Online marketing has changed significantly in the last few years—we’ve already discussed these developments in previous articles. But in this post, I’d like to focus on employee advocacy in B2B marketing specifically, because it comes with its own unique challenges. And of course, its own unique solutions. Yes, B2B can make it harder to connect directly with the right audience, it’s more specific, less generalized. But at the same time, that’s what makes online brand advocacy such fertile ground when it comes to building Business-to-Business leads.
The Challenges of B2B Marketing in the Current Digital Environment
Online marketing has always been tricky, but it becomes even more so when sales professionals have to reach out directly to other businesses—not regular consumers.
However, Employee Advocacy & Social Selling conducted on the part of the sales professionals themselves is an effective solution. Social media allows them to connect directly with the relevant prospects, share content, add insights, and build relationships. Employee Advocacy data says it all: 33% of customers trust brands, while 90% of customers trust recommendations from people they know. And 79% of firms report more online visibility upon implementing a formal Employee Advocacy/Social Selling program.
In short, employees become brand ambassadors, and build leads directly. Trust in businesses may be declining, but faith in known individuals and interpersonal relationships is far more durable. Employee Advocacy and Social Selling are both built upon this fact.
And the nature of social media makes it easy to refine the individuals followed, and the content shared. It can be extremely targeted, the exact right content aimed at the exact right people.
But there are challenges to such an approach. For example:
- Do employees believe in the brand. Are they willing to talk about it?
- Is there enough consistent and diverse content to share?
- Are employees seen as a trusted and authentic source?
- Do the advocates know what they should communicate?
3 Solutions for Making B2B Marketing Work with Employee Advocacy
So what are the specific steps a company can take to make Employee Advocacy & Social Selling work for their B2B efforts? What concrete actions will help the sales team build leads and close deals across their social networks? Here are three solutions that I believe are effective.
Give them the ability to create and build their brand story. This means helping them build their thought leadership, set up professional profiles, and giving them the freedom to tell their own story and add their own insights. This will also increase authenticity, and let them be themselves.
Show them that you care by highlighting your CSR initiatives. Illustrate the value not only for business, but for society at large. Give them something to be proud of, that they want to share, and that prospects will want to listen to. CSR is more important than ever—spread the word and make a difference.
Give them a way to share and communicate about the brand freely. This might mean an integrated platform, like Sociabble, that makes it easy for employees to share and create content across their social networks. This will also provide a pipeline of content they know they can share, giving them a steady flow and healthy mix of articles, reports, and visuals.
But the most crucial step of all? Help with content.
The general solutions above can be effective—I’ve seen them work time and time again. But they all rely on one key element, and that’s content. This is even more important in B2B, because strong, professional content is key for helping them become thought leaders and respected voices in their field. Because they’re selling to other professionals, the content needs to be convincing. Here are ways to ensure a steady stream of quality content posts.
Store these content elements in a library or repository so employees always have access, and can add their own personal touch (for example, the Sociabble platform comes with a Media Library tailor-made for storing easy-to-access and pre-approved visual content for sharing).
Schedule weekly content for distribution. If there’s a set program and calendar for receiving content and sharing it, employees will get in the habit; it will become part of their daily routine. Good habits are learned, and this is one of the most effective ways to help instill the habit of posting regularly.
Diversify the content you provide. This means a good content mix, but also emphasizing engaging, visually-appealing content. Increasingly, text-based social media is fading, and visual posts are becoming the norm. Short videos, interviews, podcasts—all of this can enhance and enrich your content offering.
By focusing on the three solutions described above, and by enriching your content offering, you can help your sales team succeed as brand advocates online—even in the challenging realm of B2B sales. Highlighting the company will increase brand awareness and get more clicks with the help of employee networks—thus generating more leads and increasing revenue.
In fact, according to a LinkedIn study, more than 50% of all revenue in 14 industries was influenced by social selling, including telecommunications, computer software, marketing & advertising, information services, and financial services.
You won’t find better proof that it works than that!