Lee Odden

B2B Marketing on Facebook? Yes! So Say IBM, Volvo, Salesforce & Lattice Engines

b2b marketing

It goes without saying that Facebook is most commonly associated with consumer marketing since it’s hardly a place for industrial engineers to talk about the latest manufacturing process or for enterprise software companies to promote side by side feature comparisons.

But behind those companies are people – both on the brand and the buyer side of the B’s in B2B. B’s are people too and those people use Facebook to connect with peers socially. They may not look for product spec sheets for manufacturing hardware on Facebook, but they can get an idea of the people behind the companies they buy from as well as a more personal look at companies outside of nuts and bolts, hardware and software.

Enter our experts in B2B Marketing who use Facebook to do just that. At MarketingProfs B2B Forum last week, Joel Book from Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Katie Keating from IBM and Amanda Maksymiw from Lattice Engines came together for a panel on B2B Marketing and Facebook.

The panel moderator was John Haydon from Inbound Zombie.

Joel Book
First up was Joel Book @JoelBook, Principal, Marketing Insights at Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly ExactTarget). Joel talked about his client, Volvo Construction Equipment of North America and how they have been using Facebook for B2B.  If you haven’t heard of Volvo CE, they compete with CAT, Deere and other manufacturers of heavy equipment.

Volvo’s multichannel strategy for acquisition, selling and service of customers includes:
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Trade Shows, Remarketing Email, Volvo Construction Dealers, volvoce.com, Monthly Email and more. But Facebook has been particularly effective. Said one Volvo executive:

“For Volvo Construction Equipment, Facebook has been the number one social media technology for posting equipment as well as promotions and generating leads”

In Spring of 2013 Volvo CE started using Facebook ads to engage prospects by providing links to content which sent traffic to volvoCE.com. There they could convert to email subscribers.  After that, Volvo began targeting existing customers with Facebook ads.

Volvo CE Facebook

Targeted Facebook Ads were very successful for Volvo CE. Some of the targeting options focused on Facebook users with interests in the kinds of equipment Volvo CE customers buy as well as construction equipment brands that are competitive to Volvo CE.

Volvo Lego Technic

Volvo partnered with Lego to create a Lego Technic L350F toy targeted towards individuals with specific interests in construction equipment. Promoted on Facebook and elsewhere, this was a big PR success and created brand awareness as well as adding 1,200 names to their prospect email list.

A few tips on Facebook Marketing for B2B companies from Joel:

1. Create a “social profile” of your best customers using a tool like Active Audiences from Salesforce Marketing Cloud, then use that profile to identify and target prospective customers with direct response ads using Facebook Custom Audiences.

2. Use Facebook Custom Audiences to target and attract prospective email subscribers. 68% of B2B brands say email is “core” to their business. And more B2B brands are discovering that Facebook is their top source for attracting new subscribers.

Katie Keating
Next up was Katie Keating @ThingsSheSaid and Engagement Strategist at IBM. Katie manages all corporate social media channels for IBM, including Facebook. Her advice for B2B marketers on Facebook:

Visuals are essential. Show things behind the scenes, people, clients, and products. These are all important for driving engagement.

IBM Facebook

Think like a B2C – How do people experience your brand if they can’t touch it? For IBM it’s through their employees. IBM is spending effort on empowering employees to be brand advocates on social networks.

Try new tactics – IBM has tried things like Facebook chats and influencer research. They actually created a tool to mine influencers in India and engaged with them. This was all organic.

Let your audience “exhale” with content that’s just for fun. B2B Facebook content needs to break from products and services. Use Facebook ads to make sure you’re reaching target audiences.

On IBM’s Facebook page, they share the company’s history of innovation and behind the scenes content.  Facebook post performance is closely monitored and if a post resonates organically, IBM will support it for further amplification with Facebook ads.

Amanda Maksymiw
Last up is Amanda Maksymiw @amandamaks Content Marketing Manager at Lattice Engines, which sells predictive analytics to mid market and enterprise companies.

The Lattice Engines product is a new thing, predicting who your next customers will be, so a lot of their content is educational.

Lattice Engines’ goal with Facebook: Humanize the brand to attract and retain talent, drive engagement with Lattice Engines brand, retarget influencers, prospects and customers. Facebook ad targeting is based on interests of buyers and competitors.

Lattice Engines Facebook

Along with posting content on Facebook are offers such as the opportunity to attend a webinar.

The Lattice Engines company Facebook page is very employee focused. They engage with Facebook fans through images, conversations, text and video content.

A few tips form Amanda for B2B Marketers on Facebook:

  • Create and share a blend of personality and professional content. Post pictures of employees and content efforts.
  • Post pictures with short text – it leads to higher engagement.
  • Hone targeting and retargeting skills to grow, engage and convert your audience. Target based on email addresses, (custom audiences) location and interests.

So it sounds like a “human to human” approach beyond the business side of B2B actually has some legs when it comes to social networks like Facebook. Like any effort to connect with business buyers in new ways, it makes sense to experiment. See what is already happening in a B2B context in your industry, amongst competitors and early adopters within your own company. Decide what your goals are and be committed to both understanding the targeting options within Facebook as well as the type of content that will connect with business buyers when the situation is not all business.

Are you using Facebook as part of your B2B marketing mix? What lessons have you learned?

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About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.