Building a global B2B community in a conservative market


ShipServ is an online B2B trading platform that helps bring buyers and sellers together in the global shipping industry.

ShipServ is a social media pioneer in this notoriously conservative market, using social channels for sales, marketing, customer service and in the product itself.

The company is at the heart of a global community of purchasing professionals, with an active LinkedIn group, Twitter feed and Facebook page – plus social features (such as ratings & reviews) built into their supplier directory.

A stream of thought leadership content lubricates the social machine – and it all feeds into the Marketo lead nurturing platform and on to the CRM system (yes, Salesforce, since you asked).

On Twitter: @ShipServ
On LinkedIn: Maritime Trading Network on LinkedIn


Mark Warner, Business Development Director, on community.

Purchasing managers in shipping companies are located all over the world and don’t get much chance to share ideas and compare notes. So helping this community to form is a big part of what we do – and social media is central to that.

The shipping industry is very conservative but it is coming to social media now. ShipServ was early so we’re able to actually help the market make the most of social.

We use social media to engage with our audience and to enhance the community around ShipServ.

On Social DNA

For us, social media is woven into the fabric of the company. It’s not just an important part of our marketing, it also helps drive sales and customer service -- and we build social features into our products as well. It’s important to show that we practice what we preach.

On social marketing

On the marketing front, we use social to raise awareness among our target audiences, build community and position ShipServ as an online innovator – that’s central to our brand.

Our LinkedIn Maritime Trading Network has over 2200 members. That may not sound like a lot but in a B2B niche, it’s a really strong foundation.

Social also drives traffic to our website and to our Pages online supplier directory.

The leads we generate via social are fed into Marketo for lead nurturing and that’s integrated with our Salesforce CRM. ShipServ was a very early Salesforce user – one of the first in Europe if not the first.

On social content

Content is an important part of our social media strategy – from video demos to best practice thought leadership pieces like eBooks and blog posts.

In our Internet Use Survey, we’ve seen the market’s mindset to social media change quite a bit, with 70% of people saying their use of social media will increase in the coming year. The market is moving in its attitudes to social media from ‘why’ to ’how’ and our content helps answer this question.

We also use live events and road shows to help to do this – and again, social media amplifies our live events and carries the message out to people who can’t be there.

On social customer service

Social has shown us that people are having conversations around our brand – and that can sometimes include complaints. We keep our ears to the ground on LinkedIn and Twitter so we can respond quickly and get people in touch with our support staff.

It’s important to listen and just as important to be seen to be listening.

On social selling

Our salespeople use LinkedIn to see if a new prospect is connected to an existing customer, so we can get an introduction or a recommendation.

And we’re moving to social profiles in Salesforce to keep that social activity associated with prospects and customers. Again, social gives you valuable insight and it’s free – if you’re there listening.

On social commerce

In the Pages product itself, we use social tools like ratings & reviews to help buyers find the most relevant suppliers.

We also use ‘voice of the customer’ type techniques like ‘rate this search’ to improve our search algorithms and drive quality RFQs. And Google Plus is in the product; we’re also looking at Pinterest because some of our suppliers have visual content.

#Social Success Lessons

  • Think about how social media can contribute across all disciplines, not just marketing.
  • Use social to build a community for your prospects and customers.
  • Put social features into your products and services.
  • Use social channels to promote your thought leadership content.
  • Don’t forget: social is a fantastic source of insight. Even if you’re not actively engaging, listen.

Read about more of our Social Heroes.

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