're growing the LinkedIn networks of their team, with the particular kinds of profiles of people who would make their ideal clients. Some people are growing a group - could be a Facebook group or LinkedIn group that comprises of their ideal clients. And then they're being very active in that group and fostering relationships in there.

Others have got WhatsApp groups going, or Slack channels going, they've got people invited into. Whatever the route, they've all figured out how are we going to saturate reaching as many of the decision makers in our particular niche market as possible? So that's the first thing that they're all doing.

I would say the second thing that they're all doing is they've all figured out a plan for building trust and credibility with that audience. Most of the businesses we spoke to, in this research - and indeed, a lot of you on the call - you know, most of your ideal clients don't need your services right now. At some point in the next six months, next 12 months, next two years, they may very well need your services. But right at the point at which they become, you know, a LinkedIn connection, or they first join a group that you're in or something like that, you know - at that moment in time, they don't need your services right there and then.

So what's really key is that you find a way of building up trust - trust and credibility in what you do as a business, and you personally as individuals within that business. So that further down the line when those people, those ideal clients, do have a need for your service you're someone that they already recognise, and have a degree of trust in. So all of these businesses have invested in having different types of content. Some of them are doing, you know, webinars and podcasts and audio rooms like this. Others of them are producing, you know, reports, or regularly blogging and doing newsletters and that kind of stuff. But they've all - and this, I guess, ties back to the consistency element, Becky. You know if you're going to do that, and you're going to make sure that you are being seen by your ideal clients all the time, well that only works you know, if you're not doing it in fits and bursts. You need to be doing it every week, so that every week you're being seen by the right people.

And then the really crucial thing I would stress is hardly anyone is getting lots of business wins just from growing an audience and building trust through posting or publishing. For almost everyone I spoke to, that only produces an occasional inquiry. But it doesn't produce a huge flurry of inquiries and first meetings and the like. So the third thing that almost everyone was doing is they'd figured out, how could they convert the audience that they've built on social media, whether that's LinkedIn or another social site? And how could they convert that into people who've done something off of social media?

So just to give you a few examples, you know, to sort of help you think what that might look like... you've got consulting firms, for example, that would organise regular quarterly business breakfasts. And they would invite new LinkedIn connections that they've built, that are their ideal clients, along to those business breakfasts, and therefore, they're turning that LinkedIn audience into an audience of people who've now met, you know, the partners of that consulting firm face to face.

You've got businesses that are organizing networking drinks evenings, or launch events for reports or thought leadership they're publishing. Then you've got other things being done, it's not all in person. So a lot of you in your industries will have seen people launching podcasts, for example. And people often think, they're launching a podcast to get mass visibility. They want to get loads of subscribers, and they want to have loads of people listen to those podcast episodes. But actually, when you speak to companies that are doing those podcasts, the single biggest win for them in doing that is that it gives them an excuse to get on an initial call with their ideal clients that they've got as LinkedIn connections, or they got as members of their Facebook group or whatever. It allows them to turn those into people who they're now having an initial zoom call with to get to know them and see if they'd make a good podcast guest.

And so those three things, you know, when you're doing all three of them consistently, when you've found a way to build an audience of your ideal clients, across your business; when you've figured out a plan for regularly appearing in those people's feeds, so that they're always seeing you and your team, sharing good insights and being reminded of what it is your business does; and then you've got thirdly, a method of converting that audience into doing something off of social media that makes them more tangible sales leads or candidate leads or potential business partners.

Those three things are what pretty much all the firms we spoke to, have been focused on. And indeed, just to reiterate, all the interviews that we've been doing since the new year, are basically reinforcing these messages. So we are going to be updating the findings you can find on the Social Hire homepage every couple of months. But the big picture is, it's essentially more of the same. The examples of the firms that are getting great results are consistent with what's on there already. And the people getting amazing results through being super famous, are very much a small minority rather than the majority of success stories. So I hope that's helpful.

Snippet 5: Examples of How B2B Firms Are Converting Their Audience

The key is to figure out a way of having initial warm meetings with potential clients. Instead of directly asking for a sales meeting, find a reason for contacting them that doesn't feel as pushy and / or that's in their interests.

