Is B2B Really Ready For Social Media Marketing?

Is B2B (business to business) really ready for social media marketing? The short answer is "no." The long answer "is almost. Let’s just say that generally speaking, these kinds of companies are  “social media curious.” My agency gets a lot of B2B inquiries from marketing, sales and PR executives with companies that are genuinely interested in “doing something a little different -- you know, funny and more edgy.” Half the time they chicken out and go back to whatever they were doing before they called us, which usually includes sleep-inducing  product videos and downloadable PDFs that they will no doubt force upon corporate buyers who have grown accustomed to this, along with their bland breakfast and lukewarm coffee every morning.

My first reaction is to assume they understand their customers better than I do, but then I realize how insane that sounds, and decide that they simply don’t understand social media marketing. Here’s a quick crash course in case you need to get up to speed. I’ll go into more detail in a future article.

Social media marketing checklist:

1.  Establish goals

2.  Develop a solid social media marketing strategy

3.  Integrate the social media strategy across all departments including marketing, sales and PR

4.  Create funny, entertaining, engaging, informative, shareable content like videos, blog posts, graphics, updates and apps as social focal points

5.  Encourage your target audience to share via social networking

6.  Build and nurture an interested fan base of potential buyers

7.  Actively engage that audience across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social networks

8.  Measure

9.  Adjust fire

10. Rinse and repeat

The whole idea is to offer content that will grab people’s attention and get them interested enough in what you’re offering to ask more questions, investigate, learn more. “But wait,” you say. “I’m supposed to grab people’s attention? This is B2B, not B2C.” Yeah, I know but guess what? That business that’s eventually going to buy your stuff is actually a person with co-workers, friends and a robust social life both on and offline.

B2B is still people selling to people, not buildings selling to buildings

Business to business, by definition, is one business selling stuff to another business, but the marketers and buyers involved are still people, not buildings. The purchasing decisions are made by individuals who are influenced by the same fun, cool, shiny marketing and tactics that influence B2C buyers.

The main difference between B2B and B2C marketing is that with B2B, there are fewer decision-makers for us to target for each product or service.

A software developer may sell 50,000 units to one large business, but for every 50,000 users there may be one person or small team responsible for finding and introducing the new software option to that business. What if you could reach those 50,000 potential internal advocates directly and mobilize them to influence the person responsible for corporate software purchasing?

As with B2C, B2B buyers are educating themselves

The buying process is changing fast in both the B2C and B2B sectors. People are looking to educate themselves rather than be sold to. So in essence, they are selling themselves on your products and services. Your job as the marketing, sales or PR arm of your company is to:

a.  Get their attention

b.  Differentiate your products and services from the other guys

c.  Point them toward the information they need

Workplace sharing via social networks is huge, and good content gets shared and discussed like crazy. Pin your marketing message on the right content with the right social media strategy and your audience will reward you by steering it to your buyers.

 

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4 comments about "Is B2B Really Ready For Social Media Marketing?".
  1. Scott Hemmons from McKesson , February 9, 2012 at 4:35 p.m.
    Number four sounds like a lot of work: "Create funny, entertaining, engaging, informative, shareable content like videos, blog posts, graphics, updates and apps as social focal points" How about a fact sheet instead?
  2. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc. , February 10, 2012 at 6:59 p.m.
    I agree with Scott. #4 is easier said than done. Like the client who said he wanted a "viral" video, as though there's some foolproof formula for those. And, I couldn't disagree more that "there are fewer decision-makers" in B2B. Not so. For every decision that's made, there are usually several people who have to sign off. That doesn't happen when you're choosing what soft drink to have with your lunch. There might be one person who is "influenced by the same fun, cool, shiny marketing and tactics that influence B2C buyers," but he or she has to get signoff from several other people who maybe aren't. And, B2C marketers are fond of saying that all buying decisions are emotional. True. But often, they mistake what the emotion is. Many times, it's fear that if you make the wrong recommendation, you'll lose your damned job – not that the YouTube video wasn't cute. B2B is hard. It is not easy. Ask anyone who makes his living doing it. And make no mistake, you would be surprised how well a sensible, factual, reasonable, no-baloney presentation of – Horrors! – features, advantages and benefits, works. THAT is good content. The bulls--t detectors are fully deployed in B2B. That's because people's jobs can be at stake if they make bad choices.
  3. David Murdico from Supercool Creative , November 4, 2012 at 5:16 p.m.
    Tim, just noticed your comment. By fewer decision makers, I meant overall. In other words, there are many more people on any given day on the planet who are deciding to buy a soft drink than there are people deciding to buy a new office copier. I realize B2B is hard, but I question how many businesses are really trying very hard to use the new tools, technologies and tactics that are available. Totally agree with your comment: "Many times, it's fear that if you make the wrong recommendation, you'll lose your damned job – not that the YouTube video wasn't cute." That fear starts at the top.
  4. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc. , November 5, 2012 at 6:03 p.m.
    David, while I understand your clarification on the number of decision makers, bear in mind that when someone is buying that office copier, there are a lot more people involved than when someone is buying that soft drink. The total number of decisions made is smaller, but the decisions per item sold is much greater. My final word on the subject: You say, " ... I question how many businesses are really trying very hard to use ... " There actually is a real reason for that: When your job is on the line based on the effectiveness (read "selling something") of the techniques you choose, you tend to "be from Missouri." So far, all Facebook has really sold is itself and its stock. Its performance at selling something else is non-existent or pathetic, at best. The same applies to most other of these much-touted new "tools, technologies and tactics." Show results and you will be surprised how little trouble you will have securing adoption by the B2B folks. Show real, measurable results in the B2B market, and B2B marketers will be with you in a New York minute.