Inbound Now #42 - In-depth B2B Social Media Marketing with Kipp Bodnar

Kipp Bodnar, of HubSpot, joins us for episode 42 of Inbound Now!

Kipp is the co-author of The B2B Social Media Book: Become a Marketing Superstar by Generating Leads with Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and More.

He is in charge of running the company blog at HubSpot and publishes tons of awesome inbound marketing content on a daily basis. His efforts generate a crazy amount of leads for his company.

He is a super-smart marketer and I’m glad I could get him on to chat about his vast experience as a B2B Marketer.

In this episode we chat about:

  • Why b2b companies are a good fit for social media
  • Why Context in Calls to Action are critical for conversions
  • How to calculate and measure Social Media ROI
  • What Closed-loop marketing means and how you can use it
  • Social media Stock Market Advice. (don’t buy it)

Check out other episodes of the show

Show Notes

Why B2B companies are better at social media

B2B companies have clear buyer personas.

B2B companies are historically content creators with trade magazines and newsletters etc.

Some B2B companies don’t belong in social media.

If you are a very niche company with a limited target market, social media is not the best route.

High-velocity sales companies that are looking for one big flash sale are not the best fit for social media channels. Social media strategies are long term.

Content isn’t king. Context is.

Contextual calls to action are the way to go. Make your offers as relevant to the post’s content as possible.

“If somebody finds your article on steel ball bearings but your call to action in that article is for somebody to go learn more about sheet metal, that’s not very contextual. You want to highly outline your content with your offers, your calls to actions to generate leads.”

What kind of content offer works best?

E-books and white papers still kill it for HubSpot.

Beware of Webinars. They are starting to become oversaturated and attendance rates seem to be dwindling.

You are already a business blogger

Kipp says you are most likely already the expert in your business and

“Most marketers understand how to tell a really compelling story. That’s why they’re in marketing. They’re good at communicating with their target audience, telling them a story.

What normally gets in their way from a blogging standpoint is getting too caught up in product knowledge, getting to be too precious about their work, and being afraid of kind of publish a blog post and move on to the next one”

Social Media ROI

“If you’re a B2B company, you need to be able to attribute ROI to all of your marketing channels. On the web, that basically just means you have to know where your lead came from and you need to kind of tag that lead and track that lead throughout the sales process.”

Connect with Kipp

Make sure to follow Kipp on Twitter @KippBodnar and check out his book The B2B Social Media Book


David: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Inbound Now. I have a very special guest with me here today, Mr. Kipp Bodnar from HubSpot. Welcome to the show, Kipp.

Kipp: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Mr. Wells. How’s it going today?

David: It’s going great. I’ve been waiting to get you on the show, Kipp. I didn’t forget about you. I was saving the best for later, right?

Kipp: You have a full agenda. I understand. Now that I’m here though, I promise that I won’t disappoint.

David: Absolutely. Kipp, I just read your book “The B2B Social Media Book: Becoming a Marketing Superstar by Generating Leads with Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Email and More.”

Kipp: Long title.

David: That is a mouthful. It was a great, fantastic read and I have a ton of questions here to toss at you. Are you ready to go?

Kipp: Bring them on. I’m ready for them.

David: All right. Cool. In the beginning of the book, you talk about why B2B companies are actually better at social media than B2C companies. Can you explain your thought process behind that?

Kipp: Sure, yeah. There’s this classic myth out there that B2C companies are where it’s at when it comes to social media. B2B companies really just stick to the trade shows and that kind of stuff. That’s wrong. Unlike B2C companies, B2B companies have clear buyer personas. They know who they’re talking to. They can create content and engage with people in a way that is much more relevant and based on what their customer actually wants, as opposed to the B2C folks who are kind of just guessing.

In addition to that, B2B companies have always kind of been content creators. A lot of the big B2B companies used to have quarterly magazines and these elaborate newsletters. They’re in the mindset of creating content already, which is a key part of social media. Historically, B2B companies have kind of already been positioned for success. It’s really just about kind of understanding how what they’ve been doing applies to kind of an interactive online channel like social. They’re in a really good position to take advantage.

David: Got you. Would you say there’s a first-mover advantage as well? If an industry is kind of on the edge about social media, would you say jump in now?

