Without doubt, the best B2B marketing book you will read this year!
HERE’S SOMETHING I bet you didn’t know: spending on B2B social marketing is expected to grow 21 per cent annually through to 2013. And here you thought platforms like Facebook are purely for B2C plays…
But selling to businesses is different to selling to consumers, and Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman (my podcasting colleague from the early days of FIR) outline in a extremely cogent way why selling to business is different.
Take these few examples they give:
- B2B marketing is much more likely to focus on value than ‘experience’;
- B2B buying decisions are usually made by groups;
- Business buying cycles are longer than consumer buying cycles;
- Business buying decisions are more likely to be a commitment than consumer buying decisions;
- Relationships play a more important role in B2B than in B2C decisions;
- Service and Support are essential decision factors;
- Channel relationships are complicating factors in the marketing equation.
Social media, as Gillin and Schwartzman point out, is highly suited to addressing many of these issues. As they point out,
[Social media are] particularly effective at connecting customers with the people behind the products they buy. This barely matters in consumer markets, but in high-dollar transactions that may affect the fate of the buying company, the ability to communicate directly with designers, engineers and support personnel can make all the difference.
Gillin and Schwartzman argue that B2B companies have must to gain from using social tools, more so than their consumer counterparts. For example, and again to quote the authors,
- Group decision making is enhanced when everyone involved in the decision has access to the resources that the vendor is bringing to the table. This benefits small B2B suppliers in particular, because they can more easily expose their expertise and experience to prospective customers.
- Business buying cycles are shortened when buyers don’t have to navigate through intermediaries to answer questions. Social media makes it easy to reach the source directly.
- Similarly, it’s easier for buyers to make a commitment to a vendor when they know the people behind the brand. This awareness even provides an additional layer of comfort for service and support. If a vendor were to go bankrupt, for example, buyers would still have a way to find the people who built the products.
- Relationships can now be forged at every level. Although this may present a threat to the sales organisation, it improves the chance that the buyer and seller will find touch points elsewhere in the organisation. For example, product developers may be more effective than marketers at establishing trusted relationships with influencers in customer organizations.
- Complicated sales are made less complex when all parties have open channels of communication. This reduces finger pointing and improves customer satisfaction. For the selling company, it also creates ways to identify new business and upsell opportunities.
- Channel relationships are smoother when all parties are clued into what each other is doing and can take advantage of opportunities for joint promotion and co-op marketing.
In other words, social media can positively affect B2B relationships at nearly every level.
But not every company has the culture or intestinal fortitude to take advantage of such opportunities. There are still a lot of very scared middle and senior managers out there on both sides of the equation who would prefer to see things stay as they are.
That’s why Gillin and Schwartzman’s book is so valuable.
It’s a road map to understanding the changing dynamics that introducing social media brings to an organisation and what YOU can do about it.
Look at their chapter titles for an example of how they walk you through this step-by-step:
One: The changing rules of B2B marketing
Two: Seven ways you can use social media
Three: Winning buy-in and resources
Four: Creating a social organisation
Five: Creating and enforcing social media policies
Six: Learning by listening
Seven: Understanding Search
Eight: Choosing platforms
Nine: A non-techie’s guide to choosing platforms
Ten: Social platforms in use
Eleven: Pick your spots: Planning social marketing campaigns
Twelve: Lead generation
Thirteen: Profiting from communities
Fourteen: Return on Investment [yes, the dreaded ‘ROI’ question – with answer]
Fifteen: What’s next for B2B social media
They even include the elements of a social media policy so that you can cook one specific to your own organisation.
With examples a-plenty, and written in a no-nonsense style, this book is a must-read for anyone involved anywhere in the communication chain: PR, internal communications, sales, marketing, buyer, seller, C-suite.
Without doubt, Social Marketing to the Business Customer is the best B2B marketing book you will read this year!