Tag Archives: B-to-B

Are you ready for social media? Here’s a 5-point checklist to guide you.

Some marketers are making a lot of noise saying you’re missing tremendous opportunities if you’re not on social media. And that’s true – the potential is huge, and for many industries it’s still largely untapped.

However.

Not every company or brand should be on social media. Success in the social world begins with a company’s internal structure, culture and environment. Certain types of cultures are going to work well with social, but for others it’s a minefield of potential crises and disasters. Here’s a handy checklist to help you figure out which type you are.

You might not be ready for social media if…

  1. You think social responsibility campaigns are only about faking it for good PR
  2. The true nature of your business is to make money at the expense of everything else
  3. You don’t really care all that much if your employees love their jobs as long as they do them
  4. The information in your new business pitches is more than 2% exaggeration (or, you know, not true)
  5. You’re afraid of what your customers might say about you.

If you saw yourself in that list, you’re not ready – but you’re still not off the hook.

Even if it’s not right for you right now, it’s still a good idea to understand what drives great social. That’s where your customers are beginning to look for you – so you might want to think about what you can do to help your company’s culture evolve away from dated models and toward what today’s customers are beginning to expect.

Social media isn’t about posting or tweeting or taking pictures of your lunch. Those are simply tactics (and your turkey club looks great, but think about whether it fits with your brand’s objectives). Social media is really about sharing with your community and providing value to your customers and prospects. So if you’re the kind of organization that puts selling at the top of the priorities list – and I’m not knocking it; it’s a viable business model – you’re not ready for social media.

But start giving it some thought, before your competitors swoop in and steal your market share simply by being more available and responsive to the community. Because that definitely is not a viable model for any business.

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Here come the social media carpetbaggers

Carpetbagger 2 LI

A client just sent us information on an “exclusive opportunity” for an event being put on by a “value transformation company” and targeted to their industry. As soon as I saw it I started shaking my head. It’s a perfect example of how companies who don’t yet grasp the workings of social media can easily be taken advantage of by others who say they do.

Next time something like this lands in your email box, pause before you sign up.

Instead, send it to me. I promise I will look at it and make a recommendation for you based on the actual value this event is likely to provide for your business.

I’m offering this up right now, for free to all comers, simply because I’m sick and tired of seeing this kind of thing proliferate. What happens next is this; the brands who sign up get no benefit and leave believing that social has no value.

At a cost of several thousand dollars, sponsors of this particular event get a grab-bag of nearly worthless goodies, most of which are carefully designed to push up the brand and social value of the company hosting the event. Here’s a partial list:

  • A badge for the sponsor to put on their own site – to drive visits to the event site
  • An opportunity to join their LinkedIn group – helping the host company to develop their own community
  • The “chance” (this one really kills me) to write a blog post which will appear – yes – on the host company’s blog
  • A link to that blog post on a newsletter sent out to all the conference attendees (remember the post is not on the sponsor’s site, it’s on the host company’s, so it drives visits there, not to the sponsor’s site)
  • An 8-foot table at the event exhibit (hey, it’s skirted!)

The host company is selling this dog’s breakfast by giving it a name that implies community, connection and conversation. They’ve wrapped a mediocre event in shiny social media wrapping paper, making it attractive to companies who have a comfort level with events and sponsorships and want to feel they’re doing something in social media.

Thinking about it, I do understand what the host company means by “value transformation”. Your budget, transformed into their profit. Your customers, transformed into their community. Your expertise, transformed into their SEO.

It’s easy to understand how companies can be drawn in by this kind of carpetbagging. But again, you don’t have to be. Send your offers to me and I’ll vet them for you. Getting involved in social business the right way has so many benefits. It’s worth taking a moment to be sure the work you’re doing, and the money you’re spending, is going to value creation and not just transformation.

Why commercial industrial brands need to get on social media right now

1.5 million dollar system on twitter

The other day at a meeting with one of our business-to-business brands, I raised the topic of social media. When I suggested that there could be some value in it for their company, the CEO disagreed.

“No one is going to buy a 1.6 million dollar software solution on Twitter!” he laughed.

