How Social Selling Helps a Microsoft Distributor Generate B2B Leads for Cloud Services

How the ModumUp team implemented Social Selling and personal branding approaches to attract 33 leads for Microsoft Azure cloud services in the first three months of the project.
Social Selling is lead generation for B2B via networking and the building of personal brands on social media

The Problem: Limited Partner Channel

We initiated collaboration with a Microsoft Distributor several years ago, with Nataly being the project's initiator within the company. Nataly is responsible for marketing and business development at the Microsoft Distributor. The distributor sells vendor products through a partner network. Partners' goal is to sell, while the distributor supports them in doing so. However, the Microsoft Distributor faced the challenge that the partner channel was limited, and most partners weren't engaged in marketing. As a result, the distributor decided to attract customers independently and transfer leads to partners. For this purpose, they chose a Social Selling approach.
Why did we opt for Social Selling? My experience showed that traditional digital channels in B2B weren't effective, and the approach used in Social Selling was quite obvious. We simply shifted communication from traditional B2B tools (calls and meetings) to social media, essentially digitizing the established B2B mechanics
Director of marketing and business development at Microsoft Distributor

Approach to a solution

The Social Selling approach consists of several stages. First, we determine the positioning of a person based on their business objectives, always grounded in their real personality. Based on this, we create a content plan and grow our desired target audience. Then the lead nurturing process begins: Followers read the content, absorb valuable information, familiarize themselves with interesting case studies and become acquainted with Nataly's persona.

Various mechanics are employed in Social Selling:

  1. Posts: You can create posts on your own page and engage with groups. This depends on the task; the desired target audience isn't always present in groups. Posts can take the form of storytelling or useful instructions

  2. Comments: It's essential to respond to connections' posts, group publications, and comments on your own page. This brings in leads and increases post engagement and profile views

  3. Direct Messages: It's important to transition to private messages gradually and carefully, avoiding spam

Positioning on social media

Together with Nataly, we chose the positioning of a specialist in promoting and packaging XaaS (X – Anything as a Service). This includes any products and services that a company sells on a subscription basis, utilizing cloud technologies.

Our goal was to attract companies that develop their own products, with the aim of later suggesting a transition to Microsoft Azure. In return, the Microsoft Distributor team provided assistance in product promotion, and sales through the partner channel, as well as their expertise and knowledge.

Lead generation mechanics and their results

It typically takes about 2 to a maximum of 3 months to establish an expert image on social media. As the audience grows and warms up, we begin implementing lead generation mechanics. One of the mechanics is exclusive content. We present intriguing material in a post and then send this content via private messages to all those who responded. Following that, we provide additional content, including case studies and other valuable materials. In the final phase, we propose a more focused discussion, arranging calls or meetings to explore collaboration options. It's crucial to proceed to the next step only with the consent of the individuals we're engaging with.
With Nataly, we made a post offering to share Microsoft materials. This post received responses from 88 people, and 48 of them proceeded to the next stage. Ultimately, we garnered 11 leads with whom we managed to schedule calls or meetings. Nataly and her colleagues engaged in discussions about transitioning to Azure with all these leads.
Subsequently, we introduced another mechanic. This time, we didn't rely on content since the audience was already sufficiently engaged, having seen numerous expert posts by Nataly on XaaS and related topics. Consequently, we opted for a concise proposal. This proposal was eye-catching in the feed and conveyed a simple yet intriguing message. People responded actively to this post as well. The funnel for this mechanic was shorter since there were no interim steps. A total of 65 people responded, leaving us with 22 leads. Nataly and her colleagues held phone calls and meetings with these leads.
Managing this was challenging, given that the Microsoft Distributor team involved in the Social Selling project comprised just three individuals. When we received 22 leads at once, we shifted our focus entirely and spent two weeks engaged in continuous meetings and calls. Yet, it was undoubtedly worthwhile! We achieved our objective: discovering developer partners interested in participating in Azure pilot projects, with some already transitioning to commercial usage. All 33 leads from these two lead generation mechanisms, with whom we either had calls or were actively conversing, are at varying stages of the project
Director of marketing and business development at Microsoft Distributor

Target audience

Initially, we attracted a wide spectrum of product companies. However, during the process, we identified three significant segments. This categorization was distinct, and we recognized that each segment demanded a tailored approach

  1. Startups with MVPs and pre-seed investments. They already have a cloud grant from Microsoft, AWS, Google, or some other provider, on which they are built. They also have a ready MVP. Now, all they need is an investor, and they are not interested in anything else.

  2. Experienced businesses with customers. These companies have successful commercial products and their own customer base, and they want to grow. These are people who create businesses not to sell them but to earn from them in the long term and build a sustainable business.

  3. On-premise solution developers. Negotiating with them is challenging for several reasons. Firstly, Azure requires monthly billing, while they are accustomed to selling one-time licenses. Secondly, it can be quite difficult for developers to transform on-premise solutions into SaaS. Sometimes this requires product adaptation, sometimes a management overhaul, and a complete change of pricing model. The Microsoft Distributor has successfully driven several transformations, and currently, they have two projects with on-premise solution developers that they are transitioning into cloud-based SaaS businesses.

Of the three segments, we were most interested in the second one (experienced businesses with clients) because they were motivated and interacted with us more actively
Director of marketing and business development at Microsoft Distributor

Our next steps

Our project with Microsoft Distributor continues, and we have outlined our upcoming actions:

  1. We will persist in collaborating with product companies and startups, seeking those with products and clients. Our aim is to aid their further growth and development
  2. We will explore business owners receptive to change, presenting them with the concept of digital transformation and proposing solutions based on Microsoft products
  3. Microsoft Distributor is contemplating an Employee Advocacy program to extend the Social Selling approach to a broader range of employee
    Having conducted a pilot experiment on two profiles, our intention is to expand this approach to other areas and team members within the Microsoft Distributor
    Director of marketing and business development at Microsoft Distributor
    Founder of ModumUp Social Selling Agency
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