Is Pinterest a Waste of Your B2B Marketing Dollar? Probably

Andrea Fryrear on Social Media Marketing

UPDATE: This article was originally published on February 4, 2015, and has been updated to incorporate new information about Pinterest’s new “Buy” button.

Many people trying to craft social media marketing strategies for B2B companies and are asking themselves: “Should we be on Pinterest?”

For most B2B companies the answer seems to be a resounding, “No!” given the dearth of information on actual ROI outside of B2C sales.

At the very least, B2B marketers need to critically evaluate whether or not Pinterest is a fit for their brand and marketing strategy. SPOILER ALERT: It probably isn’t.

But if it is, the first step is to be sure they can accurately determine their ROI from the channel. If the ROI appears to be there, it’s time to ask some hard questions about your Pinterest readiness levels.

Doing B2B Marketing on Pinterest Safely: Strict ROI Tracking

Before you undertake the requisite soul-searching to determine if Pinterest could be a good fit for your B2B marketing efforts, you first need to ensure that your ROI tracking will be 100% accurate.

The reason that this is so important is that to put it mildly, marketing on Pinterest can be a time-consuming endeavor.

Like most social networks it demands a reasonable level of involvement with your followers and a certain level of reciprocity with those following and pinning your content. But Pinterest has the added time-suck of creating top-notch visuals ALL THE TIME.

Even for those with rapid-fire design skills, this can be difficult, and if your marketing team is light on visual savvy and/or pressed for time, marketing on Pinterest will be a stressful undertaking.

What this means is that the number of actual conversions that you get from Pinterest has to be considerably higher than what you would get from less labor-intensive social channels.

And let’s be clear when we measure ROI we’re talking about a real, money-making sale here.

Not a click, not a request for more information, not downloading an ebook or white paper.

Something that is actually making you money has to come from Pinterest. This has become significantly easier to measure with the advent of the Buy button, which gives people the ability to make a purchase directly from Pinterest.

Even with the new function, B2B companies are probably going to have trouble putting something onon Pinterest that people can (and will) be willing to purchase on the app or site.

Now, if you think you can accurately measure ROI, it’s time to decide if all the other pieces of the Pinterest puzzle will come together for your B2B marketing efforts.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Business Joins Pinterest

Question 1: Do I have a product that I can sell on Pinterest?

Pinterest has started using blue prices and a bright blue button to convey to its users that the Pin they’re looking at can be theirs with a few clicks.

The problem for B2B companies is that people aren’t in a business mode when they’re on the site.

The Pinterest video promoting their new buy button is chock full of powerful consumer purchases that bring people closer to their partners, kids, and dreams of stardom, but nobody is excited about the new marketing automation software they just bought.

This is no fault of Pinterest; they’re just giving people what they want.

But B2B marketers need to take heed: the buy button might be great for some users, but it wasn’t designed for us. If you can make use of it with a ready-made product, that’s great. If not, it’s time for more hard questions.

Question 2: If not, do I have a Pinterest-specific land page?

Sending Pinterest traffic straight to your homepage isn’t going to create the conversions that you need for decent ROI, so if you don’t have the time and resources to make a good landing page your marketing efforts belong in another channel.

Users on Pinterest expect to land on a page that is directly related to the image that they were viewing. This means you need a customized landing page that is not only visually strong but also consistent with the tone you’ve set for your brand on Pinterest itself.

The call to action on your Pinterest landing page also needs to be relevant to the kind of content the visitors were engaged with on Pinterest.

For example, if you posted an infographic on choosing the best restaurant but then your landing page asks visitors to start a software trial, there will be such a huge disconnect that visitors will bounce right off your landing page with a bad taste in their mouth.

You’ll lose them as a customer AND a follower on Pinterest, all because of one bad click.

Question 3: Do I have the resources to consistently create top-notch visual content that my user base will want to share?

Remember, repins are like Retweets on Twitter or Likes on Facebook: they allow you to expand your brand’s message far beyond just the people who are following you. It’s when followers start actively repinning your stuff that you’re going to start seeing real ROI.

Without original, compelling visual content this will not happen.

For many B2B brands the question is not whether the marketing department is capable of creating graphics. The sticking point is that the kind of content that would be relevant to your brand is not the stuff of Pinterest legend.

Screenshots of your software, however amazing it may be, aren’t going viral on Pinterest. That’s just not why people are there.

Examine your product critically. If it doesn’t lend itself to beautiful, shareable images, just say no to Pinterest.

Question 4: Is your audience really on Pinterest?

Pinterest may have over 70 million users, but if most of them have nothing in common with your ideal customer, it doesn’t make much sense to devote time and effort to the network.

Recent numbers show that Pinterest is approximately 86% female, and the most widely shared content is based in cooking/recipes, arts/crafts, clothing/fashion, home decor, home design and gifts.

Can you effectively market to a room that’s over three-quarters female, and who are heading to Pinterest with these topics in mind?

If the answer is no, then you might want to consider networks where your customers are more likely to be. Google+ skews more male, Instagram has younger users, and of course LinkedIn is the home of professionals. Any of these channels can benefit from high quality visuals just like Pinterest, but those visuals may be more impactful to those different kinds of viewers.

No matter how good your bait is, if you’re trying to use on the wrong kind of fish you’re going home empty handed.

If You Must Pin: Best Content for B2B Marketing

If you’ve answered “yes” to at least three of the above questions, and you are 100% sure you can measure your ROI, you may be ready to start doing B2B marketing on Pinterest.

Here’s the type of content you should focus on, all of which, as we’ve discussed, must be beautiful and visually compelling:

  • White papers and ebooks: If they have an intriguing topic and a compelling cover, these kinds of content can be great repin fodder. The descriptive text for this study could probably be stronger, but you’ll see it’s gotten plenty of use on Pinterest with 2,587 repins.
  • Infographics: With their well-known long, skinny formats and easy-to-consume visual style, it’s no surprise that infographics are top performers for businesses on Pinterest. They work particularly well if viewers can identify their content as something intriguing but must click through to actually read the whole thing.
  • Company culture shots: If a strong selling point of your company is its internal culture, then make good use of Pinterest to promote it. As long as they’re tasteful, pictures of company functions, visits to clients, or just the zany fun of your day to day activities can play well with a B2B audience.
  • Anything people can actually buy. If you’ve got a B2B product that lends itself to instant purchase via the new buy button, get it on there. Just make sure you’re supporting it with nonsales-driven pins as well. Nobody likes a self-promoter who doesn’t add value.

This excerpt from Constant Contact’s Pinterest page gives insight into their culture, and at last, check had over 500 pins and nearly 7,500 followers.

  • Pictures of how customers are using your product or service: For software companies or others who provide somewhat intangible services this can be a little difficult, but anyone creating physical merchandise should definitely by using this category.

Whatever you choose to pin, make sure you’re considering your audience’s frame of mind. As Shawn Budde, CEO of the payment company 2Checkout clearly points out, “[p]eople are in a consuming mood when they go to Pinterest, whereas they are in a chatting mood when they go on Twitter or Facebook.”

Have you had success with B2B marketing on Pinterest? Is the new buy button making it any easier or more effective? We would love to hear from you! Shout out in the comments and let us know what kind of results you’re seeing.