I think that I have finally figured out the secret to marketing. Ready? OK, here it is: Not all marketing is created equal. Yes, that’s right, the way that you market tires is not the same as the way that you market cookies and is not the way that you market accounting services. The way that events are marketed is so much different than the way that fast food is sold. So why are we trying to use social media marketing the same way?
Business-to-Business (B2B) marketers have long coveted the sexy promotional tactics that Business-to-Consumer (B2C) have long embraced. Sure, companies like Salesforce.com and FedEx have budgets that can support Super Bowl advertising and a potential market that is broad enough for that type of reach. However, many B2B companies would only hit a small percentage of potential buyers with mass marketing techniques. Of course, it is important to note that many business purchases are made differently than consumer purchases. Manufacturers generally don’t impulse buy sensors for their latest widget, but it’s plausible that their choice of CRM could be influenced by TV advertising. While there is a large category of products and services that fall into the B2B category, but are widely purchased, such as office supplies, shipping services and software, specialized products and services require specialized marketing.
In some industries, procurement is very regimented and goes through a rigorous bidding process. In these situations, sales people act more as information specialists than relationship builders. They work on proposals and provide specs. They are order takers. However, there is still a large pool of people who spent hours, weeks and months building relationships to make a sale. These relationships are key to their business model, especially in long-term, high-budget transactions.
So how does this relate to social media and social networking? The same marketing approaches that work for a company selling printer parts will be different than the method for marketing the finished printer. For example, if I am looking for a printer for my home office, I may ask connections in my social networks for suggestions. Smart printer companies have the opportunity to listen to the social buzz and respond to my needs. Such a tactic wouldn’t be as effective since a printer manufacturer probably wouldn’t Tweet about the best place to buy printer motors. However, they may reach out to a private discussion board of peers and ask for their opinion. They may ask about quality, delivery time and customization. Both the end-user and and professional buyer might have concerns about customer support. The end-user would most likely go to a retailer to purchase the printer where the printer motor salesperson would most likely take the orders directly. In both cases, a buyer is not likely to exclaim their joy of purchase in their Facebook status. It might be a stretch for a buyer to post to Facebook: “Just bought 5,000 ABC motors. Can’t wait to get these printers rocking.”
These types of posts are much different than something like “I just devoured a box of Oreos.” something that I could theoretically post during a full-moon. I use Oreo as an example here because they have a highly successful Facebook campaign with over 22 million fans that are profiled on their page. Facebook engagement works brilliantly for them, but it probably won’t work as effectively for printer motors sales.
Does this mean that social media doesn’t work for B2B? Not at all. It means that it has to be used differently. It has to fit into the strategy of the company and the business developer. It has to fit the culture and overall messaging of the organization. And if you are in an industry where personal connections are the key ingredient to sales then you can’t simply flip and switch and outsource your social media marketing. This is especially important in the services arena. If your sales is based on the experience and expertise of your people, then a more personal touch to marketing is required. Just like the old days. Lunches, golf dates, phone calls – these are all things that can be translated into social networking. This type of one-to-one relationship building can appear in the form of LinkedIn recommendations, connecting on Facebook and sharing ideas, circling someone in Google+, sharing a story on Twitter, just to name few.
The bottom line is that there are differences in the way that products and services are marketed and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to marketing whether it is traditional or social. The good news is that social channels can works for all types of marketing with the right strategy.