Opportunities For Leveraging Social Media For B2B Marketing

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 1870 , Published on 10 July 2012
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Everyone knows it is not a coincidence that your Facebook page has Advertisements from a nearby MBA College, or the latest discounts being offered at a popular Pizzeria, featured at the right panel. Ask your Mom to open her Facebook Profile, and you’ll most likely come across Lakmé advertisements.

Many such promotional campaigns over Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. illustrate that B2C Marketing and Social Media is a match made in heaven due to the mutual needs they fulfill. B2C Marketers are benefiting because their Marketing efforts are now more personalized and concentrated than ever before.

Social Media

For the Consumer, the benefits are even more apparent as she is no longer dependent solely on the company’s paid mouthpieces to gauge their product’s worth. The modern consumer follows recommendations from friends, peers, relatives, and feedback given by people halfway around the world before making the final purchase.

But for all the hype and hoopla it has generated, Social Media is still considered fit mainly for the jazzy B2C segment, while the stodgier B2B Segment has been largely left untouched. The usual reservations are obvious. While B2C Sales are driven by peer recommendations and have scope for impulse purchases, B2B Sales are driven mostly by hard logic and specific needs where the number of ‘Facebook Fans’ are unlikely to have much impact. Additionally, budget constraints and standard purchase procedures restrict impulse B2B purchases. So, can Social Media be leveraged meaningfully by B2B Marketers?

This article seeks to suggest a few areas where Social Media may be employed to benefit B2B Marketing. Since the Topic is a very recent one, there are not many examples of these suggestions being presently employed by Companies. The aim of the article is to list 3 possibilities which deserve some attention, and might change the way B2B Marketers look at Social Media, in future.

1) CLIENT ENGAGEMENT THROUGH DISCUSSION FORUMS

Step 1 for most companies looking to make a new B2B Sale is still the traditional Phone Call or a standard E-Mail listing the benefits of their offerings. While this tried-and-tested procedure has worked well for the last few decades, Social Media might be the Game-Changer for the next decade.

Recent statistics show that average time spent on Social Media has already taken a lead over time spent on E-Mail, and this gap will only widen in future. This essentially means that people are now looking for online platforms to discuss their needs and problems with others in similar positions, rather than just routine one-to-one correspondence with their selected vendors.

In light of this new development, an in-house Social Platform like CSC’s Wikonnect for Insurers, or creating and participating in Discussion Forums on existing platforms like LinkedIn (as done by Postcard Mania) make a lot of business sense.

Rather than the traditional Sales Pitch over an E-Mail, the Clients can be asked to join an interactive Online Discussion Forum to express their expectations from an ideal product, as well as interact with people in similar positions in other companies. The value for the Client to indulge in such an exercise is that she gets an opportunity to network with her peers, and gauge the current Market trends. For the Marketer, other than increasing Client Involvement and generating Brand Awareness, an added benefit of such a Discussion Forum is that feedback on the features of the product by multiple clients may be received from multiple Clients, before the Product is taken to the Market.

The possible risk with this approach is that the Prospects might leave discontented, or the Discussion can potentially veer towards inane general observations. For such a Discussion Forum to be successful, it would require an effective Moderator and a clear agenda to generate maximum amount of quality feedback from the multiple Prospects, and ensure all the stakeholders get value for their time spent.

2) HIGHLIGHTING ACHIEVEMENTS WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION

Every Marketer wishes to highlight the spirit of cohesion and team-work within the organization, to assure Clients of high value and timely delivery. Social Media has the potential to make this job a lot easier, as demonstrated by Aon and Cognizant – 2 companies which have thriving Social Media Platforms for employees, managed internally.

A typical implementation of leveraging Internal Social Media is to divide the employees into divisions based on geographies or verticals. Each team is then awarded points based on their individual performance and team performance measured through their competence in meeting deadlines, or resolving Client issues. The achievements thus recorded and uploaded by the Employees can then be showcased to both existing and potential Clients to highlight the timely achievements of the employees, functions and verticals within the company.

An additional benefit of having an Internal Social Media platform is that conflicts within the Organization and grouses held by disgruntled employees can be identified at a nascent stage as employees will be able to use the Platform to express their problems also.

3) MAPPING SALES AGENTS TO CLIENTS

In a number of B2B Segments, Sales Agents are the primary interface between the Client and the Company. This makes the selection of the right Agent a vital decision for the Marketer.

The idea is to identify the particular Sales Agent from the entire Sales Force available at the Company’s disposal who has the best chance of making a positive lasting impression on the Client. Needless to say, communication skills are the major selection criteria while choosing Sales Representatives, but it also helps if a Sales Agent who hails from the same background as the Client can be selected to present the Product to the Client.

Companies have so far been following an intuitive approach, wherein to make a Sales Presentation to a client from, say, Andhra Pradesh, a Sales Representative hailing from the same state might be given preference over another person with the same skill set, but hailing from a different state. The logic behind this approach is that the Sales Agent from the same region as the Client has a better understanding of the cultural context of the Client, which might help in building positive relations with the Client, and ultimately clinching the deal.

Social Media has the potential to provide the next set of filters for this approach. Through networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, the information publicly available about the Client now includes his School, College, Hobbies, Interests, and previous Companies he has worked in. So, rather than simply matching the region, the Marketer can also find out that among the Sales Agents at his disposal, who shares the maximum common ground with the Client. A Social Profile Score, matching each of these attributes for Clients and Sales Agents, can be generated to decide the Agent.

For example, a Sales Representative who hails from the same State, and studied in the same College, and has similar Interests as the Client, might have a marginal advantage over the other Sales Agents when it comes to building a rapport with the Client.

As a clarification to this suggestion, it is important to state that the Communication and Presentation Skills of the Agent should remain the primary selection criteria, but for Agents with similar skills, a Social Profile Score against the Client might be considered a Deciding factor.

In conclusion, each of the 3 suggestions given may be looked upon as measures towards a better understanding of the potential which Social Media holds for the B2B Marketer. The suggestions can not be considered exhaustive in any way, but rather the first steps to ensure that B2B does not miss the bus on the most prominent trend of our times.

This article has been authored by Soumitro Mukherjee from MDI Gurgaon.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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