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B2B Buyers Are People Too!

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By Joseph B. Greco, MSOD

My goal here is to deliver some information that would be valuable to you with your social media marketing. First, that means learning and understanding what might be the significant differences in B2B versus B2C marketing. Most of us are familiar with B2C campaigns, as we are each consumers exposed to the media bombardment. While there are some key distinctions between the two styles, remember that the end target is still an individual, and so successful B2C methods can be applied in B2B. So both B2B and B2C require the consistency to the concept that ultimately you are still selling a service or a product to a person, and thus the base of this marketing can still be called peer-2-peer.

More B2B purchases may be based on logic, while consumer choices are more driven by emotion. As humans, we still make decisions based on emotions whether or not one is representing a committee that is purchasing for a company. Typically people only need enough facts or logic to support their emotional choices. The keys to developing a long-term successful relationship with the business buyer are the quality of your contact, the ability to discern the customer’s needs, and the delivery of value on a consistent basis. Often that buyer will be your conduit into that customer organization. Hopefully they will take your offering and champion the purchasing process within their company whether they represent a committee or have individual authority. You are persuading someone to buy something from you.

Author Laura Lake points out that “Consumers are different than B2B purchasers in that they are less likely to be interested in a lengthy marketing message. They don’t want to work to understand your benefits so the most effective marketing strategies will be to focus on the results and benefits to them.” For B2B customers, the need to focus on content is greater. Business purchases versus consumer buys tend to be more costly and may include long-term contracts which can be critical to the quality of the relationship and your supply chain performance.

Amanda Walgrove, writing in The Content Strategist, defines content marketing as “the creation and distribution of educational or compelling content in multiple media formats to attract and retain customers.” The question arises about how to maximize your ROI with your social media marketing. “If you want to be more effective at content marketing, then be sure to document your strategy. Sixty percent of those with a documented strategy rate themselves highly in terms of content marketing effectiveness compared with 32 percent who only have a verbal strategy. And measurement is a key area where B2B marketers are struggling to successfully track ROI with a total of only 21 percent being successful where 35 percent with a documented strategy say they are successful.”

LinkedIn seems to be the preferred marketing channel for B2B. The challenge, according to Jay Devine, whose Devine + Partners are communications and content experts specializing in public relations and digital communications, notes that “individuals must join a Linked-In group but companies can’t join groups.” So someone – or more than one person, if your size warrants – needs to be assigned and responsible to see that the content message is consistent with the corporate mission and marketing strategies. If there is not someone internally to manage this activity, then you may want to consider hiring a consulting firm like Divine’s to provide a dedicated professional who will take ownership and build your message around your distinct competitive advantage.

Remember the objective is to make sales and grow profits. Somewhere from 87 to 94 percent of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content, making it the social media platform most often used, and it’s also the most effective. And according to Content Marketing Institute, “90 percent of B2B enterprise marketers use in-person events as a marketing tactic which can take various forms including conferences, trade shows and networking parties that bring people together and spur real-time discussion.” (Think the NAUMD annual convention, this year in Las Vegas.)

One may ask, “What is the one area of content marketing that B2B marketers want to learn more about?” There is a list including aligning goals with content, content creation, content marketing strategy, storytelling, videos and more. One respondent reflecting on the reality said, “There isn’t just one. You have to be an amoeba and continually absorb everything from every angle.” Welcome to another challenge of business in today’s environment. Organizational goals may include items like brand awareness, lead generation, engagement and sales. You may want to focus on those items affecting your key performance indicators.

Tim Asimos of Circes Studio writes that “Effective B2B marketing requires an integrated strategy and holistic approach. There is no one solution or ‘silver bullet.’” A McKinsey study shows that a B2B customer will regularly use six different interaction channels throughout the decision journey. You need to establish your marketing strategy that leverages the best and most relevant options and use them to work together. Content should come before channels and the effectiveness of your website, social media, videos, blogs, white papers and webinars all hinge on having the right kind of content. High touch is still an effective tactic for communication of the benefits of your product and gives the audience something tangible to hold onto, like this Made to Measure magazine. Another offline tactic in an integrated strategy is trade shows. In the last five years, B2B marketers have listed in-person events as their most effective marketing event.

Asimos notes that “owned, earned and paid media work best together with a comprehensive strategy. Owned would include your website, social media profiles, blogs and emails that your business produces and owns. Paid media would be advertising, and earned media is public relations. To get your audience’s attention, owned media doesn’t negate the need for paid or earned media. One can support the other, so integrate your approach. And while marketing doesn’t replace sales and business development, today’s B2B buyers go through nearly 60 percent of the purchasing process before even talking to a salesperson. Rainmakers and relationship builders are still critical but marketing has become much more critical than in the past. Sales still need marketing and marketing needs sales, and B2B companies need the activities of both integrated and aligned.”

He continues, “Brands become publishers with owned media because they control the message and they publish the content. This is a seismic shift as marketers are no longer dependent on advertising and PR firms to get their audience’s attention. Owned and shared media provide an opportunity for smaller firms, but with owned media it’s not about outspending your competitors but outsmarting them. Your content can generate media coverage when you publish content; owned media leads to earned media. Traditional press releases in many cases have been supplanted by Google and Twitter.” One current presidential candidate has utilized Twitter to get his message out and thus has avoided spending millions on paid media for many months.

From the “Communication Matters” blog, Jessica Kahn points out four strategies for effective B2B content marketing. “Determine your strategy first and then Tweet second. Does your message consider your internal values and the needs of your customers? Successful content needs to be searchable, sharable and snackable. For searchability, keep an eye on keywords to make it easy for your audience to find your content. Catchy, bite-sized pieces (snackability) allow your audience to digest your information on the go and from a mobile device,” which has become a more critical consideration with the proliferation of smartphones. “When creating your content, think about whether your audience will want to share it with others and thus find a way to make it easier for them to spread the word. Invest in ‘wow’ content pieces like creative videos, infographics and timely research studies. Finally leverage your internal resources and intellectual capital. Use the knowledge of your colleagues to think outside the box. For example you can create a blog video of design or customer service department to demonstrate your unique and valuable capabilities.”

As with other purchasing decisions, a regular review should be conducted of your social media marketing content and information channels. Is your message consistent, documented and truly focused? You want to continue to assure the best return on investment and know that your customers are being very satisfied.

Joe Greco is President is Greco Apparel, a contract manufacturer. You can reach him at 215-628-2557 or joe@grecoappparel.com.