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Best-in-Class B2B companies generate on average 17% of their leads from social media channels, roughly 230% more marketing-generated leads than other companies (5%), according to a new report by Aberdeen Group, which examines the social marketing strategies of top-performing B2B companies.

In the new report, titled "B2B Social Meeting Marketing: Are We There Yet," Aberdeen uses four key performance criteria to distinguish the Best-in-Class (top 20% of aggregate performers) from the Industry Average (middle 50%) and Laggard (bottom 30%) organizations.

The top 20% of companies (i.e., Best-in-Class) have achieved the following performance metrics:

  1. Average annual company revenue growth of 20%, compared with 8% for Industry Average and -3% for Laggard firms.
  2. 10% average year-over-year improvement of marketing leads resulting in closed business, compared with 3% for the Industry Average and -1% for Laggard firms.
  3. 44% of sales-forecasted pipeline generated by marketing, compared with 10% for Industry Average and 5% for Laggard firms.
  4. 73% annual customer retention rate, compared with 27% for Industry Average and 7% for Laggard firms.

Overall, 84% of all surveyed B2B companies are using social marketing in some form.

However, Best-in-Class companies are more likely to use social media primarily for lead-generation purposes, and more likely to integrate social marketing with other core channels and processes, the study found.

Below, additional findings from Aberdeen Group.

The Diminishing Influence of the Traditional Sales Cycle

Digital and social media have created an asymmetrical relationship between buyers and sellers, according to Aberdeen.

In this new environment, buyers have more information at their disposal than ever before as they discover and evaluate products. Aberdeen refers to this notion as the "hidden sales cycle."

Best-in-Class companies are combating the effects of the hidden sales cycle by listening to and engaging with would-be buyers across social media channels—and generating leads via social engagement. 

  • 47% of Best-in-Class companies cite expanding lead generation as their primary strategy with social media marketing efforts, and 13% cite generating leads as their secondary strategy.
  • 23% of Best-in-Class companies cite developing clear business processes for social marketing as their top strategy, and 8% cite process development as a secondary strategy. 

Best-in-Class companies are also more actively engaged in social marketing: 80% say they are somewhat or actively involved in social media marketing, compared with 73% of Industry-Average firms and 60% of Laggards.

Integration With Other Marketing Channels

Best-in-Class companies are far more likely to integrate social media with other multi-channel marketing efforts.

  • Best-in-Class companies are 27% times more likely than Industry-Average firms to integrate email with social media (65% vs. 51%), and they are 33% more likely than Laggards to do so (65% vs. 49%). 
  • Best-in-Class companies are 24% times more likely than Industry-Average firms to integrate SEO with social media (61% vs. 49%), and they are 69% more likely than Laggards to do so (61% vs.36%). 

Best-in-Class companies also stand out in their adoption of various social technologies:

  • 51% of Best-in-Class companies use website social sharing tools, compared with 36% of Industry-Average firms.
  • 49% of Best-in-Class companies use keyword-based social media monitoring, compared with 39% of Industry-Average firms.
  • 21% of Best-in-Class companies use social sign-in, compared with 8% of Industry-Average firms.

Adopting Best Practices Now Matters More Than Experience

"Best-in-Class" performance in social media marketing is based on the execution of best practices now, rather than years of experience, Aberdeen found.

On average, Best-in-Class companies have been using social marketing for 2 years, only slightly longer than Industry-Average firms (1.7 years).

About the data: Findings from "B2B Social Media Marketing: Are We There Yet? " are based on a survey of 500 B2B companies, conducted by Aberdeen Group in sponsorship with Silverpop and Eloqua, October to December 2011.

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