Wondering Out Loud

Is it more natural to use social media tactics in the B2B space or B2C?

I originally asked this question in the B2B Social Media group at LinkedIn and got some great responses. I figured I’d throw it out to a, hopefully, wider audience.

I was meeting with a representative from an ad agency that deals primarily with consumer packaged goods and, in a grass is always greener moment, he said they are struggling to implement social media tactics for their customers. He said it – social media – seems a much better fit for B2B. I found his comments interesting because I’ve sat on a couple panels, and attended others, where the main question has been whether there is a place for SM in the B2B world.

So I’d like you to put on your hats of objectivity and give your thoughts on which is a more natural couple: B2B and social media or B2C and social media.

I’d love to hear your opinion.

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January 26, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

I must be nuts to do another seminar with Albert Maruggi

Last summer I got together with Albert Maruggi of Provident Partners to conduct a seminar about how to get started using social media tactics. We had tired of hearing all the reasons why one should and wanted to give some practical advice about how one can. It was so successful he and I have decided to give it another go.

On March 5, Albert and I will be hosting The New Media Mix: Traditional + Social. I posted on the same subject recently in this space and have been moderating a discussion along similar lines at the B2B Social Media group at LinkedIn.

At the core of the program is my contention that using social media tools is not only appropriate , but imperative for those engaged in complex sales. My quick definition of complex is:

  1. High dollar investment
  2. Product or service fills a critical need
  3. The sale marks the beginning of the customer vendor relationship, not the end.

If you sell a product or service that fits the profile, you need to be integrating social media with your traditional media for lead generation, sales cycle, and post sale marketing and communications activities. Bring your campaign plans and Albert and I will work with you to determine which social media tools are appropriate and how you can leverage them to improve campaign results.  

All the information you need can be found here.

We hope to see you on March 5.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | 1 Comment

Traditional + Social: The new media mix

On January 8th I posted an entry, A social media question worth pondering, that touched on the subject of traditional media v. social media. Rather than pitting one against the other, which others have done, I want to explore how the two can work together to achieve your marketing objectives.

A former boss of mine once said, “All advertising works.” I believed it then and I believe it now. When used properly, all advertising will do the job it’s intended to do. Too often, however, marketers get stuck in the rut of seeing every challenge as a nail and, therefore employ their favorite hammer to drive the nail home.

Case in point: a former business partner is so deeply wedded to the tactical trifecta of direct mail-telemarketing-email that they won’t consider doing anything else. Hammer and nail.

But the world has changed and most buyers ignore claims of “world-class”, “industry leading”, “best of breed”, and all the other marketing speak associated with high-priced products and services. Buyers have become more savvy and educated and, believe it or not, want to know they can trust their vendors to deliver what they say they can.

In 10 years of marketing enterprise software to the SME manufacturing space, I’ve seen buyer’s primary concern move from functional (how well does the software fit my needs) to credible (does the vendor understand my needs and my industry). The change was a natural evolution in an industry where the products – ERP for manufacturers – are perceived to have been commoditized. When all products are the same, buyers start differentiating on a different level.

This is where the marriage of traditional and social media happens. Traditional media whether print, direct mail, email, etc. is where you make the claims. Social media gives you a forum for substantiating them.

In the old days, SoftBrands claimed to have expertise in the food and beverage manufacturing space. To substantiate the claim we used customer testimonials and this webcast as proof points (I’m the cute one on the right). If you don’t want to watch both videos – and I don’t know why you wouldn’t – I’ll give you the key points.

The testimonial is pretty standard fare until the COO says the final decision was based on…”The people”. Other software packages could do the job, but the people SoftBrands brought to the table gave the customer more confidence. The webcast is a break from tradition in that we don’t talk features and functionality of the software, rather we spend the time talking about the issues SME food and beverage manufacturers face everyday. By showcasing the subject matter experts within SoftBrands viewers concluded that the products developed by people with deep industry knowledge would fit their needs. The event generated almost 50 qualified sales leads. The video was directly responsible for one new customer who, after seeing what their competitor was doing with the software, eliminated all competition from the sales cycle.

Traditional media, fact sheets, brochures, print ads, whitepapers, and so on are still important – and will continue to be so – but they can only carry you so far in today’s buying environment. More than ever, but not as much as it will be, the most important marketing tools are the voices of your people and your customers. They are the ones who prove your claims of being “world-class”, “industry leading” and “best off breed.” It’s the real people behind your products and services that your prospects need to connect with, so put them out there now and let the connecting begin.

