Set strategy backward, put audience first

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BtoB: How can a company tell which social media tool is best for it?

Laura Ramos: If a b-to-b company starts its social media plans by deciding which tool to use, it is going about setting strategy backward. Based on my experience at Xerox and Forrester Research, I found b-to-b marketers who set social media strategy successfully start with audience and objectives first. At Forrester, we created an acronym, called POST, to help marketers remember to do this. POST stands for “People, Objectives, Strategy and Tactics/Tools.” This isn't easy, but it keeps marketers from starting social activities that deliver disappointing results or that they have to abandon later.

BtoB: How can you assure that a customer is going to get what you want out of a website?

Ramos: The b-to-b marketer should set website strategy by starting with audience and its goals, not the company's. I see many b-to-b sites that are inside out—the sites focus inwardly on telling the company's story and promoting its products and capabilities. By and large, the site ignores the customer's motivations for visiting the site. Instead, sites should be outside in and work to help visitors achieve their goals. Those goals can vary, so the Web manager must understand what customers want to accomplish when visiting the site. Site design should help educate them, answer their questions or let them conduct transactions. When you help them to achieve goals, visitors find your site valuable and will visit it more often.

BtoB: What is the best way to maintain customer interest using social media on a website?

Ramos: Keeping customers engaged on the Web challenges many b-to-b marketers. Because b-to-b sites tend to be inside out, most miss opportunities to gather information from potential buyers that could help sales and marketing learn more. Good content is essential because it attracts the buyer to the site. However, once you get visitors onto the site, the content and experience must engage them actively. Use short surveys, videos, discussions or interactive experiences like Xerox's Ready for Real Business to do this. Beyond time frame and purchase authority, collect information that delves deeper into the buying process like which capabilities buyers most desire and what factors will most influence their decision to purchase.

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