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Back to basics: What's in a social lead?

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The term "lead" is sometimes thrown around out of context in the b-to-b industry. So much, in fact, that it's gotten to the point that there may be confusion around what even constitutes a lead these days, especially as more than half of b-to-b marketers incorporate more social channels into their overall lead-gen strategies this year. Sit in on a marketing or lead-nurturing discussion and you'll likely hear one or more of these questions come up: Is a "like" a lead? What can we do with all these retweets? Should these LinkedIn requests be sent to sales as "qualified leads" or to human resources as potential recruits? True, there are nuances across companies, and a lead for one may not be a qualified lead for another. But in the continuously evolving world of lead generation, it's essential for both sales and marketing teams to understand social media key performance indicators in order to more effectively vet leads and generate business through lead-gen campaigns. Here are three considerations for b-to-b companies that want to get more out of their social lead-gen campaigns: 1. Pick your channel. Each social media channel comes with its own benefits and challenges. As marketers explore each, they may find that one or two perform better than others; and it's OK to focus on research rather than stretch your budget simply to check all the social boxes. LinkedIn would be the most apparent first choice for any b-to-b marketer. A well-known study by Hubspot has been making its rounds for a while now, saying that LinkedIn is 277% more effective for lead generation than either Twitter or Facebook, generating a 2.74% visitor-to-lead conversion rate. Additionally, annual content download reports from Madison Logic's platform for lead generation have shown almost half a million content downloads solely from relevant placement within LinkedIn Group newsletters. It may also be beneficial for marketers to consider (or reconsider) Twitter. In a recent study of more than 6,000 Twitter users, 59% visited a b-to-b tech site during the study period, compared with 40% of average Internet users. In addition, 30% of Twitter users searched for a b-to-b brand, compared with only 12% of average Internet users. But the finding that should really cause marketers to sit up and take notice: 11% of Twitter users who saw a tweet from a b-to-b tech brand went on to convert on the company's website. 2. Know when to hold, when to fold. B-to-b marketers know that customer sales cycles can be achingly slow. Although a sale rarely happens overnight in our world, the addition of social lead-gen tactics, due to their always-on, real-time nature, can certainly speed things up. However, in an effort to not spend an entire day on Facebook undirected, it's a great idea to apply a little data science to help predict behaviors and, ideally, use the knowledge to help the customer move more efficiently through the sales cycle. By compiling lead behavior maps and analyzing plan-to-purchase trends, b-to-b marketers are not only more aware of the attributes of a good social lead, they are also more aware when leads start to turn cold, and they can reallocate resources appropriately. 3. Social is not a silo. This is a good rule of thumb for all marketing channels, but it bears repeating. As b-to-b marketers increase their spending on social media and start to see positive returns, social can become the shiny new object that steals focus and attention away from the big picture of your well-rounded lead-gen strategy. Don't forget to take what you learn there and consider how it can affect your strategy across other channels. For example, if you find that your hottest leads are coming from one or two LinkedIn groups, what else can those groups or their members tell you about your perfect customer? If your Twitter performance is consistently strong between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, perhaps you should schedule your next webinar then. Social is not to be ignored, but it's also not to be feared, as the basics are also the basics of any good marketing or lead-gen campaign. The more you know, through a better understanding of the metrics that matter for your business, the more effective you can be across your holistic lead-gen strategy. Erik Matlick is CEO of lead-generation company Madison Logic (www.madisonlogic.com). He can be reached at erik@madisonlogic.com.
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