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There's nothing we love more than solutions—top-notch insights from top-of-the-line experts that help solve common marketing problems. Here's this week's problem and expert solution.

Problem

We have a great B2B sales team. We've made a couple of forays into social media, and we like what we see! But what tactics are really working out there to draw prospects in—and not turn them off? What are some cool ways to match social with selling?

Expert: Kipp Bodnar

Kipp is Inbound Marketing Manager at HubSpot and the publisher of SocialMediaB2B.com, a multi-author blog for B2B companies planning to incorporate social media into their marketing strategies. He also blogs on technology and social media at his personal blog, DigitalCapitalism.com.

Solution

The key to monetizing B2B social media is to find ways to use the Web to solve problems for prospects, Kipp explains. "Problem-solving has always been a major aspect of what we do for our customers," he notes. "Now, B2B companies can use social media to better identify customer needs—and, by addressing them, improve engagement."

Here are a few key steps to take to blend social with selling.

1. Observe

"The first step in this process is to see what others are doing," Kipp advises. "Look to online resources that are B2B sales-focused." Perform keyword searches to find blogs, sites, and communities that match your industry or focus.

You may find that industries tend to behave differently online, he notes. For instance, computer professionals such as software vendors "may spend more time on Twitter and message boards, while consultants and others in service-based industries may prefer sites like LinkedIn."

Regardless of the industry, you'll find one common thread in social-media conversations, he observes: "Every B2B customer thinks their niche is a difficult one." And that's a key point of entry, he notes: "You can find an empathy point with any prospect based on the business challenges they face."

2. Isolate

As you listen to the conversations taking place at the sites you choose to monitor, you'll begin to isolate the key questions people are asking. "Hang out in groups dedicated to your target audience," he suggests.

"Start to provide some feedback to the ongoing chats. As people heed your advice, you'll go up the list of folks they may consider calling on for help."

3. Study

How do you learn to solve problems online like a pro? Kipp suggests you check out some trade-organization websites. "You can trust that trade associations have spent time researching what's on their members' minds, what the major challenges are in their industry. Study the topics at their sites, and become familiar with the issues of the day. And observe how they're serving their members' needs."

As you become better acquainted with the challenges your prospects face, you'll also naturally begin to isolate ways that your company can help, he notes.

4. Own it

The final step is to create an online presence—to "own some type of Web property"—where you can provide unique solutions that draw visitors in. "Build a hub, a home base, where you address the questions of the day," he advises. For instance, you can "start a blog that's dedicated to answering the questions of the community."

5. Market it

Finally, apply inbound-marketing tactics to your Web entity. "Ask visitors to sign in and provide their email addresses; optimize content so that you'll be picked up by search engines," he suggests. You can then begin to turn the resulting prospects into clients.

* * *

"The process behind blending B2B social media with selling is to learn the challenges facing your prospects, create valuable information to address those challenges, share it with folks who think it is valuable, build professional connections, and then begin to monetize your relationships," Kipp concludes.

Problem solved!

Don't miss Kipp Bodnar's session, Driving and Measuring B2B Conversations, Leads and Sales with Social Media Marketing, at the B2B Forum in Boston, May 3-5. Bring your company profile—and your B2B social media questions!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire Coyne is a writer and editor for MarketingProfs. Reach her via clairec@marketingprofs.com.