How to reach B2B customers has been a constant challengers for marketers, and this has certainly been the case in the digital world.  Especially in social media there is never a shortage of sites vying for your attention, with barely a week going by without a new network arriving on the scene to demand a presence.

New research by the Aberdeen Group suggests that many marketers are still not seeing strong responses from social media activity, although the best do appear to significantly outperform the rest.

So how can you join the best of breed?

I've been doing social media almost exlusively in the B2B space for the last few years and there are some clear lessons that can be learnt from that time. 

I would break down the task of the B2B marketer as providing content and providing community. 

1. Content rules

The Process Excellence Network have done some research into what B2B professionals want from the site recently.  The top two items are white papers and webinars.  So they want substantial content either in textual format or via a more visual format. 

Marketers have found both of these approaches very effective at reaching B2B professionals because they:

  1. provide an answer to a problem the customer is having
  2. provide that answer in a format that suits them
  3. gets straight to the point and does not waste their time
  4. provide an excellent pre-sell and start the relationship with the customer, making follow-up much easier

2. Community is king

Something else to consider is community.  I wrote an article for Social Business News this week after new research revealed the massive financial benefits of having a strong community around your company or topic area.  The research revealed that if your customers have excellent relationships with each other, then the impact on your bottom line is exceptional.

This is something that many marketers fail with because they cannot resist the urge to sell at all times.  If you can focus instead on developing the relationships between your customers though the evidence suggests that you will reap some excellent results.

Now none of this is really all that remarkable.  Provide content that solves a clear customer problem is not something any marketer should need reminding, whilst things like Metcalfe's Law should tell anyone the power and importance of a well connected network of customers, yet research by Price Waterhouse Cooper last year showed just how many B2B marketers are failing.

Great content.  Great community.  Nail those two things and the leads will flood in.