Not that many years ago a small business didn’t necessarily need a website, and social media activity was a rarity. But times change. Today, every small business has a life and presence online – and the potential to leverage social media and produce great content as part of that online engagement is enormous.
In fact, let’s go further than that and say that social media and content-led marketing is having a disruptive impact on business every day, particularly those selling to consumers where reputations can be boosted or undermined online in the blink of an eye. But the dynamic applies increasingly in the business-to-business space too.
The power of social media is being felt particularly acutely by those businesses where a proportion of customer interactions used to happen on the phone. Now those same customers have access to the business through a combination of channels, with social firmly in the mix.
Consumers are using sites like Facebook and Twitter to follow their favourite brands to stay current with the latest news, take advantage of special promotions and even address service concerns.
It’s the transparency and immediacy of social media that counts here. It makes companies that do it properly immediately more approachable – which is good for relationship building and customer loyalty for those that get the formula right, though potentially damaging for those that don’t.
Take action, take part
But social media is far from being a minefield for small business: it’s just a question of embracing it and putting enough resource in to feel the spin-off benefits.
It’s an approach that rests on having good conversations and building trust. That means being helpful – truly, deeply helpful – and then trusting to commercial karma that being supportive and open will repay itself in new relationships and a broad base of trust that will lead to new business.
Think of it like this, particularly in the business-to-business space.
- A fancy website filled with sales puff
- Costly press advertisements
- Pushy salespeople
- A glossy brochure
- Badgering the trade press to write about you
Today’s content-led marketing and social media presence:
- An engaging digital footprint (including your website) that’s easily found by potential clients
- A dynamic social media presence that makes targeted connections
- Great word-of-mouth recommendations
- Heaps of valuable content for use in lots of contexts
- Trust that builds as you keep on providing proof of your word
Both marketing approaches – the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ – aspire to attract attention. Both try to make your message memorable and to sell products and services. But it’s the shift of focus that makes the new approach a better proposition for business owners. Getting to grips with how your clients think, understanding their needs, and being clear about the problems you can solve for them should reap benefits.
How recruiters are nurturing leads
One space where social media and content is transforming the space is recruitment, with candidate nurturing gaining ground.
Johnny Campbell, founder of internet recruitment training business Social Talent, says: “This nurturing model for leads comes from sales and marketing, of course, where potential customers are all recognised as being at different stages of intent to purchase – for example hot, warm or cold. The same premise is now being applied to a long list of candidates, with lots of subtle retargeting online once there is some engagement, in order to move candidates along the pipeline of opportunity.”
Those who interact by watching videos or participating in surveys or consuming content in other ways online get moved along the opportunity funnel because taking these actions implies they are interested.
“As a strategy, it’s more targeted than other channels, and you can start showing engaged candidates available jobs or relevant information.”
The sociable small retailer
In retail, the opportunity is subtly different but the underlying principles are similar.
Marc Robinson is managing director of Cardiff Sports Nutrition (CSN), which supplies sports nutrition and sports supplements from many well-known brands. CSN moved online three years ago and today engages customers through various channels, including e-newsletters and emailed offers circulated to opted-in customers twice weekly.
“We are also active with offers and advice on social media – particularly Facebook and Instagram, Twitter and, more recently, Google Plus,” adds Robinson.
“If you are going to be on any social channel, you need to be active on it,” he adds. “You can’t just broadcast either: you need to reply and interact and be truly social for these channels to work. In our experience, you should reply as instantly as you possibly can. It’s a way for us to stand out as an independent, as many of the bigger retailers are slower to reply. It gives customers and would-be customers a great sense of security that you are there for them by being fast to respond.”
CSN is using analytics too to work its social media strategy.
“We look at conversion rates of particular campaigns and at traffic trends. You can start to categorise and learn how each social media channel lends itself to different approaches.”
For CSN, one learning has been that its instant offers and flash sales tactics work better on Twitter than Facebook, but at the same time, Facebook is useful for delivering demographic data that the business can learn from and leverage.
“Facebook is also useful as you can run MailChimp email campaigns that tie into Facebook data, and learn a lot in the process. It’s powerful stuff, and we are still learning all the time what’s possible,” adds Robinson.