There is often a lot of uncertainty surrounding social media marketing, especially among B2B companies. There is the time crunch to create content for the various platforms. The pressure to keep up with other brands. And questions about future trends.
Kathy Dunlay helps bring clarity and direction to companies looking to maximize their social media efforts. The Founder of New England Sales & Marketing has over 30 years of strategic marketing experience in the tech and digital spaces. Her firm leverages multi-channel campaigns to generate sales demands and she brings her expertise to answering the big social media marketing questions, including:
- How has B2B social marketing evolved
- What are the most effective ways to utilize social media for sales
- Have we reached the limits of marketing automation
- What is next for social media marketing
- And more
Kathy’s mantra is “don’t implement other people’s best practices, figure out your own.” Listen now to start figuring out what social marketing efforts are right for you.
Mentioned in this episode:
Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered. Insider secrets for digital marketing success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is how to use social media for b2b marketing. Here to speak with me is Kathy Dunlay who is the founder of New England Sales and Marketing, an on call marketing department providing b2b sales lead generation in all formats. Kathy has over 30 years of experience in strategic marketing primarily for technology companies. In 2003, she broke into the digital marketing space managing seven figure Google AdWords budgets and affiliate marketing partnerships. 18 years later, and 900 email campaigns, she has her own demand generation firm leveraging multi channel campaigns that help her customers get sales started. Kathy, welcome to the show.
Kathy Dunlay: Thank you very much, Steffen. Glad to be here.
Steffen: Now, Kathy, before we talk about how to use social media for b2b marketing, I’d love to find a little bit more about yourself. So tell our listeners about how you got started in your career, in particular, digital marketing.
Kathy: Absolutely. So that year 2003, it was quite pivotal, in that I made a huge transition into digital marketing. Now prior to that, I did have a long history with b2b technology companies and doing strategic marketing there. But what really made a difference is when I jumped into work for a large website that generates inbound leads, it was a very intense lead generation strategy. So every dime mattered, we needed to really reduce cost per lead, and really manage a large portfolio of lead generation generation channels. And as you said, email was really used intensively. Hundreds of email campaigns, hundreds of usability tests, you know, well over a million dollars a year in Google AdWords and affiliate marketing partner programs. So it was a really tremendous experience.
And this continued for years and years. So I kind of jumped into digital marketing with both feet, learned a lot. Learned about how to optimize these different programs. So then, when social media came along, a few years later, I was extremely comfortable and familiar with the concept of how end users behave online. And so that made a really huge difference for how I viewed social media, and how I could help my clients because at that point, in 2010, I launched my own firm, my own demand generation firm. And it was a time when organization when particularly b2b technology companies, were really looking around and saying, wow, what do I need to do with this social media. So it was a really great introduction to digital marketing, and one that has helped me through social media. And it’s helped me right to this very day. So thanks for asking about that.
Steffen: When you founded your your company, your lead generation company was that when you first got involved with b2b social media, or was it earlier?
Kathy: The social media involvement was a bit earlier. It was a couple of years earlier. And that was just excellent timing. Because as I said, the clients that I was experiencing back, back then were just starting to dip their toe in the water of social media. And they were starting, frankly, to get really concerned about it. Because again, these were overwhelmingly b2b companies, and specifically b2b technology. So they were looking around and starting to see stories about how it was working so well for these consumer brands, right.
These very large consumer brands that we all know whether there was airlines or cable companies or retailers or, you know, really fun consumer brands that people like to engage with. And they were hearing all these stories about how powerful it could be. And they were trying to figure out how it could be powerful for them. So to have that, you know, to have that experience, seeing what b2b technology companies were struggling with, really helped me to define my offerings in that space. So that really started a little bit before I launched the company in 2010.
Steffen: So how did b2b marketing through social media look like at that point?
Kathy: At that point, there was a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt, a tremendous amount within the market within the b2b technology companies. As far as platforms were concerned, they were feeling extreme pressure to somehow put content out there. And this was something that no one had time for. And in that kind of persists to this day. If you think about it, if you are, if you work in marketing, or sales, or engineering for b2b technology company, do you have time as if you’re in the marketing department? Do you have time to make your company a production house producing new content? If you’re a salesperson, if you’re engineer, do you have time to write blog articles? And to tweet? You really don’t. And what kind of content are you going to use?
