B-to-B Marketers Slowly Adopting Social Media, Part 3
This week, we complete our coverage of a recent whitepaper from the Boston-based technology and market research firm Forrester Research called Making Social Media Work In B2B Marketing.
In part 3 of our three-part series on how B-to-B marketers can effectively integrate social media tools into their marketing plans, we provide takeaway tips your company can use as it prepares for meetings with sales, customer support and professional services peers to determine how Web 2.0 can be a part of your 2009 marketing plans.
As social media constantly changes, B-to-B marketers should meet with their sales, customer support and professional services peers on a regular basis to keep ahead of the changes. The following are tips to help best prepare for these meetings.
1. Separate customers' business buying behaviors from personal buying behaviors. Knowing how and when customers and prospects engage in social behaviors is the first step in planning social media strategies. Primary research best helps marketers investigate how buyers use social activity to inform and validate their purchase decisions. But when this isn't available, conversations with sales, support and professional services staff can fill in customer knowledge gaps, the whitepaper says.
2. Assess your firm's community marketing readiness. In addition to evaluating customers' social behaviors, marketers must determine if their companies are ready to embrace new community marketing practices. Assess which current marketing competencies may impede or facilitate the evolution to community marketing to help measure the gap between where senior management is and where customers are. Then decide what's needed to span the divide. Before meeting with sales and support staff, conduct internal education sessions to raise everyone's Web 2.0 IQ, the whitepaper advises.
3. Approach community marketing selectively. Start with one or two new ways to engage customer segments that score high on any of the six social technographics profiles — listening, talking, energizing, spreading, supporting and embracing — when compared with other buyer segments. The whitepaper recommends trying the following activities: Listen for creators or critics who repeat key messages and repurpose their language in marketing communications; tap internal experts as conversation leaders on a blog; or post stories about community successes and failures in a "lessons learned" wiki.
4. Don't let social activity revert into outbound marketing. When initial experiments with Web 2.0 tools fail to turn the demand-generation crank, don't lose resolve and start bombarding community members with promotions. Be patient, and avoid this trap by keeping sales and support focused on the longer-term goals and advantages — like better qualified opportunities, more customer advocates and higher renewal rates — that social interactions foster, the whitepaper says.
5. Create a plan to marry online and offline tactics. B-to-B customers move readily between online and offline resources to inform their buying decisions and meet service, support and purchasing needs, the whitepaper notes. Therefore, B-to-B marketers should continue to strengthen the connections between digital and physical tactics to create and sustain conversations with communities of like-minded buyers. Top marketers integrate program tactics with customer behaviors as they decide which social technologies to deploy.
B-to-B marketers need to look beyond the front of the sales pipeline and use Web 2.0 tactics to engage customers in mutually beneficial business activities. Use technology to streamline lead management; close the loop with sales; and free up time to listen to, talk with and embrace community members for the duration.