Kipp: Yeah. The web rewards first movers. There’s the only kind of one winner on the web. Google is the definitive winner in search. eBay is kind of definitive winner in like marketplaces online. There are all these people that kind of win. You want to be the winner for your industry. You do that by establishing a strong social presence, building a community and building out a backlog of blog content, website content, that fuels this big inbound machine that is going to bring you traffic and leads.

David: Got you. Cool. You also say sometimes social media isn’t right for some B2B companies. What scenarios are those?

Kipp: I love to be super practical. Social media isn’t going to solve everything. It’s not going to make every business better.

If you’re this really niche B2B company, there are like five companies in the world that could buy your product, and you’re cool with just serving those five companies, then social media isn’t that interesting. I’m not saying it couldn’t work or isn’t applicable but I’m saying things like face-to-face meetings, customize direct mail, other things like that are probably going to work at a much higher rate and be more efficient in terms of gaining and retaining customers than social media would.

There are some of these kinds of very niche scenarios when you’re after such a small part of the market where social media doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you’re trying for a really high velocity too, like if you’re trying to sell something in the next 90 days and that’s the window you have to make a lot of cash, social media is not the right thing. Social media is a good, long term strategy that’s going to serve you well six months from now but even better a year from now and kind of build over time. If you’re looking only for the short term, it’s not going to be a good solution for you.

David: Got you. We have a very niche audience. Companies jumping in, do you think they should go across the broad spectrum? Have a presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, hit all bases at once, or should they really focus in some places are right and some places aren’t for that company?

Kipp: I think it depends on the business. Companies should start with what works. In B2B, obviously, LinkedIn is still kind of king. We’ve done research at HubSpot and obviously found that traffic from LinkedIn converts into leads at a higher rate than traffic from Facebook or Twitter, or other sources. Starting with LinkedIn makes complete sense.

That’s not to say that you can’t generate leads and customers effectively through Facebook. You totally can. You want to prioritize. If you have the time and ability to do all of them, great. If not, start with something you know is going to be successful like LinkedIn. Excuse me.

David: Are you good?

Kipp: It’s really dry in here. Working on clearing that up.

David: Good. Speaking of social media lead generation, you have a whole section of the book about how when you get your target audience off of those social channels on to your website, you’re talking about converting them through calls to action and stuff like that. You mention that content isn’t king, context is king. What do you mean by that?

Kipp: Right. There’s this myth in marketing that content rules everything. If you have content, you fix everything.

Content is a really important part of the Inbound and social and bringing people to your website but you’ve got to convert people. You convert people by being very contextual, serving them something that they really want.

If somebody finds your article on steel ball bearings but your call to action in that article is for somebody to go learn more about sheet metal, that’s not very contextual. You want to highly outline your content with your offers, your calls to actions to generate leads.

If you’re writing a blog post on steel ball bearings, you want an e-book, a webinar, an offer that’s going to highly related to that, highly contextual to that content so that you can convert that person and get them into the sales cycle and start working that lead.

David: Let’s talk about what has worked really well for you guys at HubSpot. There are tons of different ways to do it. You can create e-books, white papers, webinars like you mentioned. What have you seen that works best?

Kipp: It’s all across the board. E-books and white papers are always great regardless of the industry. Webinars work really well. I think you can oversaturate webinars. There are a lot of people doing webinars these days, which means attendance rates are lower. It’s harder to get people to attend them, so you’ve got to be careful there.

You also want to have secondary offers. You want to have things like product demonstrations and free consultations and everything to kind of pick out the serious buyers from that initial kind of top of the funnel lead generation offer. You want to have a mix of both.

Obviously, on the web, people are always looking to learn more so starting with something like an e-book or white paper is always going to be a winner.

David: Got you. Do you guys focus on creating your content offers around more evergreen content where it has that longer shelf life or do you go after something very pertinent to that kind of timeframe?

Kipp: I think it’s both. I think that both are really important.

I think that having an e-book that’s relevant six months from now is really important but if you have something really important news wise that happens in your industry, a piece of legislature or a new offering that impacts your industry, you want to be the first person to kind of distill what that means for the industry in some written content and publish that and get that out in e-book form.

It’s going to resonate really well. It’s highly contextual. It’s highly relevant. You’re going to convert a lot of people. Also, that stuff doesn’t happen all the time. That stuff might happen once a month or once a year, depending on the industry, so you want to kind of balance that with more evergreen offers like you’re talking about.

David: Cool. Switching gears a little bit to blogging, because I know you’re a blogging expert. You run the HubSpot blog which gets tons and tons of traffic. In Chapter 7 in your book, you say that people are already blogging experts. What do you mean by that?