So there were a lot of questions. And I did a lot of training at that time as well, because one of the things I kept hearing is, I’ve got to tweet, I’ve got to start tweeting, I’ve got to start tweeting, I’ve got to launch a blog. And that is a lot easier said than done. So that’s when I started to really pioneer these programs. And I had the privilege of putting social media programs in place for the first time at b2b technology companies that, you know, were really trying to figure it out. So the big platforms were, you know, were Twitter and LinkedIn, and trying to figure out how to blog on a regular basis. And that’s what it looked like then. It was really a race to try to participate on those different platforms.
Steffen: Yeah, I remember those times. I mean, whenever something just starts off, there’s always the question in, you know, is it worth your time, right? I mean, if, if we look at today, you know, it’s no question that there is either an individual in the company or even a department that focuses on content creation, social media, marketing, etc. But back then, the value what not was not proved, you know. People didn’t know, if I do that, what do I get out of it. So therefore, it was hard for them to say, okay, I carve out a certain amount of time, to basically create content, to create tweets, to create LinkedIn posts, and those kind of things.
Kathy: Exactly. And I think, unfortunately, they were taking, the people who were needing to participate, were taking their cue from the wrong places. And by this, I mean, the consumer brands. And one of the things that I had to keep reminding people is, and I still do to this day, do not implement other people’s best practices, figure out your own. Do the testing, so that you can figure out what the ROI is or is not for you. And what does it take to make a difference? And as you know, these questions, they even come up to this day, like, oh, you know, when is the best time for me to be on social media? Or when is the best day of the week to send an email? And I always say, you need to answer that question for yourself. And I can help you do the testing to get there. But your answer is going to be different than what you’re reading about. So that, especially at b2b technology companies, that’s something that is just so so critical, is to not you know, to not copy other people’s best practices.
I’ve seen too many times, there were some organizations I worked at or for where they do a, you know, they’d have a massively, after a lot of testing, we’d see that we had massive success with the quote, unquote, Friday email, the Friday email was huge. And we did a lot of testing to find that Friday, at four o’clock was the best day of the week to send this email. It optimized your open rates, and optimize your click through. Then I worked with other organizations that guess what, it was a totally different experience. And the big day of the week was Monday, so we had the Monday email at noon. So if you read other people’s articles, whether it be on email, or social media, you may be making a mistake, if you’re implementing their best practices and not figuring out your own.
Steffen: Yeah, it just underscores one thing, it’s like, you need to test at the end of the day. I mean, I don’t think there’s something wrong with reading best practices of other companies or what their cadence is, and how they do things, that is all great, but what it should do is it should kind of start a thought process for for the person that has to do it for their company. Think about you know, audiences are different, when people are active is different, how they have to be addressed are different, what content they need is different. So there are so many different elements and that also holds true these days, right? That needs to be adjusted in order to be successful. Just copying something is never a solution.
Kathy: Absolutely. And and that goes double if you are a particular type of company, like a b2b company, and then you’re you know, you’re reading the best practices of, you know, name a huge consumer brand. It can be very costly to make those kind of mistakes. So yeah, no, I’m with you.
Steffen: So as companies started to see success, and you know, message or articles about success in, in LinkedIn and Twitter started to come up? How did you see companies back then change their thinking and their approach?
Kathy: Well, they really struggled with what to outsource and what to do themselves in house. So I thought that was the big, those were some big questions that needed to be answered. So how they changed is, they might have done the reading that you’re talking about, or taking the trade, the training that we’re talking about. But it was interesting, because I could see, you know, there were organizations that I’d go in for the day or for the afternoon, and brief them on the different platforms and how they could or should be, you know, be using them. And I saw early on, I said, oh, this is, even as I was speaking the words, I thought this is going to be a real challenge for the you know, for these groups of people who are already working 10, 11, 12 hours a day.
