Wondering Out Loud

Social Media’s Common Denominator

I was part of a small group discussing the issue of social media in the B2B market a couple weeks back when another participant said something that sounded odd, if not wrong, yet very familiar. I didn’t respond at the time because I wasn’t sure how to. I knew I couldn’t agree with his assertion, but, then again, I wasn’t sure how to make a case to the contrary.

His statement, and I’m paraphrasing, was: B2B is different than B2C. It’s not like we’re talking about a pack of gum.

Hard to argue with that, but I’m going to give it a try.

When he first said it, I felt a small pang of discomfort because I’ve been known to make similar assertions in the past, but hearing someone else claim “we’re different” snapped me out of my myopic state.

At first glance he is dead on right: gum is different than ERP software (the business I’m in). Talking about it, writing about it, selling it, all are very different. But if we strip away obvious differences, I believe the case can be made that talking about gum and ERP software are more similar than you might think. At this point you might think I’m mad, but hear me out.

Whether you’re selling a pack of gum for $1.50, a TV for $2000, or an ERP system for hundreds of thousands, there is one common denominator. Whether the market is B2B or B2C they are both, in the end, P2P. Every purchase and every sale, regardless of what side of the transaction you occupy, is Person2Person. To be successful the person making the sale has to build a relationship with the buyer.

When we’re talking gum the relationship is superficial and the sales cycle short, but you still have to make the person comfortable with your product – and you – before they will hand over their money.

In the world of ERP software, where it can be 12 months or more from first contact to final decision, the relationships are deeper and the number of people involved greater. The requirements are different – building more and deeper relationships – but the principle is the same.

At the core of any Social Media strategy is the relationship you are trying to build with your audience – whoever they may be. @PunchPizza is a Twin Cities restaurant that serves Neapolitan style pizza from 6 locations. The company uses Twitter to promote their specials and communicate directly with customers and employees.

SoftBrands – the company I work for – is a publisher of enterprise software for the hospitality and manufacturing industries. I use Twitter and the FourthShift Edition Blog to communicate with manufacturers, SAP (our business partner) and with industry writers and bloggers.

I’m not selling pizza; I’m selling analysis provided by experts in manufacturing and technology. I’m showcasing SoftBrands employees and the knowledge and expertise they’ve acquired over their careers.

Different objectives, same result: conversing, person to person, with your audience to build your brand and credibility and sell more, whether it’s pizza or ERP software.

As I mentioned earlier, there are several differences in how you execute a B2B and B2C Social Media strategies and I will address those in the coming weeks.

But for now you can take this away: whatever your business and whoever your audience is, regardless of whether you’re B2B or B2C, the communication you’re engaging in is P2P.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

Social Media in the B2B space

It’s been so long since I’ve logged into my Worpress account I thought for sure I’d find the dashboard covered in cobwebs. Never the less, here I am.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to spend more time on my personal social media efforts. Twitter is easy because my TweetDeck chirps at me throughout the day and into the night. What’s been difficult for me to maintain is this whole blogging thing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my time hacking out a few thoughts and insights – whether anyone else is interested or not – but finding the time to write and, more importantly the topics, has proved to be a bit of a problem.

Then came Wednesday, March 11.

On that day I was privileged to represent the first B in a panel discussion about the use of Social Media in the B2B space. The event was sponsored by the BMA Minnesota and I do believe I learned more than I taught on that day. You can find some of the audio highlights here.

Having struggled to adopt Social Media practices to the B2B space for almost 3 years, I was still struck at how many companies have yet to take the first step in a journey they know they have to take. I’m in a constant state of belief that I am behind the curve, but am frequently proved wrong. Most are aware of the tools that exist and many of the more than 100 who attended the event are using them to one degree or another in their personal and professional lives. That said, there is still a lot of resistance to leveraging those same tools in an effort to achieve corporate marcom goals.

In some cases the resistance is coming from the C suite or, more likely, Legal. That top level executives and those with a JD behind their name are hesitant is not surprising, especially when you’re talking about a company that has to keep the SEC happy. There is certainly some risk to launching a blog or a company Twitter account. Not to mention, Facebook, Linkedin, Flickr, etc. For others the obstacles are self made.

Leveraging social media tools and tactics is still in its infancy in the B2C world, but for those of us in B2B it is more aptlydescribed as being embryonic. And there aren’t many willing to risk their professional lives on something that hasn’t been fully tested, regardless of how promising it might be. And that brings me to the main point of this post – if you’re still with me thanks for sticking around.

I’ve worked through many of the fears and struggles my peers are dealing with now and I’ve decided to help them through theirs by offering what I’ve learned since I started on the B2B Social Media journey. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I think I’ve taken enough lumps to be able to speak to many of the issues they will face as the navigate their way.

So, from this point forward, with a few exceptions when I deem necessary, WonderingOutLoud will be dedicated to helping my fellow marcom executives – and them helping me – make the most of Social Media in the B2B space. 

It’s a great new world out there and I aim to take advantage of all it has to offer. There’s no reason we shouldn’t do it together.

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | Leave a comment

   

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