His opinion runs parallel to that of most of the commercial-industrial brands I’ve spoken with. They’ve been to Facebook, they’ve looked at Twitter, and they can’t see how social media fits with the way they market and sell their high-technology, specialized-audience products.

That’s because it doesn’t.

Traditional marketing for commercial-industrial brands has included trade shows, advertising in trade publications and on trade websites, building a data-rich website and producing lots of printed collateral. Public relations, which has typically been a separate discipline, was all about “news” releases and editorial in those same trade pubs and sites – most of it focused on products or technologies being sold by the company, wrapped in an industry or thought leadership topic.

Going to market like this always been effective, and it still pretty much is – which is one reason a lot of brands feel they don’t need to think about social media.

The other, bigger reason – and the reason for this blog post – is that they don’t actually know how they could or should use social to meet their business objectives. Most B-to-B brands who are on social use it as a news-broadcasting platform, which is completely contrary to the way their customers and prospects are using it. Business people don’t go to Twitter and Facebook to hear news about providers. They go to join communities of individuals like themselves, for support and information that will help them build their own business.

This gives manufacturers a tremendous opportunity. Join the conversation, provide something of worth, give your time and your assistance first before expecting anything in return, and you will become a respected and valued presence. You will gain followers, see your information retweeted to larger communities, win word-of-mouth among your audience, and drive prospects back to your website where they will become bona fide leads.

In a lot of commercial-industrial industries, there is literally no one doing this yet. This leaves it wide open for the first manufacturer who gets out there and starts giving value to the community.

It’s not a quick process – you need to build your presence step-by-step, and there’s a method and a science to the art. But there is absolutely no denying that social media is the next frontier for marketing. Your customers are already there. Go find them and you will own the territory.

B-to-B social strategies for commercial and industrial brands

emerge

Open any industry trade magazine and you’ll see them – the non-customer-facing business to business companies. These are the brands that typical consumers never see and have never heard of, even though they may be giants within their industry. Social marketing whiz Josh McCormack calls them “non-visual brands”; you might call them commercial/industrial brands but they are definitely hiding well under the radar when the media talks about B-to-B marketing.

For most of these companies, social media is not yet considered a useful marketing tool. They don’t see the ROI, don’t allocate budget for it and don’t spend much time thinking about it in the context of business. Social is thought of as an arena for consumer brands, who can amass huge followings and create exciting promotions costing the entire annual marketing budget of a non-visual brand.

But the shift is happening, and it’s impossible to ignore. Even in the trade press, page counts are falling as print magazines lose advertisers. New industry websites are popping up, but many of them have not yet learned to optimize viewership – they are coming from a print sensibility and the concepts of SEO and user experience aren’t organic to many of their organizations.

All this is leaving many of these advertisers wondering about the best place to spend their budget. Still, social media seems like a stretch to many of them.

How can we – the marketing experts – demonstrate the advantages, the ROI and the strategy of social media to our “non-visual” clients?

Start by ditching the term “social media” when presenting your case. McCormack and others have lobbied for the term “social networking”, which makes sense because the platform is more about making connections than about media. The word media is inextricably linked to KPIs like views, impressions and clicks, but social KPIs should be determined for each campaign based on strategic goals

Next, present your case by building a step-by-step plan that demonstrates a strategic rollout of specific tactics. Each should be associated with terminology that is native to the B-to-B world – for example, “sales support” may be a more acceptable business objective to this group than “community building”, even though both are central to social.

Be ready to discuss the benefits of the various social channels, and the differing reasons to be on each one you are recommending. It will help as well to have a few examples of non-visual companies that are doing really fantastic programming in the social arena (and send me a few if you find them; right now examples seem to be few and far between).

Not every one of these clients is going to respond – social is still going to be a bit of a hard sell to this audience. But once a few start making inroads, and creating buzz, the balance will tip. At least, that’s my opinion.

And finally, if you’re a non-visual, commercial/industrial or industry-specific B-to-B who wants to know, step by step, how it’s done – give me a call, email, tweet or LinkedIn DM. I’ll be more than happy to talk it through with you.

 

(Follow Josh at @joshmccormack on Twitter.)