How Effective is B2B Social Media Marketing for Manufacturers?

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How much are you planning to spend on B2B manufacturing marketing in 2020? If you’re like most manufacturers, your marketing budget is 6.25% of annual revenue. No matter how much or how little you spend, however, you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about social media marketing (SMM). It seems to work well for business-to-consumer (B2C) brands like Pop-Tarts and Target, but what about business-to-business (B2B) SMM for manufacturers? 
Determining whether B2B social media marketing works (or would work) for your manufacturing company involves asking and answering a few basic questions. 

  • What do you expect B2B SMM to accomplish?
  • What will you measure – and how can you gauge success?
  • Who is responsible for strategy and tactics?

Let’s consider each question so that you can formulate your own answers. 
What do you expect B2B SMM to accomplish?
When B2B social media marketing was new, it seemed so revolutionary that some companies engaged in wishful thinking. Personally, I remember working with an industrial distributor who believed it was possible to sell a $20,000 product with a single tweet. Equating marketing with sales wasn’t the only issue, however. The industrial buy cycle was and is a long, complicated process. If you’re expecting immediate or even near-term sales from B2B SMM, you’ll probably be disappointed.  
What can you expect to accomplish then? B2B SMM is a scalable way to build brand awareness. Potential customers can’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist, and your current customers may not know about all of your products and services. Remember The Rule of 7 here, too. This marketing principle states that people need to encounter your offer at least seven times before they really notice it and begin to act upon it. Do you see how B2B SMM is repeatable in a way that a single visit to a tradeshow booth is not?
What will you measure – and how can you gauge success? 
By now, you may have concluded (correctly) that tying sales dollars to social media communications is easier said than done. What will you measure then? If you ask a marketer for metrics, expect to receive reporting about tweets, posts, updates, followers, likes, and views. These are useful numbers for measuring effort and engagement, but they won’t help you make payroll. Don’t blame the marketers, however. Without the right tools, how can they know if B2B SMM is creating sales opportunities?      
Salespeople need to ask prospects how they heard about your company and then share this information with marketing. That’s where having a good website and the right software can help. Let’s say you create a social media post that invites readers to download a white paper from your website. Six months later, a reader becomes a customer. Did your marketing software capture the download? Did your customer relationship management (CRM) system identify the lead source as the white paper?           
Who is responsible for strategy and tactics? 
Many companies invest in marketing software in the hope that the right tool is all that they need. Then the people who bought the software become too busy to use it. Whether you keep your marketing in-house or out-source some or all your efforts, you need more than a platform. You need a B2B SMM strategy. An occasional tweet or post by an intern is not enough. You might get lucky and get discovered by a buyer with an urgent need, but the Industrial Buy Cycle and The Rule of 7 suggests otherwise.  
A marketer can develop your strategy, but there’s a tactical role for your salespeople. It will help them, too. Did you know that 78% of salespeople who engage in social selling outsell their peers who don’t? If that’s not good enough, consider that 92% of B2B buyers are willing to engage with a salesperson who is a known industry thought leader? The website OptinMonster has many more metrics for you to consider. Plus, your sales team can use B2B SMM to discover new companies to prospect.    
B2B Social Media Marketing in 2020
No matter how much you plan to spend on marketing in 2020, there’s probably a role for B2B SMM if your expectations are realistic, you know what you’ll measure, and you have a way to gauge success. Remember to assign responsibility for strategy and tactics, too. When marketing and sales teams work together, the entire enterprise benefits.  


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