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.

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March 27, 2009 - Posted by | Social Media | , ,

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