Examples include getting in touch while traveling to a city or country, using conferences and trade shows as opportunities to meet up, or seeking their expert input to showcase in thought leadership reports, podcasts and the like. The most successful approaches are more subtle and focused on initiating conversations about the potential client's challenges and how your business might be in a position to help.

Full Transcript of Snippet 5

I think the key is figuring out how you could have an initial meeting with people that is a warm meeting. So you're not just, you know, messaging people on LinkedIn and asking to have a sales meeting to, you know, tell them about what your company does. But you're finding a reason for contacting those people. And getting onto a call that is, you know, more softly softly than that, or getting them along to an event that you're running.

So I mean, there's a huge number of examples I could give there. And there's some documented on the website as well. But the kinds of things people are doing, let me just rattle off a whole load of examples. So some of the businesses we spoke to travel a lot with what they do in their business. So they might be off to a particular city or a particular country, to serve a client they're working with. So at that point, they would use the fact that they're going to that city or that country, as a reason to get in touch with all the ideal clients they've got in that location. And say, you know, I'm going to be in Johannesburg, I'm going to be in New York, between these dates, you know, helping a client we have there. And I've got some spare time. While I'm there, wondering if you'd be interested in meeting for a coffee. That's a very different approach than just going to people and asking, you know, for a sales meeting. It's much more softly, softly, and people are much more likely to say yes to it. So that would be one example.

Another example would be, if there are conferences or trade shows or expos going on, in your industry, again, getting in touch with people in your group or in your network, to see who else might be going to those events, and to see if you can arrange, you know, a chance to meet up while you're there. And that's been incredibly effective.

Within consulting, you've got firms doing thought leadership reports, who will use the fact that they are creating a new piece of thought leadership to actually contact their ideal clients and say, you know, we're looking to produce a report on X, Y, and Z. And we'd love to get some expert input on that, you know, any chance we could have a coffee meeting or we could jump on a zoom call to talk about that? So lots of different examples like that Vitaly, I hope that gives you some you can think about. But it's very much not pounding people with, you know, 1000s of sales messages and hoping that you know, a few people say yes to having a sales meeting. It's being much more subtle in how you approach people. But doing it in ways where the conversation that you're then going to have is very much oriented around, you know, the challenges that they have and how you as a business could help them.

Snippet 6: Instead of Spamming, Focus on Win-Win Approaches!

Use social media to secure new career opportunities or new client wins, but by taking a softer approach.

Blatant sales messages will often get deleted or result in you getting blocked on LinkedIn. A more effective approach is to start a conversation or offer something that benefits the other person.

For example, video interviews during COVID were successful because they provided potential clients with video content and showcased their expertise on LinkedIn. So think creatively about how to approach your ideal clients and what events or invitations could move them along the sales funnel most effectively.

Full Transcript of Snippet 6

Yeah, whether you're using social media to try and secure a new career move, or whether you're using it to try and win new clients, or to get speakers for a conference, arranging whatever it might be. Yeah, the softly softly approach is far more effective. And we all instinctively know that because if you think of your own LinkedIn, and you think of how often you get hit up with, you know, blatant sales messages in your inbox, and how rare it is for you to do anything other than just delete that, or block the person and disconnect from them. You know, we all know that if you're too direct in what you say to people it doesn't work.

But if you can find a way of it being much more of a conversation starter, or even better, if it's in the interests of the other person to say yes, then that's where you get your real success. So some of you will have seen me doing video interviews, for example, with business owners since COVID. That was an initiative we kicked off during COVID, to try and help people with the various challenges they were facing during COVID. But, you know, I got in touch with my contacts and said, look, we're organising a series of video interviews, we'd love to showcase you and your expertise. And hopefully you can share some ideas that would be helpful to people right now, would you be interested in doing that?

Now, because that helped people to have some video content that they didn't have, and that they'd been meaning to do; and because it helped them to showcase their expertise on LinkedIn, it was great. It gave them a reason to want to say yes to the initial approach. And obviously, a lot of those initial meetings, initial calls did turn into sales opportunities, and we've won a lot of business off the back of that. So it's thinking about that, it's thinking creatively about - given who our ideal clients are and the challenges that they face at the moment - how could we approach them or what kind of event could we invite them to, that would move them along the sales funnel and get us a more meaningful meeting or call or first contact with them?

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