As a B2B marketer in a startup, I am always thinking about how our marketing team can get smarter about the way we identify, build and nurture relationships with our potential buyers.
During my workday, I spend a lot of time reading articles, whitepapers and reports to see what insights I can glean that will help me do my job better.
One of the most interesting topics that’s emerging is the concept of “casual learning”.
If you’re not familiar with “casual learning” in the B2B marketing context, let me give you a brief overview.
In the traditional B2B buying paradigm, organizations assume that the buying process begins when a company’s leaders or managers recognize a problem, and decide to address the problem in some way. These “buyers” then gather information about the issues they face and possible solutions.
At this point, buyers have 24/7 access to information – through many more channels than ever before. Many people (myself included) are routinely consuming information about their business space long before they “actively look” for solutions.
There’s now a term for people who behave this way. They’re called “casual learners”.
As this article from Evolvedmedia says, casual learners are:
“educated, voracious consumers of industry-specific content and publications. They stay abreast of industry trends and hot topics; they keep their finger on the pulse of what’s new and innovative. They may even encounter a solution to their business problem before they knew they had one.”
Intuitively, it makes a lot of sense for B2B marketers to try to build and nurture relationships with casual learners. David Dodd in his LinkedIn article made this argument really well:
“Most B2B marketing tactics and programs are designed to identify business people who are ready to begin a buying process… At any given time, however, most of your potential customers aren’t likely to be “in-market”… Creating relationships with casual learners is important because the impressions they form during casual learning remain influential when they become involved in a buying process.
If your company does a great job reaching casual learners and piquing their interest, you’ll have a competitive advantage when this audience starts to actively evaluate solutions.
What’s missing in my opinion, from this discussion, is “what should marketers actually do?”
How do we actually identify these casual learners? What channels and tactics should we use to communicate with them?
Of course, if you have a large budget and team, you’ll want to be everywhere that your potential audience is, through a mix of channels ranging from PR, sponsored content, content syndication, social media and more. But if you’re resource constrained, you’ll want to start with social media.
Why social media is an effective way to reach casual learners
B2B social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter are great places to identify casual learners.
At this point, 81% of Americans aged 18-35 log onto Twitter at least once per day (Pew Research). There are 106 million total monthly active users on LinkedIn and 79% of B2B marketers view LinkedIn as an effective source for generating leads (Meenakshi Chaudhary).
On LinkedIn and Twitter, people are following industry influencers, consuming content from them, commenting on articles, joining relevant LinkedIn Groups and Twitter chats and talking about hot topics and emerging technologies.
With modern social engagement tools such as Socedo, you can quickly identify the people who are showing interest in your space – whether it’s people who follow your competitors, engage with industry influencers, or those talking about specific business issues and emerging technologies.
For example, if you are looking to reach IT decision-makers who are thinking about how to streamline IT operations in the cloud, you can search for people who have taken actions on Twitter, such as:
- Mention a popular technology topic (i..e Active Directory, managed services, mobiledev)
- Follow or engage with IT publications (i.e. @CIOMagazine, @CIOOnline, @InformationWeek)
- Following or engaging with a tech leader in the cloud technology ecosystem (i.e. @AWS, @Azure)
Build relationships in context
The best way to build relationship with casual learners is to send them interesting, useful information on the topics they care about.
Social media provides the right context for building relationships for B2B businesses. In addition to posting content, you can search for your target audience through software such as Socedo and deliver content directly to an individual through a direct message.
When you pair sharable content with accurate targeting, you’ll see much greater engagement on your content.
Lenovo North America’s social media team took this targeted approach when they needed to reach new B2B audiences in key verticals such as IT, Government, Education, and Healthcare.
They decided to attract an IT audience through humorous, light-hearted content (a clever move in my opinion). They created a microsite that features fun infographics, videos, case studies and data sheets relevant to IT professionals.
They used Socedo to find their target audience, follow them automatically on Twitter and send direct messages linking to their new content.
Once an IT professional follows the company’s Twitter handle, their Socedo campaign sends a direct message that invites them to check out an interactive content experience – a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” type of game about IT’s worse nightmares.
This approach helped Lenovo get in front of a much more targeted audience, got people sharing their content, and drove qualified traffic to its website.
Verto Analytics, which sells measurement services and consumer insights to Marketing and Product professionals, took a similar approach to growing their social media presence.
They used Socedo to identify the audience who talks about topics like “consumer research”, “media consumption” and “user engagement”. They sent this audience a report that addresses a common pain point: finding better ways to measure consumers’ path to purchase in order to create better campaigns.
Since they launched their first campaign in June 2016, they have 10X’ed their Twitter following, from 750 Twitter followers at the start to over 7,600 followers as of the end of July 2017.
They’ve noticed a dramatic lift in the amount of engagement – retweets and shares – they get with their Tweets. Their Share of Voice has increased as well.
How to maintain relationships with casual learners over time
Once you have these casual learners’ attention, you want to maintain the relationship through periodic communications so that your brand is top of mind when they are ready to buy.
With Socedo, you’ll be able to get the contact information (email addresses, job titles, company name and more) on your target audience. Import their data into your email database and continue to send them useful content over time to guide them down the purchase path.
With abundant access to information, most “buyers” are doing research on their own long before they reach out to vendors. By the time a prospect comes to your website, it’s probably too late. Reaching “casual learners” through a proactive approach will help you gain a competitive advantage.
With social engagement tools like Socedo, you can identify this “embryonic” buyer audience for your brand and engage them in an authentic way to bring them into your funnel. Test Socedo for yourself in our 7 day free trial.
How do you plan to reach this market of casual learners?