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B2B marketing’s future: the impact of social media

  
  
  
  

Why B2B Marketing Risks ObsolescenceThere were dynamite questions to Laura Ramos and me on today's Forrester teleconference about B2B Marketing Obsolete, Really? (Part III). Let's continue the conversation!

Impact of social media on B2B marketing

Why B2B Marketing Risks Obsolescence[11/24 update: The archived teleconference ($250) is up.]

Laura has blogged and tweeted on the topic Will B2B Marketing Become Obsolete? In this presentation, some of the key questions she addressed were: What is the state of B2B marketing, and what factors increase the risk that marketing will become obsolete in B2B, high technology, and services firms? What is B2B marketing's biggest challenge in light of these changes? What are the five best practices for improving B2B marketing's standing inside the organization?

Top b2b social media platforms

linkedin demographic graphDuring the presentation I mentioned a marketer's question late last year about whether social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, are used mostly by a younger set. It's a reasonable question - isn't a 48 year old corporate decision maker going to be a later adopter of these tools than, say, an 18 year old?

Overall, probably - but check out this Quantcast info showing that it's far more likely that a LinkedIn user is age 35-49 than 34 or younger.

linkedin traffic graphOn top of that, look at the thumbnail showing LinkedIn user growth charted over the last 18 months - there's been several hundred percent growth.

What IS b2b marketing?

Before the call I too tapped colleagues - asking for input on this topic via this blog, tweeting, and posting a query on LinkedIn.

On LinkedIn, I asked

"What IS b2b marketing today? how will it change or stay the same in the next few years?"

The question elicited more and stronger reactions from colleagues than I'd expected. Several said emphatically that *of course* businesses will always need to tell their story, ergo marketing will always be essential as the storyteller.

B2B Marketing Teleconference Q&A

Questions that I noted from attendees this morning included (I'm roughly paraphrasing based on my understanding of what I heard - and also giving these not in the order received):

Q1: Won't B2B buyers "see through" businesses' use of social media... and possibly resent that the platform is being used to subtly pitch them (albeit in a new way)?

A: I think this is an incredibly insightful question! The short version of my own stab at an answer was that there are good practices and bad practices when it comes to businesses engaging with buyers through social media. Per excellent advice about business blogging from Tom Pick, David Meerman Scott, Laura Ramos, and others, good practices seem to include:

  • Transparency
  • Letting your personality show
  • Being authentic
  • Being humble
  • Writing without company approvals/editing
  • Being consistent about contibuting

If you’re thinking about getting started, I think it’s a good bet to

  • Cite data or personal experience as a starting point for framing an issue
  • Ask for help from readers in answering tough questions
  • Acknowledge other bloggers thinking about similar issues
  • Offer your frank opinion

On the flip side, it’s a bad bet (and, in some cases, just ethically wrong) to be

  • Self-centered, as in never or seldom acknowledging others who are contributing to the marketplace of ideas
  • Excessively proud, as in using a ‘do this, do that’ tone as if you’re the consummate guru
  • Lazy, as in dropping the ball once your audience gives you their attention
  • Salesy, as in pitching your products or services
  • A robber, as in using others’ ideas without giving credit (ala the recent 3M fiasco)

Q2: With social media in the mix, how should b2b marketers measure ROI now?

A: It seems to me that frequently and closely examining correlations between CRM data and marketing efforts is important. And I suggested not settling for a “sorry, no impact/correlation” report from Sales unless you (the marketer) have talked with customers themselves.

  • I cited an example where a marketer I worked with had to record in the CRM of marketing’s role in some major deals — this was overcome by asking customers directly for their perspective.
  • In another case, cross-tabbing CRM data with which customers had participated in case studies helped to uncover a possible connection between case study participation and higher customer lifetime value. 

 

Q3: What about PR efforts to reach traditional media at trade shows – worthwhile or not worthwhile?

A: I fielded this one, responding that I’d suggest having both traditional and non-traditional media contacts on your radar. Coverage in traditional media outlets is still useful and important because not all B2B buyers follow industry blogs or discussion forums and, even with those that do, there is still credibility imparted through coverage in some pubs.

Last but not least, traditional media contacts want a 2.0 style two-way dialogue with PR people, too. There is more on this idea in the bottom section of my interview with Ron Trujillo, editor of the Sacramento Business Journal.

There was also a question about research and examples showing how to make social media work for business. For that, Laura’s recent report Making Social Media Work In B2B Marketing is a recommended resource.

B2B marketing’s future — your thoughts?

What do you think the answers are to the above questions? Did we get it right? Did we leave anything out?

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