Brain Vibe

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B2B Social Media is Not One-Size-Fits-All Part 2

In Part 1 I wrapped up with, “The big question is, what does social media marketing do for B2B? ”  Not surprisingly, it all depends on who you speak to and what a company is expecting out of marketing.

Marketing’s main focus is the ability to drive three things: Awareness/Thought Leadership, Relationships, and Leads.  Social media marketing appears to have success in some areas, but lagging in others.

Awareness/Thought Leadership

Paul Dunay writes in his Daily Fix for Marketing Profs that social media marketing outperforms traditional marketing effort. “(Unaided) awareness from podcasts were 68%, compared with 21% for streaming video and 10% for television.”  Whether it is because there is a novelty and newness to social media or there is something intrinsic to how it conforms to a more natural interaction remains to be seen.  But, currently there are obvious lifts in driving awareness and in turn thought leadership though social media marketing.

Another advantage seen of social media marketing tactics is the ability to leverage SEO to drive more traffic towards websites.  It is one aspect that ties into established metrics so that benefits are clearer and in terms that marketers understand and familiar with.

Relationship Building

Tim Whiting, Integrated Marketing Leader at Motorola, provided an excellent framework for how he approaches social media in a discussion on LinkedIn.  Engagement, Connection, Intelligence.  From this perspective he sees this as a cycle by creating mechanisms that entice customers, allow you to have venues to converse, then following up on that with a way to measure progress and success.  Tim is finding that the benefits of social media is connected to loyalty and advocacy.  His experience seems to bare out with trends in consumer benefits where customer service leverages social media tools to improve customer satisfaction and mitigate churn.

In a previous article, I also provided the example of IBM Cognos and their success in building relationships specifically using Twitter.  Overall, the ability to reach out to customers and get them to interact with the brand has been a positive experience.

Lead Generation

The challenge, as yet, appears to be lead conversion.  This is either due to the infancy of social media tactics within B2B, or it is more difficult due to those that engage are not qualified to enter the sales pipeline.

Forrester found that 25% of B2B marketers cannot connect social media marketing tactics to sales pipeline.

In a recent discussion with the head of business development at a information services company, those that engaged in discussions on blogs and LinkedIn tended not to be good candidates for opportunities.  The reason was that in many cases those that engaged were not really customers but consultants or agencies that gave perspective but weren’t in need of services and solutions.  They piggy backed on other’s marketing efforts.  Another issue is that for B2B service providers, social media gave too much away for free reducing the ability to sell services.  The take away seems to be that marketing needs to improve its ability to connect with the proper audience and strike the right balance between thought leadership and planting seeds.

As I researched lead generation in social media I found a lot about tactics to us, but very little in terms of success.  Marketers claim they are generating a high volume of leads.  However, when I speak with sales executives, they have not seen the value of these leads or leads have not filtered their way into the pipeline.  Sales is currently not convinced that social media efforts drive revenue.

Warm and Fuzzy

No one can dispute the value of social media marketing in B2B and certainly the increased focus, even without budget, is a stong indicator adoption and use.  So far, though, social media marketing helps in the traditional space of the warm and fuzzy aspects of marketing.  This may work in the short term as a way to show initial success, but eventually it will need to convert leads to sales before it will be taken seriously and have longevity in the B2B marketing mix.

Part 1

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Can Social Media Communicate Your Passion?

Passion.  A marketing must.  If you don’t believe in what you are selling, will your customer?  Probably not.

Take a look around at social media in B2B.  Those that are embracing social media have passion.  They want to help the customer.  They think their solution and brand is the best.  They have confidence in what they do.  They know they are good at it.

Leading B2B brands get passion.  Think of Cisco, Intel, IBM, HP, and Google.  They have distinct ideas of who they are and what they offer.  They know their customer and align to their needs.  They speak their language across all vehicles and departments.

Best in breed B2B companies are incorporating social media mechanisms into their marketing strategy as much to get their thought leadership position out there and shape customer opinion as they are soliciting customer interaction and perspective.  IBM’s Twitter account for their IBM Cognos business intelligence solution is active and reciprocating.  It provides updates and information on events, thought leadership, and technology updates as well as responds to tweets from customers.  In fact, if it identifies interesting reads and content that align to its perspective, you can count on the fact the IBM Cognos will RT (re-tweet) to its followers.

Tech companies have known the power of social media even before social media had an identity.  They have fostered customer advisory groups, forums and open-source development for a decade or more.  In technology, networking and communities are recognized vehicles for growing your business and aligning your solutions to the market.  In fact, this has even driven venture capitalism (VC) investment strategies.  In the VC world, an idea isn’t enough.  Networking to gain buy in and adoption prior to building your solution is a must.  You build your market before there is an recognized market.  This is the tenet of social media success.

