Selling B2B? Why you need a social selling success tracking program.

Social Selling, the use of social media like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn by sales professionals, is a great buzz phrase. But does it really work?

IBM seems to think so – their social selling pilot in 2012 saw a 400% increase in sales on top of massive increases in reach. LinkedIn agree, their research in 2016 found that sales people who share content are 45% more likely to exceed quota.

Many other professional services firms have since followed suit – often by buying LinkedIn Sales Navigator licences for staff (e.g. Ernst & Young).

Certainly “social selling” is now  dominated  by LinkedIn with its 200 million strong professional user base, and now backed by Microsoft, it is set to maintain its dominance.

However social selling can and will happen on other tools and sites:

  • Quora questions and answers can deliver very targeted leads
  • Twitter provides a fast moving environment for breaking news
  • TED talks can strengthen existing thought leadership positions
  • Presentation decks on Slideshare can keep presenting for you long after the original talk
  • Blog posts can provide the space to make an argument effectively.
  • Sector focused Facebook groups can be lively and engaging
  • Whatsapp groups can trigger rapid responses among business people.

New sites can pop up too, like Gartner’s new cloudadvice.com platform that offers a forum for experts while tools like Blab.im can pop up and go away in just a few months.

For some businesses, they may also run their own online social platforms – whether multi-stakeholder such as the business2community.com blogging community or a corporate focused one such as CapGemini’s Expert Connect.

Then of course there are geographically localised sites that may offer more profitable prospecting in specific countries, such as Xing in Germany, Viadeo in France or Weibo in China.

The lesson is that when it comes to B2B social selling there is unlikely to ever be a single site that covers all your needs for all your sales focused staff.

Analyse that!

This then presents a problem when it comes to analysing what works. Whether from a management point of view, asking “is our licence money well spent?”, or from an indvidual point of view, “where should I invest my time?” – having so many different options brings a struggle to create a cohesive strategy.

One way to decide, is to use a data driven approach: look at the results of activity and link them back to success. Do more of what seems to work and less of what doesn’t.

Many platforms offer their own analytics which do go some way to providing the necessary feedback loop. They offer  scores based on your activity – whether specific metrics, e.g. number of tweet impressions or a more sophisticated, composite index such as Klout or LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index. These are what are termed native analytics tools as provided by the platform.

However, most native analytics tools are biased towards usage rather than value.

Take LinkedIn’s SSI for example. One LinkedIn trainer, Andy Foote, who looked in detail at how the score algorithm is calculated said:

“Frankly, it looks like a checklist for how to become an aggressive LinkedIn pest.”

It’s true. Every analytics package always has designer bias built in. In LinkedIn’s case it makes complete sense that the metrics should prioritise getting people to use LinkedIn over other priorities. Even something as simple as the order in which analytics are shown reflects the preference of the designer, yet the viewer will instinctively treat the first metric as more important – it’s simply the way we’re wired.

How can I bias the analytics towards business value for us, not the platform?

One way to do this is to create your own social selling score and composite metrics instead. You can then order and weight metrics according to your contextual priorities, not those of the underlying communications platform.

Creating a meaningful social score for your staff need not be difficult or expensive: using a spreadsheet you can import raw usage data from any of your sales navigator staff from Linkedin, you can download data from twitter analytics too. Combine it all together and you can create a social selling composite report for each sales rep that reflects your priorities as a business (and your experience of what works in your sector). Then email out the score to each rep and you can get them engaged and motivated to focus on the right social selling behaviours.

Of course if that sounds like too much work to do each week, then you can of course use Rise to take away much of the heavy lifting. Rise will pull in the data automatically where possible, process it and calculate a score. Rise will then share the results to each sales rep via email or in a personal online dashboard.

If you’d like to try Rise out (for free) then we recommend a simple RiseFuse implementation. This app uses Klout scores as a proxy for more detailed metrics. It means you can be up and running in half an hour. Or if you’d like to take your time then contact us and we’d be happy to walk you through what’s possible.

Investing in Sales Navigator licences? Put some budget into success tracking too.

