June 22, 2011
There is an ongoing debate over the ROI potential of Business to Business (B2B) social marketing. The argument is usually based on a surface evaluation, in which logic tells us that CEO’s and other decision makers often don’t have time to really use social media for business. Consequently, our carefully crafted messages won’t reach them.
The fact is that B2B social marketing can bring us sales leads, but it has to be orchestrated differently. Mastering this process offers a serious competitive advantage over those who have erroneously dismissed the potential of social marketing.
B2B marketing is typically more difficult and complex than business to consumer (B2C) marketing, largely due to organizational behavior. That is just as true in the electronic age. The average marketer understands this and begins to implement their social marketing plan accordingly, revolving it around standard B2B strategies to define and reach their target market. That is precisely why many campaigns will fail, leading to the conclusion that B2B social marketing is ineffective. There is a lack of understanding of the buying behavior involved in social lead generation.
In traditional B2B sales, it’s all about getting past the gatekeeper to the decision maker. It usually isn’t the decision maker that does the online research, however, it’s the office manager, secretary or purchasing assistant. These are your information gatherers. Your target market may be businesses, but your social marketing target is often a consumer. The goal of the information gatherer is to find professional goods or service providers for their employer, but what appeals to them at the outset will be more in line with your average consumer.
Information gatherers in the digital age almost invariably begin with a search engine. Not long ago, that only meant you had to optimize your website content and that still applies. In the social marketing age, it also means search results from blogs, news content websites and social media outlets like Facebook.
Your marketing copy has to revolve around both consumer purchasing behavior and business purchasing behavior. You’re hooking the information gatherer (an average shopper), but that person has to take information to the buying center in their company, which may include the technical department, upper management, project manager, etc. Therefore, you have to apply some modified B2C strategies to a B2B goal, resulting in a unique social marketing strategy.
The tricky part here is that standard B2C strategies aren’t going to apply directly either. The information gatherer is in business mode, as opposed to making a personal purchase, which involves a different frame of mind with personal influencers. The ability to understand that frame of mind is crucial to the success of your campaign.
A few tips for serving the information gatherer:
– Ask your friends what terms they would search for if their employer asked them for information about one of your products. Regardless of how complex your product or service is, it’s important to use layman’s search terms.
– The information gatherer may have a limited understanding of what they’re looking for. Even with a thorough understanding, they’re looking for search results that jump out at them as exactly what they need. Use your Title & Description HTML tags to grab their attention in search results.
– Your landing page (blog post, press release section of your website, etc.) should contain concise information, with clear navigation to your products or services. You can link to specific products or services throughout your article, or provide a list of ‘resources’ at the end.
– Make it easy for the information gatherer to present you to the decision maker with comprehensive information, downloadable brochures, multimedia presentations, comparison charts, spec’s, and so on.
Another opportunity gained from this angle is through the unintentional information gatherer. This person hasn’t been assigned the task of researching a product or service. They are happily surfing along when something grabs their interest that is applicable to their job. While appealing to their actual job function is great, it can also apply more generally to the workplace.
For example, I could write a blog post for a company that supplies bike parking equipment. In it I could offer five reasons business owners should provide a bike-friendly workplace. The post would then be published through our social media network where it catches the eye of an employee who bikes to work, or would like to. This bike enthusiast is going to want their employer to see the points the article makes, in the hopes of convincing them to provide secure bike parking to employees. They send the article to a decision maker in their company and if she likes the idea, she already knows who to call first because it’s right there in the article – your company!
Business to business situations can vary of course, but one thing remains consistent with B2B social marketing – you must be a creative thinker to make it work for you. Take what you know about offline marketing practices, add new digital knowledge everyday, apply it to your business in unique ways, and be prepared to perpetually change the game plan.
Melody McKinnon is a formally educated freelance writer, business manager, marketer and designer. A confessed workaholic, Melody currently blogs for PetfoodIndustry.com, is a Community Manager for the American Livebearer Assoc., and owns AllNaturalPetCare.com. Hook up with Melody on Twitter @naturalpetscare or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/allnaturalpetcare .