How Social Selling Helps the Distribution Division of Microsoft Distribution Generate B2B Leads for Cloud Services

How ModumUp team used Social Selling and personal branding on social media to attract 33 leads for Microsoft Azure cloud services.

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 Problem: Limited Partner Channel

We initiated collaboration with Microsoft Distribution several years ago, with Natalia Mikhaleva being the project's initiator within the company. Natalia is responsible for marketing and business development in Microsoft Distribution's distribution direction. The company sells vendor products through a partner network. The partner's task is to sell, while the distributor supports them in doing so. However, the Microsoft Distribution team faced the challenge that the partner channel was limited, and most partners weren't engaged in marketing. As a result, the company decided to attract customers independently and pass on leads to partners. For this purpose, they chose a new tool for them — Social Selling.
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
Natalia Mikhalyova
Director of distribution for marketing and business development at Microsoft Distribution Company

Approach to 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 simultaneously grow our desired target audience. Once subscribers have read the content, absorbed valuable information, familiarized themselves with interesting case studies, and become acquainted with Natalia's persona, the lead nurturing process begins — cultivating potential customers. From this point on, we engage in lead generation mechanics.

Various tactics are employed in Social Selling:
  1. Posts: You can create posts on your own page and occasionally 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 friends' posts, group publications, and comments on your own page. This brings in leads and increases post engagement

  3. Direct Messages: Transitioning to direct messages gradually and carefully, avoiding spam

Positioning and Proposal

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

Our goal was to attract as many companies developing their own products as possible, with the aim of later suggesting a transition to Microsoft Azure. In return, the Microsoft Distribution team provided assistance in product promotion, 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 such mechanism 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 useful 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 Natalia, 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, accounting for slightly over half. Ultimately, we garnered 11 leads with whom we managed to schedule calls or meetings. Natalia and her colleagues engaged in discussions about transitioning to Azure with all these leads.
Subsequently, we introduced another mechanism. This time, we didn't rely on content since the audience was already sufficiently engaged, having seen numerous expert posts by Natalia on XaaS and related topics. Consequently, we opted for a concise proposal. This proposal featured a vibrant background, 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 mechanism was shorter since there were no interim steps. A total of 65 people responded, leaving us with 22 leads. Natalia and her colleagues held phone calls and meetings with these leads.
Managing this was challenging, given that the Microsoft Distribution 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.
Natalia Mikhalyova
Director of distribution for marketing and business development at Microsoft Distribution Company

Target audience features

Initially, we attracted a wide spectrum of developers. 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 grants. 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 startups with customers. These companies have a successful commercial product, their own customer base, and they want to grow. These are people who create startups not to sell them to an investor 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 reevaluation of pricing. We have successfully undergone several such transformations, and currently, we have two projects with on-premise solution developers that we transitioned into 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 Microsoft Distribution Company

Our Next steps

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

  1. We will persist in collaborating with developers of their proprietary solutions, 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 Distribution 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 Distribution division.
    Natalia Mikhalyova
    Director of distribution for marketing and business development at Microsoft Distribution Company
    Co-Founder and CEO at ModumUp
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