The love marriage between B2B marketing and social media
What are the keys to the success of using B2B social media?
Paradoxically, what could be perceived as a difficulty, on expert or technical areas, is in fact one of the great strengths of B2B marketing, and it goes hand in glove with social media. Let's see why and how:
B2B Marketing is to prove that we are the best, by saying it as little as possible
First and foremost, one should try and define what is business-to-business marketing? In a way, the answer is relatively simple. One could almost go as far as saying that B2B marketing is about proving, rather than saying, you’re the best.
In B2B Marketing, experts in a field express their visions, share them with others, and arouse interest ... so that sale can happen (often via a phase called "lead generation" which goes through a content and a contact).
The criteria for success can be summarized as follows:
- Sales in business-to-business are essentially based on a solutions approach (as described in Solution Selling by Michael T. Bosworth ). In short, we can say that in B2B marketing, what works best is how we document, solve, or even how we help to emerge, the problems in front of customers before solving them. This kind of consultative approach cannot be done by people who do not know the technological or professional field to which the content relates. Only people capable of understanding the field are able to express themselves without making mistakes. In this case, the communicators play mainly a supporting role ... or act as an echo chamber when the experts do not have the capacity or the necessary time to express themselves
- The interlocutors of these "engineers" are other people with technical knowledge, who are also browsing social media, especially blogs , to find answers to their questions and problems. It is only when the marketer has documented the problems that the buyer will find a real answer to these questions.
- B2B often encompasses small communities that are very close to each other, and are often passionate about their field. Social media works very well in this area, especially around blogs, where we often find a small number of comments which are very rich and well documented.
Not everyone is able to create content , or speak in front of a customer. But it is clear that many engineers, pre-sales specialists, marketers of technical fields, etc. already speak in front of customers, are used to expressing themselves in public, writing technical or techno-marketing books and creating presentations ... There’s a prejudice that engineers cannot write. Many are excellent, and often better than some communicators. There is therefore only one step to be taken, which is to give them access to open social media, to allow them to institutionalize this word-of-mouth marketing, of which they are the depositories of raw material: the content. At other times, a communicator could accompany them to help them shape their knowledge, to promote it especially, because that's what makes all the difference.
- B2B is part of an ecosystem-approach, which is classic in word-of-mouth marketing and works perfectly in business-to-business. The people who possess technical know-how speak to others having similar capabilities, and in this case, there is no effect of shyness or withdrawal as everyone can express themselves freely. (see for example this meeting of bloggers and influencers conducted on behalf of Orange Cloud for Business at the end of 2014, one of the many examples of ecosystem spirit around a unifying theme, the cloud computing photo on the left )
- The last thing to do is to force someone to speak in public if he does not want to. It is therefore necessary to identify the most able personnel, to encourage them and provide them opportunities to encourage their colleagues too. It should be essentially viral and participatory. Our magic phrase is to announce that " you will never be bloggers, but professionals who blog ". It is more than a rhetoric expression, it is a real trigger which allows to pass the barrier of shyness and gives the means to anyone to surpass themselves. In case this learning process does not work, Visionary Marketing accompanies its customers to help them to format the contents and to circumvent the effect of number which poses problems. Engineers or experts may not have the time to write long articles for hours, but they surely have time to talk to an interviewer, for example. Many such circumvention strategies exist that could be effectively put into play.
B2B is safe from social media crises
We have demonstrated this many times and especially in the book " Digital communication explained to my boss ", that not all brands are born equal on the Internet. Brands that evolve in business-to-business environments have an additional chance over others; they are relatively protected from mainstream environments, which bring more traffic but have poorer content and are also more vulnerable to criticism and bad buzz.
In the context where the professionals stick to professional discussions avoiding the general public topics, we have seen that there is very little risk of some bad "buzz" being generated. This can also be explained by the fact that a professional will rarely criticize another professional, because he knows that not only will he scratch the image of a partner, but that his own image will also suffer. All in all, in our 10-year period of corporate social media, we saw in B2B just one bad buzz generated - very skillfully - by a brand professional, who was easily subdued through an individual negotiation.
Marketing managers in B2B: de-stress yourself!
The first thing to do in our opinion is to de-stress B2B marketing managers; social media and especially blogs are largely made for this marketing sector. The risks herein are much lower than in other areas, including those of the general public and a fortiori all sectors related to health or food.
One should not be deceived by the perceived notion that B2B is a forbidding field and that B2C is terribly interesting. This is not true, but rather a question of view point. What can be judged as "less interesting" is in fact exactly the opposite ... for the people to whom these topics are addressed. The topics that are discussed in business-to-business are therefore no less interesting, but simply less universal than the topics of consumer marketing. The only difference is that not everyone can understand what it is. This has nothing to do with the interest of the subject, it’s rather the other way around.
Business-to-business topics are most of the time exciting. Those who are involved in them, bring together small communities and relatively small ecosystems that are extremely conversant with the topics covered in relevant articles and the ensuing discussions in them on social media and outside, which are often the most exciting ones.
Sometimes, this difficulty allows the circumvention strategies to explain to the end customer, in his own language, complex concepts in a clear and user-oriented way. In order to speak well with the B2B customer to whom one usually addresses himself, the tactic known as B2C2B (talking to the consumer who talks to the buying professional or vice versa) is very powerful and still relatively less used in many industrial fields, except in High Tech which was a pioneer in this field. This tactic is derived from the work of Regis Mc Kenna, who used to say, "talk to your customers' customers".
Another fact to add to this one is that generally in B2B, one knows all the customers and this ecosystem being relatively small, provides the opportunity to obtain feedback directly from them. This makes possible the full use of the potential of social media , that is to say the realization of a perfect loop between virtual experience and real experience.
Business-to-business is undoubtedly the most appropriate sector to use social media with less risk. Hence, it is time to get rid of the prejudices that surround it.
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