Interacting with your B2B ecommerce customers in a social way outside of the buying process will increase brand awareness and loyalty as well as increase sales. I’m not talking about taking a prospect out for dinner and drinks. I’m referring to social media interactions here. While connecting with your customer outside of the ecommerce transaction might seem like a difficult prospect, I guarantee that doing so will drive measurable results to your bottom line.
The reality of the B2B world is that most organizations are fairly isolated. Product catalogs are often tightly secured to keep prices and product-specific details out of the competition’s rach. Most B2B organizations interact with their customers at a transactional level only, leaving a lot of non-transactional information out of the mix. Finding a way to interact with your customers on a more social level will not only open you up to a whole host of feedback about what the customer wants and needs, but you will increase mind share and market share at the same time.
The key lies in finding ways to interact that don’t feel like a sales pitch. Let me make this extremely clear–in order for social interaction to work, you must never, NEVER, NEVER use those interactions as a platform for a sales pitch. Nothing will send your customers running for the hills faster than the idea that they are about to get the sales department’s dog-and-pony show. With that said, if you can provide an agnostic industry experience for your target customers, you will find that you have access to a considerable amount of business-changing information you would never have had otherwise.
- Launch an industry-related blog and post to it regularly. An active blog that provides industry-specific content on a regular basis will quickly position your organization as a resource within your industry. The trick is to never sell your product on your blog. In fact–don’t even mention your product–but feel free to talk about features and functionalities that your product provides. Check out this blog post for more information about how to effectively use a blog to promote B2B ecommerce.
- Create a LinkedIn group. If your target audience doesn’t have a natural place to hang out online and share best practices already, start up a group on LinkedIn. Invite key customers you already have connections with to join and reach out to other groups with members who meet your target demographics. Post your blog content to the group to get conversations started along with any industry-related news and links. Keep at it and soon you will have a thriving group of professionals who view your group as a source for information as well as a forum to share questions, concerns, and needs.
- Post essential videos on YouTube and on your site. Creating a library of essential product or “how-to” videos on YouTube will allow your customers to view the content and share it with their associates in the industry. Also consider hosting those same videos–without the YouTube branding–on your website. To learn about how to host videos on your website, checkout Brightcove for an inexpensive and wickedly easy video hosting tool.
- Allow customers to post product reviews to your site. Giving your customers the opportunity to review your products online–without editing out the less-than-perfect reviews–will allow them to share their feedback with other customers and with you. Allowing reviews lets the customer know that their opinions are valued and you are likely to learn things you wouldn’t learn otherwise.
- Join a relevant professional association. Professional associations are a natural place to interact with your customers on a non-transactional basis. For example, if you are a widget maker and you belong to the International Widget Maker’s Association, you will have multiple opportunities over the course of a year to reach out to your most natural audience in person and electronically.
- Start an industry association. No professional association in your industry? Start one and become the company brand associated with creating a place for your customers to come for industry-leading trends and best practices. Getting involved with launching an industry-specific professional organization is a large undertaking but will certainly pay dividends if you are truly meeting an untapped need within your industry.
Interacting with your target market on a more social level can drive significant results for your ecommerce initiative. Those results may include increased sales, increased brand awareness, increased customer mind share, and critical information about what your customer needs and wants–directly from the customer.