So they began to just, you know, start with outsourcing as much as they could, and then maybe trying a little bit, you know, a literally a tweet here, a tweet there. And that that was sort of the immediate behavior changes. Okay, what, what about this can I do legitimately without crushing my schedule, and wasting my time, versus what can I outsource versus, and then as time went on, what would I be comfortable bringing in house? You know, should I hire a content manager? Should I hire a full time writer? Should I hire a full time social media manager? So that is how the behavior changed. It was from an organizational perspective, how am I going to build out this competency? And those were the initial changes.
Steffen: Where are we now as relates to b2b marketing? What are the effective ways to use social media to market b2b business, whether it’s services or products?
Kathy: Right. Well, to answer the first question, where are we today. In the b2b space, and I can speak for just the, you know, dozens and dozens and dozens of clients that I’ve had in the last a little over a decade. And I can tell you where they are today is there is actually a bit of disillusionment out there. So the the sort of mood, if you will, with some organizations is gee, you know, should I be doing something differently yet again, because I don’t know that social media is really fulfilling its promise. So I think that some people had in their mind that this was somehow a shortcut to moving their business forward. And unfortunately, even though it may look that way, because of how some people use something like LinkedIn, for example, so regularly, it makes people think, well, does that person know something that I don’t know?
And, you know, should I be changing my habits yet again? So for some organizations, and again, we’re talking b2b technology, they do still look to achieve, what exactly is the ROI on this? And is it worth our time or putting resources toward it? If so, why? So what they’re doing is getting fortunately, they’re getting better and better CRM systems in place that can help answer those questions, which is great. And I think that’s a real behavioral change that I’ve seen more recently, where yes, CRMs have been around for a very long time. But now companies are starting to use it in a more sophisticated way. It doesn’t mean it’s a more expensive system, they’re just really finally starting to use that HubSpot account that they bought years ago that they haven’t really, you know, didn’t really take full advantage of, and now they are.
So that’s wonderful, because it helps kind of prove the ongoing value of what they’re doing. But I will say another thing that they’ve done is they have literally put aside things that they have proven out not to be working for them. So in other words, there are a lot of people out there a lot of, you know, abandoned blogs and abandoned Twitter accounts. Now, I’m not saying that blogging and tweeting is bad. It’s it’s not, but some people found that it didn’t make sense for them. And maybe it made sense on a corporate perspective, but it didn’t make sense on an individual perspective. And, and that’s fine. So I think that’s again, another behavioral change we’ve seen is figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and what you can legitimately participate in, in what you can’t.
And then as far as, as far as what is working today, I see a lot of people in the b2b space, there’s a lot of activity around trying to continuously get more out of LinkedIn, trying to really squeeze the towel and figure out figured that platform out because they’re not necessarily using Facebook the you know, as a as a way to move their business forward. And they’re not necessarily using Twitter as a way to move their business forward. And again, I’m not saying people aren’t using these platforms, I’m just saying I see a real funneling effect where in the b2b space, in particular, I’m seeing that certain platforms have have kind of taken precedence.
And I think LinkedIn is one of the platforms that is taking precedence. And that’s why you still see people trying to train other people on LinkedIn these days. And it has changed quite a bit. But there are ways to effectively use it. Now you have this situation where over the last however many years, you have, whether you did it carefully or not, you now have a much larger, many people have a much larger LinkedIn network than they did however many years ago. So one of the most effective things you can do is really to attack it as as an individual as opposed to a, you know, a corporate brand. And make sure that you’re staying under the nose of your network.
Steffen: As it relates to LinkedIn, what I hear a lot, and we probably have to differentiate between the organic use of LinkedIn and then the paid use of LinkedIn. What I mean with paid obviously, is buying advertising on LinkedIn. Organic use is, you know, engaging with targets on LinkedIn, through messaging, and things like that. What I hear a lot on the on the paid use is LinkedIn doesn’t work for us. That’s that’s what I hear a lot. And what would we, for example, as an agency see quite a lot is that companies that have a true small lifetime value, are trying to make LinkedIn work.
