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How Marketers Can Humanize B2B Outreach in 2012


More forward thinking companies that market their business-to-business (B2B) offerings online are using social media as a key ingredient of their marketing mix.

Marketers believe that the more focused B2B networking sites, such as LinkedIn, are an effective way to generate leads -- while more casual social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, are helping to reach customers in new ways.

"Leveraging social media for branding and awareness-building can help humanize B2B companies, establish them as thought leaders, and offer new touch-points for connecting with customers and prospects,” said Kimberly Maul, analyst at eMarketer.

Social Media Marketing as a Mainstream Practice

As of May 2011, 89 percent of U.S. based B2B companies were using social media marketing, according to web survey company iTracks. Their survey was conducted among Business Marketing Association members, CMOs and other senior employees overseeing B2B marketing programs.

The majority of survey respondents cite LinkedIn as the top B2B social media site, but others prefer Facebook and Twitter. According to Sagefrog Marketing Group, in summer 2011, 58 percent of U.S. B2B marketers that used social media used LinkedIn, compared to 50 percent for Facebook and 43 percent for Twitter.

While LinkedIn has proven successful for reaching customers and demonstrating thought leadership, B2B marketers are also working to leverage it to attract customers back to their own community sites and forums.

Some have already learned how to connect their online outreach efforts to leads and sales. We can anticipate that those efforts will likely increase in 2012.

The Most Credible People will Influence Buyers Online

"In addition to exposure metrics and engagement, marketers will need to develop strategies and goals with measurement in mind and follow their customers throughout the buying cycle to make that connection," said Maul.

Besides, I believe that savvy marketing executives will more effectively utilize acknowledged internal thought-leader talent to be the credible public-facing spokesperson for companies -- regardless of their rank or job title.

Customers and prospects are more likely to "follow" the authentic employees that they can relate to, not merely the companies or organizations that they represent. That's how you can really make your people-centered marketing strategy more meaningful next year.

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