Kipp: Most people know how to do blogging well. They just don’t connect the pieces. Most marketers understand how to tell a really compelling story. That’s why they’re in marketing. They’re good at communicating with their target audience, telling them a story.

What normally gets in their way from a blogging standpoint is getting too caught up in product knowledge, getting to be too precious about their work, and being afraid of kind of publish a blog post and move on to the next one. Instead, they’ll kind of review and edit a post to death. It’ll be two weeks before it actually gets published. There are just little things like that that marketers kind of have to teach and train themselves on.

The nuts and bolts of telling a good story and doing so in a really interesting and relevant way for your audience are some things that every marketer is great at. It’s fixing the little things to get really good at blogging.

David: Right. In the book, you mention the core facets of being a marketer today are that storyteller aspect and also being data driven.

Kipp: Absolutely.

David: Speaking of being data driven, let’s dive into the kind of the elephant in the room that a lot of people are talking about. That’s social media ROI, right? It still seems to be a mystery to most but in a couple of chapters in the book actually you go through it in detail. You talk about the concept of having a closed looped marketing system. What does that mean?

Kipp: If you’re a B2B company, you need to be able to attribute ROI to all of your marketing channels. On the web, that basically just means you have to know where your lead came from and you need to kind of tag that lead and track that lead throughout the sales process. You need software, something like HubSpot. There are a lot of other awesome competitors out there, lots of software that will do this for you.

David: I can’t remember their name right now.

Kipp: There are lots of awesome ones. Google’s your friend.

That being said, people come in. If somebody finds your website via Twitter, if you’re going with the first action attribution model, then that person, whenever they convert, maybe they convert off a paid ad or something else, they’ll still be attributed back to Twitter because that’s how they originally found you. That person will be marked as a Twitter lead throughout the process.

As that lead information gets passed to a CRM system like SalesForce or Sugar or something like that, then that lead gets worked, you can look at the data throughout the sales process. You can also, more importantly, know if that person became a customer. What you want to do at the end of the day is say, “I invested this amount of money in terms of time and effort on something like LinkedIn and it netted me X amount of revenue.” You want to balance that out.

David: Right. When you’re talking about looking at the attribution source, there are two different ways to look at it, right?

The first attribution, so they initially saw that tweet on Twitter. Maybe came in and then actually became a customer. Then the last touchpoint. Maybe they saw the tweet, came in and then three weeks later downloaded a white paper or something like that. Which one is more important and which one is what you guys look at?

Kipp: I think it’s super important and interesting to look at both. I think that both are really valuable.

We focus a lot on the first action attribution, how they originally found you, because that kind of measures intent and kind of shows you how your top of the funnel marketing is really working. Then we’ll measure the middle of our funnel marketing, our sales enablement, our lead nurturing, and all those things via some different metrics and map ROI to them differently.

If we’re talking about kind of top of the funnel using social media for lead gen, that first action attribution to see how people are originally finding you via social, I think, is the most accurate way to kind of map ROI back to your marketing metrics.

David: In the ROI equation that you give in the book, it’s the cost of customer acquisition and the total lifetime value, one minus the other… I’ll put the equation in the…

Kipp: It’s total lifetime value minus cost of customer acquisition over cost of customer acquisition gives you a percent formula.

David: How can social media help lower the cost of customer acquisition?

Kipp: Customer acquisition is basically all the sales and marketing costs that are involved in bringing a customer on board and being a paying customer for your business. You have sales commission and things like that, which marketing doesn’t have that much control over.

What marketing does have control over is kind of the scale in which it acquires customers. If you do direct mail and you pay for a list and you pay for mailing, depending on the response rate, you’ll have a certain cost per customer there.

Social’s a much more scalable thing. You educate customers, which can help shorten the sales cycle. We do some interesting things there. It also provides the scales where if you publish a blog post today, that blog post is going to generate leads today but it’s also going to generate leads 12 months from now through search, through re-sharing on social media, through all these things. Those leads over time lower the cost because you spent that time and effort and resource to create that blog post once but you get the value from it as kind of an annuity over time.

David: It is an annuity, much like all inbound marketing, content creation, SEO, or what have you.

Kipp: Absolutely.

David: Interesting. On the flipside to that question, on the total lifetime value of the customer, what are some ways that social media can increase that total lifetime value?

