451 Marketing prides itself on using inbound marketing solutions for its clients. Likewise, new media guru, author and speaker, Paul Gillin, co-authored his third book titled, Social Marketing to the Business Customer with Eric Schwartzman. This book focuses on the importance of using social marketing to facilitate B2B sales and relationships.
Typically, one would assume that B2C companies would be more active on social media than B2B companies; however, Gillin cites that in late 2009, 81 percent of B2B companies maintained company profiles on social networking sites while only 67 percent of B2C companies were doing so. After reading the first chapter of his book, the reasons why seemed obvious.
B2B businesses can thrive on cost-effective social marketing for a number of reasons. First off, it is all about substance. For a company like Dell whose customers are spending millions of dollars in a single sale, there is no need to waste time and money on glitzy consumer profiles, and fancy advertising. Social marketing brings knowledge sharing and expertise to the forefront, which is what B2B customers are really looking for.
Through a social online presence, B2B companies are able to humanize their brands. When a customer is having problems with a product, he doesn’t want to waste time waiting for a support hotline. He wants to talk directly to the engineers and designers who will understand his specific needs and tailor advice to his particular situation. Allowing customers and experts to freely discuss a product’s shortcomings, and celebrate its successes creates a succinct community that gives the company a personality, and expresses its values. This is especially important for many B2B companies that might come off as cold, heartless, technology corporations. We’ve all heard about companies’ reputations getting slashed online. by angry customers, which obviously is a scary risk, but Gillin thinks it’s well worth it. By taking the risk to empower customers, the company shows confidence and transparency, and humanizes its brand.
Among the many strategies of social marketing, Gillin cites lead-generation as the “Holy Grail.” Focusing on the customers who are actually looking for a certain product, or answer is what inbound marketing is all about. Thus, company blogs are the number one way to put your company at the forefront of a customer’s search. Producing valuable content about a company’s services and products shows commitment to the brand, and to its customers. Strategically using keywords on company blogs, and producing continuous content can optimize the blogs search results and position a company as a thought leader. Gillen quotes Marcom Director at Indium, Rick Short, who says lead generation means, “converting content to contacts to cash.” Companies gain respect by participating in industry-related conversations.
Social marketing is based on cultivating solid customer relationships. “When you think of it, being helpful is the essence of a good human relationship,” says Gillin. So if your B2B business is yet to be sold on the benefits of social marketing, check out Gillin and Schwartzman’s latest book and you will understand why you should be involved with social marketing.
-Rebecca Loya, 451 Marketing