Thursday, July 7, 2011

B2B in the World of Social Media

.Top B2B players use social networks to help expand the reach of their marketing and demand creation initiativ

Does the hype that surrounds social media's influence on how and what consumers buy translate to the business environment? One can point to countless examples of how consumers have learned to block-out marketing messages, yet still put a lot of weight on the opinions of their social media "network," ultimately influencing the purchases they make. Since B2B buyers are, in fact, also "consumers," one might expect that the same behavior would carry over to their business purchases. But that's not always the case.

While business buyers are now starting to make heavy use of social media for business purposes, they still tend to rely heavily on "traditional" sources of information when making business purchase decisions — sources such as peers and colleagues, vendor rankings, magazines, reviews, consultants, analyst firms, and even vendors themselves. The appearance of "objectivity" means that the message is received with fewer "filters," and given greater credibility, than a similar message contained in traditional, sales-oriented marketing literature. A report by Forrester Research concluded that 84% of all B2B buyers are influenced by word of mouth... and social media presents an ideal platform for communicating this type of credible message.

The good news for marketers is that the business buyer is, without a doubt, increasingly "going social," starting from when when they first recognize that they have a problem which needs to be solved. As Forrester's Josh Bernoff says: "If you're a B2B marketer and you're not using social technologies in your marketing, it means you're late." Utilizing social media in much the same way they do in their personal lives, B2B purchasers are now looking to their social networks - and to social media, in general - to capitalize on the knowledge and experience of other users and experts in specific topic areas. Again, the search is for an objective, "credible" message.

One key to success for the B2B marketer is to interact with their target audiences much earlier in the decision-making cycle... this requires a big shift for many marketers, many of whom seem to be content to simply use social media to pump out the same old marketing messages. Success requires that marketers build trust and credibility early, long before prospective customers enter into an active buying cycle... Marketers need to demonstrate that they have expertise in the problem areas addressed by their products or services, and not just be pimps for their products.

Another — even more critical — component is creating (and nurturing) customer advocates for your product or service. Because the opinion of an actual user of your product or service carries far more credibility than that of you as a marketer. And this falls squarely in the realm of social media. But remember, the likelihood of a customer recommending you to a friend or colleague doesn't depend solely on the quality of your products and services or your efficiency... these are just qualifiers for your company to even be in the game. At the end of the day, it really depends on the genuine concern that you show them as stakeholders.

So, when formulating your social media marketing plan, you will want to concentrate on a couple of things:

  • Identify the Likely Online Venues (Facebook pages, blogs, etc.) where your target prospects might lurk. Look for any third-party research about social media usage specific to your industry. Conduct an informal study of your current customers to see where and how they get news and information, but more importantly, how they are influenced. At the same time, use a free search tool like Technorati, Google Blog Search, Board Reader, and Twitter Search to do some research of your own to determine influencers in your industry that are active online.
  • Determine Your Key Business Objectives. It doesn’t matter how viable social web channels are for your business, if you don’t align your efforts with clearly-defined business objectives, you're just wasting time and money. Schedule a meeting with all of your key stakeholders to review current marketing and business objectives, and determine how these online communications can be used to help support those objectives.
  • Develop a Plan for Tactical Execution. Social media marketing takes a lot of time. However, without a plan, you'll spend far more time than you need to. Make a list of all of the engagement work you need to be doing and all of the content that needs to be developing and then assign it on a daily or weekly calendar over the course of a month. This will be your guide and will help to ensure that your strategy is executed and your time — and money — is not wasted.
  • Identify and Nurture Customer Advocates, whom you can incorporate into your social media efforts, utilizing satisfied customer "quotes" and, if they are willing, even having them post their own comments, on your behalf.
  • Execute Your Plan. Make certain that you have the manpower to execute your social media marketing plan. Have you estimated how many hours per week it will take? Additionally, have you thought about other necessary resources, such as computers, video cameras, smart phones, and other items that will help facilitate online communications? If all the ducks are in a row, start posting your message to the venues you've identified.
  • Measure Your Results. With a clearly-defined objective, it's easy to measure your results. When it comes to social media, there are two very important reasons for measuring all of your efforts. The first is determine your ROI, to ensure that your initial strategy is delivering the needed results. The second is for determining how to tweak your focus, in order to improve the impact of your efforts. To properly measure your results, you'll need to capture as much data as possible. You'll need to ensure that your corporate web site is set up with analytic software such as Google Analytics, and that each and every web page and web-based collateral includes a "share this" function, to facilitate easy sharing of your product or service message; I use AddThis. Use a URL shortening service such as to help track clicks on each link shared on social platforms. And use all of the data that you collect to help evaluate — and refine — your efforts.

Social media is just one tool in the B2B marketer's tool box... but it's becoming more and more important with each day, so you really can't afford to discount its value. Proper planning and consistent execution will help to ensure that your efforts are productive and rewarding.

1 comment:

strongmandigital said...

Loved your blog reading David. I am into kind of same business.And I agree with your point of views.

Digital Media Consultant

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