It seems that every time we speak with groups on the power of social media for brands, we get a question similar to “Social sounds great for brands talking to teeniboppers, but how does this help me sell my widget to businesses.”
Business to Business (BtoB) is actually more about relationships than Business to Consumer (BtoC). Whether you are selling computer services, manufacturing equipment or even staffing, you need to position your offering in terms of the value it provides to your customer. This can only happen if you understand your client’s business, and your client understands the value of your offer. Bottom line, you have to convince your client that you are an expert in your space and their business. Impossible to do in a glossy, four color brochure or even a 15 minute sales call, but how about social marketing?
With Social, its not about the value of your offer, its about what value you offer. Rather than trying to inundate your your prospects with Newsletters, seminars and other methods of shouting, why not do what you do best-listen and offer value. Your best salespeople are already doing this, just on a one-to-one scale. I’ll bet in your in-box right now are links shared by associates related to new product applications, new industry regulations or important industry updates. All you have to do is commit to sharing them with the public via twitter, linkedin’s discussion groups, etc. If you have survived through the past few years, you have the industry knowledge. Share it via social networking. Showcase your value.
If you have ever tried to rally the troops to put together a newsletter, you know the pain of getting enough timely content to make it seem substantial (or ‘herding cats’). Clients need information to help them make decisions today, not for decisions they made three months ago. social marketing doesn’t need polish. social marketing doesn’t want polish. Share your insights about something interesting to your clients on a blog and tweet a link to it. Printed newsletters feel good when you open the box from the printer, but feel really heavy when you have to throw out the extras. eNewsletters of the same content just means that you saved the week of printing and mailing, not the two months of ‘herding’.
When you post a link using your bit.ly link shortener, you can see the data as to what articles people clicked on. You can quickly see what links are getting attention. Use this information to refine all your communications and marketing materials.
When someone buys a candy bar that doesn’t live up to the hype of the marketing, that person is out 50 cents. When a manufacturing team selects a vendor to renovate their packaging line, a team takes a risk committing scarce company funds to a significant project. Social networking is a great way to continue to ‘beat the drum’ and show how well you know a niche. Search engines are increasingly including social networks in their real time results, meaning that your tweet on a topic that someone googles can be the top result, even if the person doesn’t have a twitter account. Show your smarts.
Successful BtoB companies have long thrived on using industry experience and domain expertise to gain trust and win business. Social networking is merely a new conduit to expose that knowledge to the world.
Do you have a successful BtoB social networking story to share? I’d love to hear it!