From, from our experience, we see companies that have five to $10,000 in lifetime value do okay, do good on LinkedIn. If you have a lifetime value of a few $100,000, it’s quite difficult to make LinkedIn work from a performance perspective, just because you know, the CPCs are relatively high 9, 10, 11 plus dollars per click. And although they’re targeted, it still doesn’t mean that the that you find conversion rates of 10 plus percent. So what is what do you see when you when you work with companies? Do you see something similar? Or do these companies potentially do something wrong when it comes to paid advertising on LinkedIn?
Kathy: No, I do see something similar, I really couldn’t have said it better. A lot of organizations I work with have very high lifetime values. They are long, complex sales processes and cycles. But when they do have a client, it’s for a very long period of time, and for a very high investment. And this kind of I’m glad you you know, you went in this direction, because it is a great segue into something that I feel very passionately about discussing today. And that is another thing that has changed over time. And this is very specifically related to, to these platforms like LinkedIn in particular. Over the last few years, what have we seen, that is new and different, we’ve seen more and more and more marketing automation. And more and more attempted automation, it it’s things part of relationship building aspects of it that cannot be automated.
And so to answer your question about what I’m seeing is, I feel that we’ve gone kind of to in this applies to, you know, paid advertising on LinkedIn and in paid advertising in general. But on LinkedIn, in particular, where I feel like we’ve really reached the edge of trying to automate as much as we can. And I think that there are a lot of organizations that got lulled into thinking that certain things can be automated and should be automated, because they felt pressure to do so. And now, I feel like we’re we’re just starting to come away from that a little bit, and come back to instead of everything being a one to many communication, more of a one to one communication. And that may or may not sound efficient, because another another thing that we’ve gotten lulled into in the last five or 10 years is the concept of high everything being high volume, high volume outreach, and we have felt, you know, safe in that like, oh, it’s a numbers game.
If I reach out to enough people, then it will come back to me and I will get those inbound leads. And maybe that does work. But a lot of times I think the human outreach has been sacrificed in the process, because it’s an exciting Steffen to think that oh, wow. I don’t need to pick up the phone today. And I don’t need to pick it up once, nevermind 50 times. And oh, isn’t this great? You know The CRM is doing the work for me, or the paid ads are doing the work for me. But the fact of the matter is, they’re just kind of reconnaissance, you know, they’re just kind of maybe, maybe seeing where people might be raising their hand, but you still need to bring that opportunity in to land with a human interaction. So I think that some of the more strategic thinkers that I’m seeing are coming back from that edge of over automation and back to human communication.
Steffen: LinkedIn seems to be a very obvious social media channel for b2b marketing. How about Facebook or Instagram? What are your views on those two channels, using it to to create meaningful connections and then start a conversation?
Kathy: Well, it’s it’s very interesting, I had been discounting, Facebook, and Instagram for a while to that end. And then I did found I had some conversations with, with a b2b prospect of mine, that that kind of reminded me, it depends on who you’re targeting. So say, say, for example, you are b2b, but Facebook helps you target your ads in a very specific way. So that you can exactly target the person that you’re looking for. Even though it’s a b2b message, you can find that person on Facebook, sometimes in the ads can be can be quite effective. And the you know, the connection to Instagram can be quite effective.
So if you are in a b2b space, where you can target people appropriately, on Facebook, and in so doing also Instagram, then you have a real opportunity there. I wish there were more folks who could take advantage of that situation. But like I said, if you are in certain, you know, b2b technology spaces, it’s a little bit harder to do that, if you’re trying to target the technology buyer, that way, it can be a little bit more difficult. So again, it can work surprisingly well depending on your business model. And if the targeting works for you, and if the prospects that you need are, can be can be found very specifically on Facebook, and they are active on Instagram as well. Now I know that’s not a common situation in the b2b space, and certainly not so much in the b2b technology space.
Now there are people out there that might completely disagree with me, because they’re in this unique situation. And that’s great. So I guess my short answer is it can work in unique situations where you can adequately target your prospects via those kind of those kind of ads. But I think, frankly, and you know, I’d love to get your thoughts on this as well. I think we’re on we’re nearing a time of change in the in the platforms, I think we’re long overdue for an alternative platform. And I’m not talking about like, tik tok, for example. I’m saying LinkedIn, in particular, maybe Facebook, but if we can just, you know, address LinkedIn for a minute. I think we’re overdue for the new LinkedIn.
