MUCH TO GAIN
We assert that B2B companies actually have more to gain from social marketing than their consumer counterparts because social tools address so many of the characteristics that are unique to their market:
· 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 it makes it easier to 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. In extreme cases, buyers could even track down those people in the event of an unplanned disaster, such as a bankruptcy.
· Relationships can now be forged at every level. While this may present a threat to the sales organization, it improves the chance that buyer and seller will find touch points elsewhere in the organization. For example, product developers may be more effective than marketers at establishing trusted relationships with influencers in customer organizations.
· The benefits to service and support are self-evident. B2B customers like the peace of mind of knowing they can reach the people behind the products if they need to.
· 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 short, social media can impact B2B relationships at nearly every level, but these benefits don’t come without risk. Preparing a company to speak openly to constituents such as customers, regulators and government agencies requires vision, commitment and a tolerance for error. Not all companies have the culture or fortitude to make the shift. They are better off piloting initiatives through smaller projects designed to demonstrate business value internally or waiting until customer demand requires a culture change. And some companies, particularly at the high end of the market, may find that social media has little or no apparent value. This book is for them as well.
We wrote this book not to evangelize social media as a panacea, although we clearly believe that it has value in many areas. We believe that some organizations are better suited to embrace the principles we describe here than others. If they decide that social marketing is not for them, at least at this time, that’s fine. However, everyone needs to be aware of the dynamics that are reshaping markets of all kinds. Even if they don’t affect your industry at the moment, chances are they will as the Facebook generation moves into the boardroom.
We hope that you can learn from the advice and examples that follow on how to apply these new principles, and also, where to avoid them entirely. The important thing is you that you strike out on a course that makes sense for your business.