B2B Social Media Marketing: a true marriage of love

Even with nearly 20 years of practice of these social media B2B marketing I still meet students who think I’m crazy when I tell them that B2B fits very well with affinity networks (and vice versa). So I’m pulling this old article out to iron it out and relaunch it in the blogosphere. So here are my arguments to explain why B2B and social media go so well together.

The love match between B2B marketing and social media

The love match between B2B marketing and social media

Paradoxically, what could be perceived as a difficulty, the fact of being on top specialist or technical areasit is in fact one of the great strengths of B2B marketingand what it does social media fits them like a glove. Let’s see why and how.

B2B marketing is all about proving that you are the best by saying it as little as possible

our book on digital communication where we talk about B2B

First of all, you need to ask yourself what business-to-business marketing is. In a way, it’s relatively simple.

You could almost charge it by saying that you just need to “be the best”.

What we mean by this is not that you have to “say you are the best”, you just have to prove it, through your expertise.

This is business-to-business marketing; experts in a field, who express their visions, share them with others, arouse interest … and then the act of sale can take place (often through a phase called “lead generation” which passes through content and a contact).

The success criteria can be summarized as follows:

  • First of all, business-to-business selling is essentially based on a process of providing solutions (in the sense described in Solution Selling by Michael T. Bosworth). To simplify, we can say that in B2B marketing, what works best is the way we document, fix or even help bring issues out in front of customers before we fix them. This type of consultancy approach cannot be carried out by people who do not know the technological or professional field to which the contents refer. Only people who understand the field are able to express themselves without making mistakes. In this case, communicators primarily play a support role… or an echo chamber when experts don’t have the ability or time to express themselves.
  • B2B social media marketingSecondly, the interlocutors of these “technicians” are other technicians who also surf on social networks, and in particular on blogs, to find answers to their questions and problems. It is when the marketer has documented these problems that theBuyer will find a real answer to these questions.
  • Thirdly, B2B often involves small and lively communities, very close to each other, often passionate about their field. Social media works very well in this area, especially around blogs, where we often find few comments but very rich and well documented.
  • Fourth, not everyone is capable of creating content or speaking in front of a customer, but it is clear that many technicians, pre-sales specialists, marketing technicians, etc. they already speak in front of customers, they are used to speaking in public, writing technical or technical-marketing books and designing presentations… The caricature that the engineer is useless in the presentation is a cliché. Many are excellent and often even better than some communicators. There is therefore only one step to take to give them access to open social media, which will allow them to industrialize this word of mouth marketing, of which they are the custodians of the raw material: the content. Other times the communicator will be able to accompany them to help them shape their knowledge, to promote it above all, this is what will make the difference.
  • B2B social media marketingfifthB2B proceeds from an ecosystemic approach, classic in the commercialization of word of mouth and it works flawlessly in business-to-business. The technicians talk to the technicians, and in this case there is no shyness or withdrawal effect, everyone can express themselves freely. (see for example this meeting of bloggers and influencers held on behalf of Orange Cloud for Business at the end of 2014, one of the many examples of an ecosystem spirit around a unifying theme, cloud accounting left image)
  • Sixth, the last thing to do is to force someone to speak in public if they don’t want to. It is therefore necessary to identify the most suitable personnel, encourage them and let them encourage others themselves. It is an essentially viral and participatory approach. Our magic phrase is to announce in no uncertain terms that “you will never be bloggers, but professionals who blog”. It is more than a rhetorical formula, it is a real trigger that allows you to overcome the barrier of shyness and gives anyone the means to overcome themselves. In the event that this learning process can’t work, Visionary Marketing supports its clients to help them shape the content and get around the number effect problem. Technicians or experts may not have the time to write long articles for hours, but they certainly do have the time to talk to an interviewer, for example. There are many alternative strategies.

B2B safe from social media crises

We have demonstrated this several times and in particular in the book “Digital communication explained to my boss”, not all brands are born equal on the Internet. Brands that evolve in business-to-business environments have one more chance than others, which is that they are relatively protected from mainstream environments, that bring more traffic, but that have poorer content, and that are also more exposed to criticism and bad gossip.

In the context where professionals stick to professional discussions that are within their competence and avoid mainstream topics, there is therefore, to our knowledge, minimal risk of having a bad “buzz”. “This can also be explained by the fact that a professional rarely criticizes another professional, because he not only knows that he can scratch a partner’s image, but that his own image can also be affected. All in all, over the course of our 10 years of corporate social media, we’ve only seen a nasty B2B buzz generated – very intelligently – by a professional about a brand, which was easily extinguished through individual negotiation.

B2B Marketing Manager: Relax!

The first thing to do in our opinion is to reduce the stress of B2B marketers; social media and in particular blogs are largely made for this marketing sector, the risks are much lower than in other fields, in particular those of the general public and a fortiori all sectors close to health or nutrition.

Despite the belief that “what you can tell on social media in B2B will never be as fun as in B2C”, generating interest around B2B is much easier than you might think.

We have to challenge this received idea that B2B is a daunting field and that B2C is terribly interesting. This is not true, or rather it is above all a question of points of view. What can be considered “less interesting” is in fact exactly the opposite … for the people to whom these topics are addressed. The topics covered in business-to-business are therefore no less interesting, but simply less universal than the topics of consumer marketing. The only difference is that not everyone can understand what it is. This has nothing to do with the interest of the subject, quite the contrary.

Business-to-business topics are mostly interestingfor experts, they bring together small communities and relatively small but extremely knowledgeable ecosystems about the topics covered in these articles, and the ensuing discussions on and off social media are often the most exciting.

B2B social media marketing

Moreover, sometimes this difficulty allows workaround strategies to explain complex concepts to the final customer, in his own language, in a clear and user-oriented way, in order to ultimately speak to the B2B customer he usually turns to.

This tactic, known as B2C2B (talk to the consumer talking to the professional who buys or vice versa) is very powerful and still relatively little used in many industries except for High Tech which was a pioneer in this field, later to the work of Regis Mc Kenna in the early 90s (Mc Kenna’s motto was: “talk to your clients’ customers”.

Add to this another fact, is that in B2B, in general, all customers are known to everyone, and this relatively small ecosystem therefore promotes feedback directly from person to person. This allows you to exploit the full potential of social media, i.e. to create a perfect link between virtual experience and real experience.

Business-to-business is undoubtedly the industry most likely to use social media appropriately, and this, with less risk, is the time to get rid of its prejudices.

Yann Gourvennec
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