Social media must integrate with lead generation efforts. For B2B digital marketers, that’s a foregone conclusion. Our challenge now lies in answering the question:
How does social media fit into each stage of lead nurture?
Social media’s fit with lead generation can be challenging to grasp, at first. This is partly because communication processes in a traditional B2B lead nurture “funnel” are visualized as sequential – Awareness + Consideration + Trial = Sale, for example. (Visualizing a funnel sequentially helps marketers tailor emails and other content to the steps prospects take as they move toward a purchase.)
However, a prospect’s use of social media may not have a tidy, sequential pattern to it, which is one reason why visualizing the impact of social media on the funnel can be challenging. As I considered the impact of social channels on my own lead generation programs, I realized I had to take into account the fact that my potential customers can engage with social media throughout their buying cycle.
Since my prospects’ needs evolve as they move from early-stage awareness through late-stage vendor validation, what social media can contribute to their process evolves also.
Unique Social Engagement Opportunities Show Up in Every Stage of Lead Nurture
To sharpen my own thinking on this topic, I chose a lead generation funnel schematic, and asked myself, “How could social media impact prospects at each stage of lead nurture?”
The funnel I used was SiriusDecisions’ new Demand Waterfall, their equivalent of a “funnel,” introduced at the May 2012 Summit. I chose their schematic because they include marketing automation in the lead qualification process. (Scroll to the end of this post for a list blog posts about SiriusDecision’s Waterfall.)
Here’s a quick tour of the lead nurture phases, per SiriusDecisions, and a few observations about the impact of social media and marketing automation in each.
PHASE 1: INQUIRY
Includes: Inbound and Outbound marcom activities
Social media impact on Phase 1: visibility and approachability. During this phase, marketers try to start relationships with prospects. Social media can:
- Improve prospects’ chances of seeing relevant web content in organic search. Search engines are placing more importance on “social signals” when determining the ranking of keyword-optimized content.
- Increase the chance that prospects will hear about a solution from people they trust. Social media helps marketers leverage a large network of “influencers” or thought leaders.
- Allow prospects to discover new solutions, and ask for more information, while hanging out in communities where they’re comfortable. Marketers can take their messages to prospects’ digital comfort zones, then give them the chance to opt in to email communication.
How marketing automation fits in: Software simplifies the task of adding social touches to traditional marketing tactics, such as featuring YouTube videos or social sign-in to landing pages. Some programs allow marketers to research key social influencers in their niche. Automation platforms also simplify the task of coordinating status updates, blogs, tweets and email sends.
PHASE 2: MARKETING QUALIFICATION
Includes: Automation-Qualified Leads (AQLs), Teleprospecting Accepted Leads (TALs), Teleprospecting Qualified Leads (TQLs) and Teleprospecting Generated Leads (TGLs).
Social media impact on Phase 2: social sharing of content and insight into prospects’ needs. At this point, marketers are trying to increase the number of people being nurtured within a target account, provide a personal touch to those relationships and accelerate their progress through the funnel. Social media can:
- Encourage prospects to share content with others in their company. Social channels provide effective alternatives to email, or extend the reach of email.
- Improve the sales experience for potential clients. Teleprospectors can use social media to research prospects and tailor conversations specifically to their needs.
How marketing automation fits in: Some automation platforms now have social sharing features embedded in emails, which improves viral marketing. Others enrich CRMs with social data, which improves telesales’ productivity. MA tools also score leads, an essential function required for Automation Qualified Leads.
PHASE 3: SALES QUALIFICATION
Includes: Sales Generated Leads (SGLs), Sales Accepted Leads (SALs), and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).
Social media impact on Phase 3: showcase for consultative expertise and insight into prospects’ needs. As Sales engages with mature leads, they need to maintain the trust that has been built through Phases 1 and 2. At this point, social media can:
- Provide prospects with proof of the sales person’s expertise. Consultative sales representatives can use their personal social profiles to engage their industry through LinkedIn, Twitter and other forums. This enhances their value as true consultative partners.
- Improve the sales experience for potential clients, similar to Phase 2.
How marketing automation fits in: Automation software allows emails to be customized with the sales manager’s name, reinforcing the personal relationship he/she has developed with the prospect. As indicated above, some automation platforms enrich prospect profiles with social data. MA tools can also be programmed to revisit qualified prospects who fall out of the funnel at this stage.
The last phase in the funnel, called “Close,” opens a new door for social media engagement with customers post-sale, also supported by marketing automation features.
So what are your thoughts about the connection between lead generation and social media? And be sure to review the blog posts below.