The great B2B marketing divide
A radical change in business-to-business (B2B) marketing is unfolding
right in front of our eyes. And, that change is now reaching WARP SPEED.
What’s emerging is a corporate digital divide of have’s and have not’s. The have’s are the companies who are building brands, creating leads, and connecting with customers in profound new ways. The have not’s are stuck in the past with the same direct marketing and cold calling tactics that have existed for 50 years.
Social media marketing is at the heart of this divide. For many B2B marketers, social media is a big, fat elephant in the middle of the room. Most B2B marketers actually want to take the leap but they are still struggling to convince their organizations.
- Can social media marketing drive sales?
- How important is it?
- Where does it fit?
- What is the right kind of B2B social media marketing strategy?
B2B social media marketing has changed the game
B2B niche category leaders and organizations that create great content are forming a new type of marketing differentiation that will unlevel the playing field in their favor for years to come. They are utilizing social media marketing to enhance and widen their reputation and brand presence. The good news for B2B marketers is that most of their competition is not playing as yet, so the playing field is wide open. At the end of the day, B2B social media marketing strategy needs to make sure you show up where its most important and here are 5 strategies that do just that:
1. Influence consideration
B2B marketing is about credibility, especially during the consideration phase. Have you ever sincerely asked: would you buy from your own organization? Does your sales team cringe with the thought of your prospects viewing your social media and websites? Research shows that buyers spend more time on their own reviewing content on your sites and third party sources than they do reviewing content you send them directly. This is where B2B social media marketing can help. With a blog you can create rich content that maps back to all the key factors in a buyer’s consideration. With Twitter and LinkedIn, you can reach potential customers and stay top of mind through a consistent drip of valuable, highly frequent information. By proactively creating the right content on the right platforms, your organization will be destined to win the consideration battle. But winning consideration is not enough. Your organization must also win the reputation battle.
2. Successfully manage your reputation
Do you have a plan for responding to a negative review? What happens when customer service turns into a fire drill? A strong social media presence can be leveraged to lessen the impact of such a crisis, big or small. Here’s how. First, be prepared: have a clear, step-by-step social media policy that has been vetted and approved before you need it. Second, quickly address the issue. Speed is your friend, don’t let the issue fester. Finally, leverage social media’s unique strengths. For example, with a blog you can explain a situation and your response in detail. Or with Twitter you can respond quickly and honestly in 140 characters while avoiding legal speak which isn’t compatible with a short-length platform like Twitter. Once you’ve taken care of your reputation strategy, you can move on to proactive opportunities like becoming a thought leader.
3. Establish thought leadership
What makes your service or product better than the competition? It’s your differentiation and in the world of B2B social media marketing, differentiation means that your organization has something meaningful and interesting to say in the eyes of your customers and industry: we define it as thought leadership content. Through social media, B2B marketers can leverage thought leadership to establish industry prominence and mindshare. This content truly becomes valuable when it arrives on the screens of customers and industry professionals. In order to achieve this distribution, a thought leadership program must connect with key social media industry influencers. There are social media influencers in every single industry. They write blogs, they tweet, are active in LinkedIn Groups, and they have big audiences that follow them. They may be your customers, potential partners, or industry enthusiasts. A proactive B2B social media marketing strategy that builds a relationship with these influencers and provides valuable thought leadership content will ultimately reach your prospects and customers. Taking it even further, what happens if your customers evolve into rabid fans?
4. Leverage brand enthusiasts
Customer loyalty in the B2B space has traditionally been based on quality of service and the customer relationship with the sales and account teams. Have you ever read tweets from a Salesforce.com customer who’s attended one of its summits? They are not customers – they are fans. There is a new level of engagement being reached by Salesforce and other B2B marketers with their existing clients. The simple math is this: a typical account manager has limited time to spend with many accounts and has to spread out just a few conversations a month per client. With the right social media presence, you could increase your frequency of contact by 5 or more times per client. Increased frequency can lead to early identification of service issues, prompting of a new customer need that leads to cross-sell, and the hand raising of fans who can publicly profess their love for your service.
5. Extend your reach
Effective social media content is becoming more and more of a factor in how search engines rank a site for various keywords. This trend is going to continue so if low cost, strategic site traffic is important to your business, then you need to get moving fast. A few first steps can include: optimizing a YouTube channel, ensuring your company LinkedIn presence is written with good keywords, creating or editing a Wikipedia entry for your business and key leaders, creating regular blog and Twitter posts that discuss relevant topics and link back to your sites.
Where are you headed with B2B social media marketing?
The digital b2b divide is real and you know which side your organization sits on today. The big question is what are you going to do with this information? In the next leg of the race, the winners will have more than ROI on their side. They’ll have authentic reputations that continue to expand, the mindshare and differentiation of being thought leaders, a base of industry professionals that act more like fans than customers, and they’ll have a free supply of new customer traffic from organic search.
The divide is a bit scary but it’s a clear opportunity for those that leap it and push its boundaries. Where does your organization sit and which of these challenges do you face?