And I don’t know that that the new LinkedIn will come from the existing LinkedIn. I wonder if it’s going to come from another space, another vendor entirely. I think that LinkedIn has gone through a lot of changes in the last decade. And there are times I miss the old LinkedIn. And I think unfortunately, the spamming is awfully common right now. And again, you could have an entire discussion about this one topic alone. But I think that every day, LinkedIn is being used more and more and more and more for personal posts and content. And you can have a debate about whether that’s valuable or not. But we know but what do you think? Do you think that we’re coming due for a real shake up in especially for platforms that can be leveraged in the b2b space?
Steffen: Where LinkedIn is developing is kind of a result of the fact that they are a public company. And obviously, they need to generate money, right? So their entire, their entire setup is focused on that, to generate more revenue for them. Am I in agreement with you as it relates to that there needs to be an alternative solution. Yes. I wish I had an answer how that looks like because would be out there building it. But yeah, I think there is room in the market for for something new that provides similar solution, but has at some critical points improvements. Basically.
Kathy: It’s interesting, like I said, I miss some of the, the older, the older features. I miss the, you know, used to, as you might recall, have really, you could have really meaningful conversation in the groups. Um, that’s been gone for a very long time. You know, I mean, I could I could go on and on. But yeah, there’s, at the end of the day, no matter how you use LinkedIn, it’s it is meant for the career side of your life. And so when I, when I’m on LinkedIn, I’m doing it to further my business or the businesses of my clients. And, while, some of that more personal content is is definitely interesting, I’d love to read it. But I’d love to read it on Facebook, when I’m engaging, maybe you know, with a cup of tea at the end of the day, and I’m catching up with friends.
So it can be kind of the wrong message at the wrong time. Throughout the business day, you know, again, to get back to where we are, today, it’s about standing out in a meeting in a positive, professional way. And I think it’s about continuing to connect one on one in that customized fashion. So it’s still there’s still tremendous potential there. If you can kind of put aside, again, other people’s experiences and other people’s best practices and continue to find the way that it makes sense for you and your company. And as I, as we kind of indicated earlier, unlike being a consumer brand, if you are a b2b brand. And I mean, no offense to b2b brands, but it’s going to be harder for consumers to engage with a b2b brand, as passionately as they would with a consumer brand.
However, the upside is, who do you engage passionately with? Is it the b2b brand? Or is it the people that you know, or will meet that work for that b2b brand, right? We’ve done you know, I’ve done programs that show that the engagement with individuals on social media can be 1000 times higher than the engagement with b2b brands, corporate brands. So that’s a huge upside to consider that your you know, whatever your role is, with your b2b company, don’t rely on corporate marketing to do or your consultant to do all the social media heavy lifting for you. They can do a chunk of it, but engaging on your own with people in your network or bringing more relevant people into your network. That’s still your role. And it can be used very, very successfully in that way.
Steffen: Yeah, I mean, that at the end of the day, what you’re talking about is is building a funnel, right on the sales side, to build closer relationships. I think marketing obviously as a whole has a place a significant role there because you need to push content out whether that’s in a form of ads that that introduce your, your your solution, your service, and then lead to a content piece or to an informational page or whatever it is to kind of introduce your company, your service. However, at some point, when your sales people start calling up leads, etc, that’s when you then have to go into this one to one building relationship, identifying what are the pain points of a prospect?
And how can your service, your software, your solution, help them overcome them. And, you know, again, it’s part of the entire sales pipeline, that one to one conversion. If you don’t have that if you if you’re a business that can convert people on your website, because you offer them a demo, a 14 day trial. And then if they like it, they sign up. That’s great, you know, but in many b2b areas, I think that human touch is definitely required. Now, Kathy, we unfortunately come to the end of today’s podcast episode. Thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your thoughts on how to use social media for b2b marketing. Now if people want to find out more about you and your company, how can they get in touch?
Kathy: So probably the easiest way is to go to my website is www.gettingsalesstarted.com. Because that’s a huge part of what we do is getting the sales process started. So yeah, just visit us at gettingsalesstarted.com.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again. See you next time.
Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience focused and data driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com