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Information isn’t power anymore

Leigh Anne Reynolds of The B2B Lead Blog posted yesterday about tearing down the gates in front of her marketing content and watching the clickthroughs rise. David Meerman Scott has been advocating the practice for a long time, but many of us – marketers – have been slow to adopt it because it goes against conventional wisdom and, frankly, everything we’ve ever learned about lead generation.

It wasn’t very long ago that visitors to websites were happy to provide contact information in exchange for a whitepaper, or a fact sheet, or a brochure. They wanted information about your products and services and where better to go then the company website? But that was when information was power and that time is long gone.

Before moveable type made it possible to print books in large quantities, education was for the elites. All that changed when books became available to the lower classes. Similarly,before the explosion of the Internet, you owned your collateral and were free to distribute it to whomever you wished. But the Web has become a supercharged information distribution system and much, if not most of the information you once owned is now accessible to anyone who knows how to use a search engine.

Information isn’t power if everyone has the information.

There is another element to this and that is the two-sided coin of value. Side one is the value you place on your content. Side two is the value your customers and prospects place on your content. Would you be surprised to find out the two values rarely match?

Let’s face it, we are all proud of the work we do. And because is it we who spend the hours creating the whitepapers, podcasts, videos, brochures, etc, it’s not unusual that we would be less than objective when deciding whether the material should be gated. Unfortunately, we are not the final arbiters. That role goes to the marketplace, and when the marketplace has dozens of information resource to choose from the value of the materials decreases to almost nil.

Here’s the ugly truth: the internet has rendered our marketing materials powerless and valueless.

Here’s the new challenge: make sure the your targets are going to your website to view your content and give those targets a new reason to give you their contact information.

Difficult? Yes.

Impossible? No.

Critical? Absolutely.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

@TomPick takes another giant ditigal leap forward

If you are a regular reader of the WebMarketCentral Blog, as I am, you might be surprised to see the site – while still there – is no longer the home of Tom Pick’s ( @TomPick) digital/interactive marketing insights. The new site Webbiquity was launched this morning. Here’s the subhead:

Webbiquity: 1) The fusion of SEO, search marketing, social media, reputation management, content marketing and interactive PR. 2) Being omnipresent on the web for the search phrase that uniquely describes you or your organization. 3) The place to find help with all of this. Webbiquity – be everywhere online

I met Tom almost 10 years ago – January 17, 2000 – when I joined SoftBrands (then called Fourth Shift). He was the internal expert on competitive analysis. He was driven by dissecting win/loss reports and souring the Web for information on our biggest competitors. His unnatural love of minutia probably stems from growing up in St. Cloud, MN just up the road from the Monticello nuclear power plant. I’m glad he has it,  because I don’t and we certainly need all types to survive in this world. In addition to details, Tom has a very keen mind and can spot a trend a mile away – which is why he started WebMarketCentral when most of us were still trying to figure out what the internet really had to offer. 

Based on past success, I see no reason to doubt Webbiquity will be a tremendous success.

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , | Leave a comment

A social media question worth pondering

Earlier this week I met with a representative of an ad agency in Minneapolis. His work is primarily in the world of consumer packaged goods. We were discussing the agency’s exploration of social media and  whether it made business sense for them to go that direction. Why it would even be a question was a mystery until he commented that using SM tactics seemed a natural fit in the B2B space (where I’ve been for the better part of a decade), but not so in B2C.

In the past 12 months I’ve sat on panels dedicated to discussing the value of using social tactics in B2B and the starting point has always been that B2C is the natural.

Talk about your grass-is-always-greener moments.  

Having had the opportunity to give it more thought, I can see where new-found friend is coming from. The products he markets are ones you come across everyday at your local supermarket. If he can prove that a facebook fan will drive sales of butter he has a shot at getting the customer to take a look at it.

This is not to say I don’t think SM and B2C don’t mix. On the contrary, I think it they can live together quite nicely. However, in B2B the sales cycles are much different.

Unlike consumer products, most B2B sales are more complex and carry more risk – professional and personal – for the buyer. For this, and other reasons it is critical that the buyer believes the supplier is credible and trustworthy. Social media tactics are exceptionally well suited to do just that. But social tactics alone will not accomplish the goal. In fact, they are but one piece of a much larger marketing communications puzzle that one must build.

Don’t make the mistake of throwing traditional media out the window in favor of social media. Those who have are finding they regret the move and are scrambling to reassemble a media mix that will achieve their goals.

The new media mix – traditional + social – is an area that deserves deeper exploration and I plan to do exactly that in the coming weeks.

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , | 3 Comments

   

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