Bryan Jones, Vice President North America Commercial Marketing at Dell was recently quoted as saying that “we knew social played an important role…we didn’t know it played such a large role.” So, even large companies like Dell are only now coming to realise just how significant social media is in B2B marketing, but now is the time for small businesses to gear up to ensuring they do not miss what is likely to be a very lucrative boat.
At the forefront of the reasons for this shift in the way businesses seek out other businesses has been the relentless shift to digital, online purchasing of goods and services as well as the online ‘consumption’ of recommendations and referrals. Think about it B2B lead generation is now big business. How do you go about seeking a restaurant in a new area these days? If the answer does not involve TripAdvisor, Facebook or Twitter then I posit that you are in the minority. There is no reason why B2B is any different. Advances in mobile technology has been the instigator and social media the mechanism.
Video and in particular Youtube videos are also becoming an important marketing tool. You can get across different marketing ideas using video.
Of course, the ways in which businesses must utilise social media will continue to evolve fluidly as technology evolves and shapeshifts, so it is imperative that businesses be swift to act upon the little nuances in the use of social media that continue to spring up. In terms of targeting custom it is imperative that a successful balance is struck between directing marketing strategy towards new and existing clients.
In terms of the mechanisms of social media pertaining to B2B marketing, it is clear that distinct channels are being utilised by buyers over the course of the purchase process – this according to findings in the Buyersphere Report of 2012. They divided purchasers over 3 phases. 1: The identification of the need (Awareness); 2: The identification of suppliers (Consideration) and finally 3: The choosing of the supplier (Conversion). But which social media platforms tie in with each of these sections? Well, according to findings in the same study, Facebook and blogs are most relevant to phase 1, LinkedIn and blogs pertain to the second phase, while Twitter and Facebook come into their own in the Conversion phase.
In terms of details, it would appear that looking through existing conversations on social media platforms plays a key role in research on the buyer’s part. This means that companies should absolutely take an active role in such conversations, displaying their expertise and competence. 57% of B2B purchasers use this method according to research conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, Heinz College and Dell. In what was an equally interesting and informative piece of research by Eccolo Media, it was found that the most popular content types were case studies and stories of successful partnerships and transactions, while guides, podcasts and emails, blogs and infographics, brochures and videos were all roughly equal in their import.
In addition to the continued role played by search engine giants Google, which is still the first port of call for the majority of online customers, it is worth remembering that your own website should be at the forefront of your social media strategy. Recent studies have shown a gaping disparity between what customers find and would like to find on websites. It is imperative to ensure that your website features plenty of customer feedback and product reviews as well as examples of successful ongoing business relationships to give potential customers something to relate to.