But, it all goes back to passion.  Passion is the cornerstone to success.  Passion is addicting.  Passion is infectious.

Customers are passionate about their business and its success.  If you don’t have that same passion and enthusiasm when you engage with the customer, you lost at 10 seconds.  In all other forms of maketing your passion is delivered through a “push” mechanism.  In social media, you have the opportunity to connect your passion to the customer’s passion.  It is only through social media marketing that you have the opportunity to engage even prior to a sales engagement.  You meet the customer prior or during their problem identification and need.  It is then that channeling your passion throught engaged social media will pre-convert customers or nurture them prior to the decision cycle.

Take the opportunity to throw away stale marketing vehicles that don’t  exude passion.  Leverage social media to deliver your passion.  Then, leverage your traditional vehicles to collaborate and further extend your passion.  After all, if you aren’t passionate, why should your customers be?

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It’s Not About You, It’s About Me!

B2B marketing tends to be very company focused.   Companies care only about their objectives.  Look at my product and solution.  Come to see me at my event.  Purchase the solution before midnight so that I can make my quota.  Look what analysts are saying about me.

It’s not about you.  It’s about your customer.  IBM created a brilliant commercial that illustrates what happens when you stop thinking about what you think is great (you) and listen to what the customer cares about (them).

We are all passionate about what we are selling.  We want that passion to be contagious.  But, it still has to resonate with the customer.  You can call it relevency of content.  I tend to think about it in terms of, “What’s in it for me, the customer?”

The customer doesn’t care that if they buy your solution you make money.  They want to know you are solving their issue.  They want to know that you will be there support them in doing so.

So, listen carefully to what they have to say.  Help them and yo help yourself.

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When You Think Your Customers Make Bad Choices

I’ve come across a number of posts recently from social media consultants about the difficulty they face when competing for business against new entrants of social media experts.  I also had an interesting conversation with an agency about what to do when the customer does not take your advice and then blames you for the failure at the end of the project.  In each of these instances at various points of your customer relationships you face challenges of customers making what we consider bad choices.  We often take the approach of trying to educate the customer on why they are wrong and usually we lose in the end.  Here’s the secret, customers make bad choices because we have failed to connect.

Seth Godin spoke elegantly when he said in a recent post,  “Too often we close the sale before we even open it.”

As much as we are called upon for our expertise, the customer has their own preconceived notions about how to go about being successful.  They have as much experience or more in their career and role, the are well regarded in their company.  They need our help, but we are there to make them succeed through flawless execution. We may know more about a topic or approach.  We may even have a better way of doing things.  We know what is best, isn’t that why we are talking to them or working on their project?  But, what is really happening in these situations is that we haven’t really given the customer the right choice.  They haven’t been part of the exchange of ideas.  They don’t understand us.

It is easy to blame the customer for bad choices whether it is who they choose to run a strategic project or change the project plan to something that fails.  In the then, the failure was ours and we need to take some responsibility for that.  We could have done better.  Here are some things to consider to help you customer make better choices.

From a sales engagement perspective, positioning against a competitor is a tricky business.  You certainly want to understand who is out there and how you compare, so ask.  However, you also have to realize that there are some things that are difficult to recognize during the decision process.  Budget is at times at the heart of a decision, but a couple thousand dollars usually doesn’t make or break who wins.  There are things I’ve found while on the client side that may shed light on why you lose in a bid.

  • Inability to solve the problem – After lengthy discussions about the problem faced, the consultant comes back with a boiler plate proposal and cost without aligning to the conversation and showing how the proposal benefits the customer.
  • Inappropriate references – Successful projects are shown and customer references provided but they don’t fit with the clients business or problem.
  • Passing the “beer test” – I had an executive discount a highly successful and experienced consultant simply because he couldn’t work with them. He just didn’t click with them.  He even agreed that they were spot on for the project.
  • Poor or Adequate past performance – Clients may not be fully satisfied with past work or the working relationship to consider continuing.  A project may have been completed and good feedback came back, but the customer was not wowed.

Now that you have the project, it doesn’t stop there.  Building and nurturing the relationship have to continue into the project.  The proposal for the project is typically a rough outline.  You still need to help the customer through the process.  As a client, the best consultants followed these practices.

  • Understand how the client thinks a project should be carried out and why
  • Be prepared to show how the client’s approach has been successful or unsuccessful in other situations
  • Recognize that the client is influenced by internal culture, resources, and past experience that may hinder your the project or ideas
  • Be flexible to utilize customer ideas and augment them to improve results
  • Recognize that if the client does not choose you or rejects your idea you missed something about the project
  • Guide the customer to your approach by helping them realize this is the best option
  • Do not 0utright reject customer input or tell the customer they are wrong

It may take a bit more time, but you’ll be rewarded for your ability to know your customer and have them know you.

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