I think the key takeaway for me is that if you are spending in the thousands to give your staff sales navigator licences then you should spend in the hundreds to make sure that investment is giving you value (management reporting) and personal feedback so that your staff  can optimise their behaviour to give them value (personal reporting).

11 vital tools for a modern B2B community manager

B2B community marketing is an effective technique for promoting your business and products among a defined community.

The idea is that prospects, customers, partners and suppliers have as much to learn from each other as they do from you. They will value being part of a B2B community that you host.

You don’t need lots of resources to  build a B2B community around your business. A community nowadays doesn’t have to be just physical (like running a large annual conference) – there are  several digital tools that are great for building modern B2B communities:

I’ve identified 11 key tools that every B2B community needs below.

When planning your next B2B community, it’s worth considering how you will offer all these features to your community:

  1. Vision and GoalsSlideshare.net

Every organised community has a common purpose, almost by definition. Often it is never stated formally but is ‘assumed’ in response to a particular name. If I created the ‘Google Glass Community’ you’d assume that this was a community to further our shared understanding and promotion of the Google Glass technology product.

Defining vision and goals is worth doing though, I think the best tool to do this on the web is as a slideshare presentation. This allows you to ‘present’ the vision and goals to your community, much as a CEO might present a company’s vision to its customers, shareholders and employees.

Usefully, Slideshare offers a comment facility, a download facility (so other leaders in your community can include vision slides in their own presentations) as well as the ability to upload a new version if the vision changes.

  1. Conversations – yammer

Communities need a place for individuals to talk to one another. Several tools offer peer-to-peer conversation formats varying from the centralised (discussion forums such as Vbulletin, social networks such as Yahoo, LinkedIn Groups, Google and Facebook Groups, bespoke social networks such as Yammer and Ning.

The main purpose of a conversation space is to create peer to peer relationships.  By providing a place to personally reflect on the wider community conversations and to consolidate the community’s shared understanding of a particular topic.

  1. Knowledge Base  – Wiki

While conversations are unstructured,  it is the archivist’s role within a community to convert unstructured knowledge into structured articles for future community members to learn from.

There are a number of ways to do this ranging from a better archive of unstructured conversations (‘pinned’ discussion topics, a Quora Q&A forum) to a dedicated structured body of knowledge such as a Wiki, FAQ or Documentation.

I’d be interested in your suggestions on the best tool for Wiki’s as I’ve only ever used the centrally controlled knowledge base tools such as uservoice which don’t offer much ability for community members to edit articles.

  1. Photo scrapbookPinterest

People love visuals. Any community loves to keep scrap books and a photo albums. There’s lots of fun in searching an old photo archive to see old photos of years gone by. It’s also a way for newcomers to get a feel for the community quickly.

Tools to maintain the photo scrapbook are Flickr, Facebook photos and Pinterest – all focused on the visual aspect of a community.

  1. Events – Meetup

Communities thrive on events that bring everyone together physically, even if it’s just one or two people in a cafe. Meetup offers a great tool as it embeds the idea of meeting regularly,  a crucial component of a healthy community.

Not all communities need a physical gathering however so consider using webinar tools such as Brighttalk, Join Me and Google Hangouts offer ways to gather virtually at a specific time.

  1. Breaking NewsTwitter

Communities need a source of breaking news – where can they go to get the latest news for that community? Blogs and micro blogs like Twitter are ideal for this purpose. If you’d like to let any member of the community break news then focus your marketing on a hashtag instead of a specific Twitter account.

Flipboard offers a way to create a weekly digest
Flipboard offers a way to create a weekly digest

7. Weekly news digestFlipboard

Not everyone in the community is interested enough or able to tune in to breaking news as it happens. There is a need for a slower digest of what’s been going on, that’s where tools like Flipboard and Storify come in which allow members to curate the most important breaking news articles and blogs into a magazine style content into a digest format.

  1. Scorekeeping – Rise

Communities need a way of keeping score, to track their progress towards both personal  and shared goals.