Kipp: Right. Total lifetime value is really about keeping your customer around a long time. Getting them to buy multiple times or if you’re a subscription-based business, not prolonging their cancellation, having them be happy month over month.

What normally makes a great customer is a really well-educated customer that has a reasonable expectation and is satisfied with the product and service they get. Social media is about most of those things, right? Social media does a great job at educating your customer’s presale. As they’re going through the sales and marketing process, they’re actually getting educated as opposed to something like direct mail, which is just trying to go for that immediate action. They may actually buy and become a customer. They have a much better expectation and level of education, which is going to increase the likelihood that they’re going to be happy customers and obviously pay you more money over time.

David: Would you say that there’s opportunity to cross sale or upsell other…

Kipp: Absolutely. There’s a whole other book talking about using social media for nurturing the existing customers and to retain but also upsell and drive more revenue from existing customers. There are tons of opportunities there.

David: What is some advice for some people out there watching right now, they’re like, “All this sounds great. Social media, B2B. We know we want to be there but upper management is old school. They don’t believe in it.” What would you say to those people that are getting pushback in their company?

Kipp: First of all, make it all about leads because leads are about revenue. Leads are a proxy for revenue. Leads are what you’re going to give your sales team. They’re going to turn those into customers so make whatever social media that you’re proposing about leads because executives understand leads and revenue.

Then the second way to kind of be successful is to propose a test. Say, “I want 90 days,” or, “I want six months and if we accomplish X generating a certain amount of leads,” something like that, “then we’ll continue to invest more in this program.”

Tests are a little less scary for folks because they’re not committing to a big organizational change just yet. They’re committing to a test that, if it validates and works well, then it’s not as scary of a change as they might perceive it. Focus on the leads and offer a test.

David: One of the things you mention in the book is setting benchmarks. The only way to really see if something is working is by setting up benchmarks at the start to see if you actually meet those goals or what have you. How do you guys go about setting your goals and making them realistic?

Kipp: I think that’s a challenge. There are lots of data available so you need to look whether it’s a software company, whether it’s analyst firms. There are lots of folks out there that have data around how marketers perform in different industries and for different tactics. You need to take a little time and aggregate that and understand what a good click-through rate is for your industry, what a good blog readership is like for your industry. Understand all of these kinds of key metrics so that you can understand how close you are going to get to that during your test period.

I call it kind of understanding what good is. Once you know what good is, you can kind of have something to work towards and that helps with the goal setting, especially in kind of a testing phase.

David: Kipp, what are some of your favorite social media resources that you’ve used over the years to really hone in on this stuff and become an expert?

Kipp: Tons of awesome stuff out there. Michael Stelzner and the guys at Social Media Examiner do a fantastic job. Jason Falls at Social Media Explorer. A huge fan of the folks at MarketingProfs. Ann Handley and her team are fantastic.

I love what’s happening at Mashable and The Next Web. Obviously I love what we do at HubSpot. I love what we do at Social Media B2B, which is my personal blog. I love what David is doing at Inbound Now. Awesome.

There are a lot of really good sources out there. Just check them all out and measure and kind of understand what’s best for you. Keep a couple in your back pocket that you’re going to refer to. Then there’s Marketing Sherpa, eConsultancy. There’s a lot of good stuff out there.

David: Last and final random question, would do you recommend that people invest in Facebook stock now that they’ve IPOed?

Kipp: Random question. I still think it’s overvalued. He’s asking me a random question and I’m going to give him a serious answer. I still think Facebook stock is a little overvalued. I thought the $38 per share at the IPO was a little high. I’d love to see it in the mid-$20’s. I still think it stands to drop a little bit. I don’t know if it’s going to go below $30 but I would kind of wait. If it got down to $30 and some change, or ever dropped below $30, I’d probably put a buy on it.

David: Got you. I’m turning the show into a social media stock show.

Kipp: That’s fine. I’m happy to weigh in with my conjecture.

David: With all these IPOs. Cool. Kipp, where can people find you online?

Kipp: You can find me on Twitter, @kippbodnar on twitter. You can find me at LinkedIn. Happy to connect with you there. You can find me at You can find the book, “The B2B Social Media Book,” at Amazon. You can obviously find lots of my blog posts and content on and

David: Absolutely. Well, Kipp, thanks for coming on the show. I really appreciate your time. Thanks for the social media ROI tips.

Kipp: Absolutely. Thanks, David.