How to generate B2B leads for Microsoft Azure cloud services using the Social Selling approach

This is a story about how our team generated 33 leads to Microsoft Azure cloud services by using the Social Selling method.

Social Selling is lead generation for B2B via networking and the building of personal brands on social media
Social Selling is a lead generation method for B2B that uses a company's experts' personal social media profiles

The initial problem: partner channel is limited

1C is a distributor of Microsoft solutions. In 2019, we began our collaboration with Natalia Mikhaleva, the Director of distribution for marketing and business development. 1C sells Microsoft products through a partner network. These partners are responsible for the sales side, and the distributors are responsible for support. Even though this arrangement is ideal, the 1C team still encountered a dilemma. Most partners don't organize any marketing activities, so the partner channel is limited. Therefore, the company decided to attract customers on its own and transfer leads to the partners. To accomplish this, they chose a new method – Social Selling.
Why did we choose Social Selling? My experience has shown that traditional digital channels, which are popular in B2C, don't work for B2B. So, the Social Selling approach is an obvious choice. We simply transfer communication from classic B2B channels (phone calls and meetings) to social media. That is, we just digitalize the mechanics used in B2B
Natalia Mikhalyova
Director of distribution for marketing and business development at 1С

The approach to the solution

The Social Selling approach consists of several stages. First, we determine the positioning of a person depending on their personality and business goals. Based on this, we create content and grow the target audience in the personal profile on social media. Then we begin the process of lead nurturing: followers read posts, become acquainted with some interesting case studies and are charmed by Natalia's personality. Subsequently, we start implementing lead generation mechanics.

In Social Selling we use different activities:

1. Posts. You can publish posts on your page and within industry groups. This depends on your goals since the target audience isn't always a part of these groups. Posts can be in informative or storytelling formats.

2. Comments. It's essential to comment on a connection's posts, publications in groups and reply to target audience comments. It grabs the attention of potential leads and increases a post's reach.

3. Private messages. We transition to direct communication gradually without spamming.

Positioning and offer

With Natalia's help, we chose the positioning of a promotion. In addition, we selected a packaging specialist of XaaS (X - Anything as a Service), which includes subscription-based products and services that utilize cloud technologies.

Our task was to attract as many solution development companies as possible. We accomplished this by offering a switch to Microsoft Azure. The distributor's team will assist in product promotion, sales on partner channels, and be willing to share their knowledge and experience.

Lead generation mechanics and their results

It usually takes two to three months to build an expert's image on social media. As the audience grows and develops, we begin to implement lead generation mechanics, including closed content. This offers some interesting materials (research, checklists, instructions, etc.) within a post. We then distribute content in private messages to all who showed interest and reacted to a specific post. Next, we send something extra, e.g. cases on the topic, additional useful materials, etc. In the final stage, we offer more detailed communication and arrange a phone call or meeting to discuss options for cooperation. We only proceed to the next step once we have the consent and interest of a potential lead.
Natalia helped us create a proposal post to share Microsoft's materials on digital transformation, and we received 88 reactions. Among them were 48 respondents to the next step, which is just above 50%. As a result, we received 11 leads, with whom we managed to organize a call or a meeting. Natalia and her colleagues talked to everyone about a transition to Azure.
Later on, we proposed a different tool to Natalia. The audience was already familiar with the concept. They saw a lot of Natalia's expert posts on XaaS and more. Therefore, we decided to make a short offer: "Startups, who needs help from our team with packaging and promoting SaaS? We won't charge you for this, but on one condition." This was posted on a colorful background that was bright and noticeable throughout the news feed. The text was clear and straightforward but also intriguing. People actively reacted to the post since the funnel of this mechanic was shorter and lacked intermediate steps. Sixty-five people responded in total; Natalia and her colleagues contacted 22 through calls and meetings. The distributor's team offered its help to startups with the condition of switching to Microsoft Azure.
It was difficult for us to digest this quantity of leads since our Social Selling project team consisted of just three people. When 22 leads showed up on our doorstep, we dropped everything since we were bogged down with meetings for the next two weeks. But it was worth it! We achieved our goal by finding developer partners who wanted to go into pilot projects on Azure. Some of these partners went into commercial operations. All 33 leads, from the two lead generation mechanisms that we contacted, gradually joined our project.
Natalia Mikhalyova
Director of distribution for marketing and business development at 1С

Target audience features

Initially, we incorporated all types of developers into our target audience. But while going through this process, we realized that there were three fairly large segments. The division between these segments was clear, and we decided that each of them required a different approach.

1. Startups with MVP and grants. They already have a cloud grant from Microsoft, AWS, Google, or a similar platform where they already have an MVP. This means they aren't interested in anything else other than getting an investor.

2. Experienced startups with clients. These companies have a successful commercial product and customer base, and they want to grow. These people create startups to make money and look toward future business, not to sell their company to an investor.

3. Developers of on-premise solutions. It's tough to negotiate with them for several reasons. Azure requires monthly billing with single-use licenses. Moreover, it's quite difficult for a developer to convert on-premise solutions to SaaS. Sometimes this involves a product adaptation which usually requires management restructuring and pricing revisions. We made several transformations and initiated two projects with companies that develop on-premise solutions. We then migrated them to SaaS and the cloud.
Of the three segments, we were most interested in the second one (experienced startups with clients) because they were motivated and interacted with us more often.
Natalia Mikhalyova
Director of distribution for marketing and business development at 1С

Our Next steps

Following our lead generation mechanics, we continued to cooperate with the Microsoft Azure distributor and planned the following steps:

1. We continued to work with solution developers. We kept looking for companies with a product and customer base to help them develop and grow by using Azure cloud services.

2. Looked for business owners who want change. We approached them with the idea of digital transformation and offered solutions based on Microsoft products.

3. Launched an Employee Advocacy program to scale the Social Selling approach to a broader range of employees.
We conducted an experiment on two of our personal profiles. In the future, we want to expand this approach to other areas and people in our team.
Natalia Mikhalyova
Director of distribution for marketing and business development at 1С
Co-Founder and CEO at ModumUp
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