Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why it’s time to shift your B2B marketing from “traditional transactions” to “Social engagement”?

In my decade long career one thing that I’ve learnt about business and moreover marketing is that they are more or less synonymous to being social. This engagement has been taken to a much stronger levels with the acceptance of Web2.0 and Social Media as the most powerful and efficient communication channel today. My fellow marketers have completely ensured that their brand is visible on every possible social network available today. What possibly worries me is that a majority of them still have the primary use of Social Media as just another channel to push messages to their so called “target market”.

I think that there is a huge gap amongst brands in terms of using the available social media tools and having an effective strategy to monetize their efforts. This was proved by a quick survey where majority of the CMO agreed that they are struggling in context to the below 3 challenges in addressing their social media marketing woes:
  1. Lack of skilled resources
  2. Lack of defining a proper ROI on their Social Media Marketing efforts
  3. Lack of an effective engagement methodology to enable positive sentiment

One marketer I interacted with recently believes that Social Media is only useful for B2C marketing and the gimmicks that B2C marketers use would never work for B2B. In fact this made this person assume that Social Media is not ment for B2B marketing. To some extent I must confess that the first half of the statement is true but would strongly disagree to the latter half of the statement as B2B and B2C marketing is both about people-to-people communications and eliciting emotional responses, which social media is perfect for doing. At the same time I must emphasize the fact that I’m not advocating the “One-Size-fits-all” mindset; every organization is unique in its own ways and has its own dynamics at work. This is where an effective strategy fueled by the right data plays a vital role in monetizing your business goals the social way!

Yet another interesting incidence that I’d like to share was when I was giving a presentation to a marketing team a few days ago and one of the senior member representing the company said that their buyers are too old, too senior and too busy to be on Facebook or any Social Network for that matter, but we were able to show him that their demographic of buyers do use or want to use social media if they are learning about business solutions the company sells. A recent whitepaper by Forrester on B2B initiatives shows that business decision makers use social media for business purposes, and when it comes to creating content and sharing opinions; they do it more for business than personal reasons.

Social Media can be harnessed for generating demand, but you have to recognize how it is different from other marketing channels. One highly distinguishing advantage Social Media has is that it has a two way dialog between the buyers and sellers unlike the other marketing channels which are monolog in nature and have a longer ROI as investment is heavy.

To summarize on how B2B marketing goals can be achieved via social media – Social Media is all about relationships and sentiments, it requires one to engage in two way interaction and engage regularly; it is realtime and so one needs to be monitoring the sentiments and conversation to consequently take necessary action and tactical strategy; it enables to amplify traffic and ROI to other channels – this according to me is the icing on cake advantage of Social Media as a Marketing and Communicating channel.

B2B marketers that take a more systematic approach have a huge opportunity to cast a wider net than ever, and use the fact that people are connected to the things and people they care about to reach people, draw them in, and build brand preference early in the buying cycle. But to do it, one has to be more systematic and strategic.

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