June 2018.1 Where to for B2B and Social?

Where to for B2B and Social?

I don’t suppose you subscribe to any of the following?

  • I don’t like Social Media so the company doesn’t use it.
  • I’d never let my people have individual accounts on Social Media
  • We do a bit, but I’m not sure it ever leads to anything.

If like me you’ve seen the evolution of the digital era bringing these new communication channels into the marketing and sales world, it hasn’t been easy to see how to best utilise them. You could be forgiven for thinking the reality hasn’t always lived up to the hype.

I’ve certainly struggled to understand how these might fit into a number of businesses. Ignoring them completely can feel like you’ve just stuck your head in the sand, equally you can find they have the potential to absorb a disproportionate amount of time for no clear payback

I think it’s fair to say the B2B sector typically lags B2C when it comes to emerging marketing trends and technology, that‘s often for sound reasons; more defined markets, established relationships, smaller budgets etc. but also the fortunes of B2B companies are less linked to the need to follow social change and trends than B2C.

While the modern era of Social Media has been around for over 10 years (generally considered to have begun with the launch of Facebook in 2006), many B2B organisations still seem unsure where it all fits in.

Over that period, Google +, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. have all emerged with a claim to a place in the marketing panoply. The headline numbers on participation on these platforms are impressive,  less tangible is determining the effectiveness of any of these in terms of brand promotion or leads generated.

As these platforms have matured and their demographics become established are they finding a place in the B2B world?

Why make the effort?

Compared to conventional marketing comms, one of the key advancements of Social Media, indeed digital generally, is the opportunity it offers for engagement, essentially moving from a passive to an active channel.

This blurs the line between where sales would have taken ownership of an opportunity from marketing and equally blurs the responsibility between lead generation and lead conversion. Social Selling is the generic term, personally I think that is something of a mis-label. Thinking along the lines of social engagement is more appropriate.

Relationship development no longer begins with face to face or even voice to voice. For B2B businesses the obvious strategy would be to apply the same approach to Social Media as you would through conventional channels. Implicitly this suggests that if your ‘sales’ people are not capable of extending their representation of the business into Social Media they are missing a trick. However it’s where many B2B businesses seem to fill their Social Media activity with just product and company news postings.

Far from being purely a broadcast style sales channel the engagement aspect of Social Media offers similar opportunities to a personal interaction, with a couple of watch outs.

  • From a communication standpoint as there is no tonality and body language involved the opportunities for miscommunication are greater .
  • Your competitors may be watching.

While we’ve mentioned engagement as being a key advancement, we also need to acknowledge that not everyone is comfortable engaging at this point. There are specific skills that can help successfully take the relationship forward.

Digital generally can enable the capture of insights into what people are showing interest in before they are ready to talk or exchange emails, Social Media can enhance that further.

All of this suggests that in addition to new skills being required, a strategy needs to be established and most probably an attitude change nurtured in order to make social engagement work successfully in B2B.

I’ve always found the demarcation between marketing and sales to be a puzzling one and not particularly valid in the B2B world. Social Media would seem to advance that idea and suggest that the future of developing your business will be best served by people who are interested in the complete customer engagement process, have a background in both marketing and sales disciplines and are smart enough to integrate those and create an advantage by doing so.

Could the way forward be to commit to social engagement as part of your sales strategy, close any skills gaps and encourage those who can to develop it as part of their engagement and relationship building process?

Don’t forget if you are a digital dinosaur maybe you’re also not the best person to lead a review of the strategy.

If you have any thoughts, frustrations, questions or ideas on the subject get in touch with me at  wgm@inergus.co.uk.

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