Friday, February 07, 2014
During new prospect meetings I frequently hear, “Our customers aren’t using social media” or, “Our customers don’t read blogs”. I guess I should be asking, "Aren’t your customers humans?" and “Don’t your customers use the Internet to search and find business information and solutions?”
Of course, B2B customers are human and
they are using the Internet, Search Engines,
and yes…Social Media.
As I began writing this article, I did some searching of my own and discovered some new data in the 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America Report from The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. The data shows that more B2B companies are using social media and developing content strategies that include social media. You can access the full report here, some of the points that I found particularly relevant to this article include:
- B2B marketers have cited Web traffic and sales lead quality as their top content marketing metrics for the last three years
- Although B2B marketers are using social media more frequently than last year, they are unsure of its effectiveness
- 44% of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy
B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66% vs. 11%)
- B2B marketers most often tailor content based on industry trends
- Aside from lack of time, B2B marketers consistently cite producing enough content and producing the kind of content that engages as their top challenges
- The Majority of the most effective B2B marketers (86%) have someone who oversees content marketing strategy; however, only 46% of less effective marketers do
I was also pleased to discover a Forbes article by Steve Olenski that validated many of my thoughts. Steve points out that the data in the report shows that although B2B marketers are using social media, they lack confidence in social media channels other than LinkedIn. Steve also referred to his prior blog article, “Even Though It’s Called B2B, There’s Still A “C” On The Other End”, which validated the approach that I have been promoting to my clients for many years.
Even before the Internet existed, smart businesses have engaged with their clients on a personal level. There have been long lunches, golf tournaments and dinners out – often including spouses. We talked about our children and interests beyond the office. At tradeshows, we organized entertainment, cocktail parties, dinners and outings, making friends with our colleagues, customers and the media. Relationships were built and nurtured and we had a great time. At the end of the day, our community grew, networking and referrals happened and business (and sales) took place.
The Internet and social networks make it possible
for us to continually generate, nurture and enjoy
relationships that help our businesses grow.
It is time for B2B companies to recognize that our customers are using social media and we can meet, entertain, engage and learn from them there. The dialog in social media can create confusion through misinformation. However, by publishing dynamic content through blogs on B2B websites we create industry resources that community members turn to and refer others to for information and valued perspectives. By engaging in various online communities we can hear the voice of our customers, participate in meaningful dialog, build our reputation, increase our authority, attract more qualified traffic to our websites and improve communications so that we reach our target audiences with more interesting and relevant content.
Data in the report, also demonstrated that the most successful B2B companies had content and social media strategies in place as well as dedicated resources to manage them.
Content should be as different as
the social networks where it is shared.
The same care and attention that we give to live business conversations must be applied to all of our activity on the web. It is true that many social networks began with purely personal exchanges. It is also true that insensitive blasting of bland and self-serving commercial messages through these networks may be ineffective, annoying to the audience and even damaging to personal and professional reputations. This does not mean that social networks aren’t effective for business. However, it does mean that careful consideration should be given to the way that content is presented and shared.
Industry trends and online conversations can be monitored through a variety of tools and the right communications professional can develop a content strategy and execute campaigns by creating, repurposing and packaging compelling B2B messages for specific target audiences. A tactical strategy is also necessary to leverage, distribute and promote content through the appropriate channels, including social media. Although the core message may be the same, it can be presented creatively in different ways and shared through a variety channels. When B2B messages are shared through websites, blogs and social media, we engage others, invite input and equip them to share our content – which helps us generate and nurture more qualified leads.
Most B2B companies have content but it may only be shared through limited channels. A communication professional can extract and develop key messages, creating and repurposing content that can be leverage, distributed and promoted across multiple channels for maximum reach and impact.
Copyright ©2014 Laurie Wakefield
1 comment(s) so far...
By Pat Viars on
Sunday, February 09, 2014
Re: Are B2B Companies Afraid of Social Media?
Having been in sales the majority of my career, I believe relationships will always be an integral part of successful sales. The companies that successfully use new technologies, whether they are B2B or B2C, will be the companies who remember to keep the "H" (human) factor in their sales strategies.