Word of mouth, it is said, is the most effective marketing out there. And in the highly knowledgeable, often technical world of b-to-b, this is even more so the case. Word-of-mouth is far easier to build when everyone is speaking the same language.
Given that b-to-b decision-making is heavily reliant on peer-based input, why has the sector been slow to embrace social media? In theory, it would be particularly successful in this space because b-to-b is a closed system.
Sometimes it's due to lack of understanding of the value of social media, which results in fewer allocated resources. Higher-ups in b-to-b organizations don't immediately recognize the value of new media to support sales efforts, and so they don't want to fund it.
Other times it's lack of recognition that the audience is accessible through social media. Even though successful b-to-b communications programs are executed every day, proving that the target audience is on the other end is still a challenge.
While there may be challenges associated with effectively using social media, it is an ideal b-to-b communications tool that can significantly expand a company's reach. Here are some reasons why social media can't be ignored:
It's peer-based. B-to-b prospects seek information from a very controlled number of credible sources. They depend on blogs, discussion groups, and other ways to gather input from others.
It's about people. The authenticity and interpersonal dynamic inherent in social media jibes well with the highly relationship-dependent nature of b-to-b sales.It's fast. While in the “old” days (think 2005!), PR professionals were looking at lead times of two to three months to pitch articles and case histories to industry publications. Now credible content reaches prospects almost immediately through peer-based media vehicles.
Contributing to industry discussion boards is a good way to establish credibility among prospects seeking information. Likewise, answering questions posted on LinkedIn can help demonstrate industry expertise. A third technique is to pay attention to – and quickly comment on – relevant blog posts. These three approaches can help you make good use of common social media platforms.
Amy Epstein is MD of the Americas for ABI.