What you keep score of will be up to you – perhaps you want your community to reach a particular target in terms of use of social media, overall sales of your product or to hit a particular fundraising goal. One thing is for sure, sharing the score is a great way of getting everyone in your community focused on what matters. Rise offers a fantastic platform to share the score whether that’s personally or collectively.

  1. CommerceStripe

Healthy communities do business among themselves. Even communities where everyone is in the same profession you’ll see commercial transactions (for instance where one plumber takes on too big a job for him to handle alone) between community members.

You can providesa way to facilitate commercial transactions between your members.  This might be  done with PayPal and a buy and sell group/tag/discussion topic on your conversation network, or with a more sophisticated trading platform, such as Yniche’s teacher/student B2B learning exchange that leverages each individual member’s Stripe account.

  1. Agendas, minutes and actionsAsana

Formal meetings are a natural part of any B2B community. As communities mature,  small groups are coopted to ‘steer’ the community and maintain direction towards the vision. This committee will often spin out teams and sub-committees with particular remit.

Managing working groups and committees used to be like herding cats but putting in place good tools for managing minutes and actions among a distributed community are now available. The leaders are Trello and Asana.

  1. Member directoryRise
Rise offer
Rise offers an interesting take on the traditional member directory.

Last but not least, every community needs a members directory, a list of who is included in that community. Existing and prospective members often want to search and browse the others in a community.

Most community tools offer a members list of some sort, it’s your job to decide which is the primary list and share it in a way that others can see it. Since this is my blog I’ll pick Rise as the primary place to share the member directory, as I believe alphabetical lists are no longer of use in our Google age. 🙂 But this could be a CRM tool such as Nimble, Pipeliner or Pipedrive,  a  social media list (Twitter List, Facebook or LinkedIn Group) or a community forum (Meetup, Yammer or Ning).

So there you go, a whistle stop tour of my preferred tools available for creating, activating and engaging your online community.

What have I missed? Feel free to share in the comments below!

I’ve seen the future of customer centric marketing… and its gamified.

At yesterday’s excellent BIMA Breakfast Briefing I joined agencies PhD and We Are Social to debate the future of customer centric marketing. You’d be hard pressed to have come away without recognising the massive impact gamification can have for data led marketing.

To keep you in the loop, I’ll paraphrase the key points here:

  1. Customer centricity is about rolling out the red carpet to your best customers (Peter Fader)
  2. Not all industry sectors suit a customer centric approach but B2B certainly does
  3. To be effective, Customer centricity requires us to know who are our best customers
  4. Existing segmentation tends to lack the necessary detail to create a ‘best customer score’ for each customer
  5. There are 6 sources (at least) of behaviour data we need to create the best customer score:
    1. Online Engagement
    2. Purchases
    3. Marketing Attention
    4. Physical Visits
    5. Social Media
    6. Product Usage
  6. Not all data is available today – we are hampered by:
    1. Poor campaign property to central CRM data exchange
    2. Rigid privacy policies creating data silos
    3. Legacy marketing systems without adequate data exchange
    4. No ability to track check-ins in store or at events
    5. Unlinked customer identities – i.e. not linking a twitter account to an email address
    6. No feedback from customer on actual usage of product
  7. So, we don’t know who our best customers, so we can’t be customer centric.
  8. What’s the big idea? Get customers to manage their own ‘best customer score’
  9. Nike has obtained the data it needs with Nike+ where consumers see their score, link social identities, register purchases and record usage
  10. Facebook has obtained the data it needs by gamifying social behaviour in its entirety
  11. Gamification is the technique being used – it’s about a Win Win for both player and manager
  12. Rise offers a ready to roll platform for running these data exchange for feedback programs on a trusted 3rd party.
  13. Gamification solves the problem of not enough data to know who are our best customers.
  14. Getting started I recommend focusing on social media as its light, public and easy to use
  15. With Rise you can start with small, simple projects that can flex and grow into the future programs you want them to be

The full slide deck is available on slideshare

So there you have it, the ideal companion to your Customer Centric marketing program is a gamification program. What and who you gamify is very much up to you!