Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals


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Using Social Media in a B2B World

Without a doubt Social Media is a really important element of modern life.  Individuals use it to connect with friends, old acquaintances and even celebrities.  Organisations of all sizes are using the likes of Facebook to make contact with their customers.  This doesn’t appear to change, if anything Social Media is likely to play an increasingly prominent role, especially now that Google states it will use buzz as an influence in its ranking.

When I speak to friends who work in a B2B environment they often ask what can they use it for.  I am also asked the same question when I speak at conferences.

Despite the repeated questions on how should B2B organisations adopt Social Media a Bizreport study outlined some interesting and surprising statistics.  86% of B2B firms already have an active Social Media presence compared to only 82% of B2C companies.  However the same report suggests that those B2B firms aren’t making the most of their presence with 32% engaging with their base on a daily basis, compared to 52% of B2C companies.  This is backed up by the fact that 34% of B2B companies aren’t tracking their activity in any way either.

Gut instinct is the same as if I was in a B2C environment. Use the channels in the way they should be used and create approaches that are right and targeted to your audience. The key thing I would advise anybody to do first however is understand why your business should be in Social Media and what is your aim of being there?  Can you offer the audience something they can’t get elsewhere or provide them with a point of view they don’t easily get.

Once you have defined your sense of being (in Social Media terms) you should integrate it into both your overall business processes and your overall Marketing strategy.  The reason for doing this is to ensure it becomes a part of your everyday activity in your business, automatically enabling you to avoid the pitfall of engaging in the stats in the report.

Perhaps more importantly in B2B than in B2C you really need to define what each channel will be used for.  That being said this is still an important factor in B2C however there is also more of an overlap of channels for B2C.  Remember, just because all the buzz and scale is with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube you may decide that one or all of these channels are not suitable for your business.

A key part to any social media strategy is the reason for being.  Offer your customers something to engage with, provide a currency that will ensure they want to engage with your company. This will be different depending who your business is, what it does and your position in your sector and with your customers.

For example, if you are perceived as an expert in your field then your strategy will be completely different to if you are purely a distributor of kit.  We need to take one step back to the start of that sentence, the key part is how you are perceived by your customers, not how you perceive yourself.  You don’t need to undertake expensive brand studies just generally ask your customers some new questions, unless you already know the answers.

Obviously in a B2B environment customers are often as concerned by the commercial aspect so if you are in a position to offer something unique for those that engage with you via social media (voucher codes or free services) that could provide a boost to your numbers, however that alone will not necessarily help you achieve your goals unless its a continued programme of activity that provides real additional value.

The whole ethos of being an expert provides real social media gold.  What can you give to your customers that will help interaction and engagement.  A great example is to provide content they wouldn’t get elsewhere.  A builders merchant could provide HowTo guides for builders on ways to save money and time on specific projects such as building a conservatory.

A distributor of electrical components could provide a service to the end user but as an aid for their B2B customers.  The distributor could provide a mash-up of the UK map which is fully searchable and links to electricians in their area, with examples of their work and testimonials.  The distributor in theory could also create income from charging electricians to appear on their platform if scale was achieved.

IT training companies could really demonstrate their expertise by providing a community and forum on their own website where their trainers can answer delegates questions on site and in theory offer clinics at agreed dates to really give in-depth support to their delegates.  This would really add ongoing value to delegates and support them and their employers further in to the lifecycle.

These were just some basic ideas that could be adopted and across a number of sectors.  If you are in a B2B environment, feel free to make contact and I can see if I can devise something specific for you.  Also check out this B2B Social Media infographic

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Social Brands 100 – #sb100

Some time ago I was informed that Best Buy had been nominated to appear in the Social Brands 100 list for our social media efforts in the UK. This was a great honour as the nominations had been sourced from the public.  I personally feel this is a good endorsement for all the hard work myself and the team have put in to make the impact we have had as a new brand.  Special shout has to go to my Social Media Manager, Graeme Cole who is busy on a well earned sabbatical at the moment touring the southern hemisphere. He is back soon.

To find out a couple of weeks ago that we finished fifth was massive for us.  To beat the likes of ASOS and Zappos is a great feeling.  In addition to being the only player in our sector to feature in the Top 100 is a great achievement.

So why have we been placed so highly? For the official answers and scoring criteria see the #sb100 report here.  From a personal perspective I feel we have tried to cover all the basis within social media.

1 On-site

We have created a core community platform that provides forums for customers and/or general visitors to talk about tech or general tech and entertainment related subjects.  In addition we are very transparent with customer service questions and requests for expertise. We rarely moderate and try to do so on a fair basis.

We also have an active blog base which covers, tech, entertainment and updates from Best Buy. I have personally covered the likes of Gadget Show Live and interviewed Suzi Perry and Ortis Deley.  Other great content includes coverage from the Brits and BAFTA ceremonies.

2 Reviews

Reviews come from both the well known aggregator Reevoo but also our own panel of TechXperts. These guys review the latest kit from Energy Monitors to the latest 3D TV.  The platform is also open for members of the public to upload their own video.

3. Social Platforms

We are active on all the major platforms, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  On each of the platforms we tailor the activity to suit the audience.  However we often run competitions, upload photos from events and provide updates and offers for our base.  Perhaps most importantly we encourage customers to ask questions and if need be, give us feedback, no matter how difficult it may be.  We always try to respond quickly and as thoroughly as we can.  We also do it from a personal perspective rather than as a company.

4. Social Commerce

In addition, as reported in NMA we also have a Facebook store, which allows our fan base to check prices, look at the latest kit all from Facebook.

This is just the start for Best Buy in the UK.  We have driven this growth organically without any advertising or promotion to speak of.  We also have a couple more ideas up our sleeves that could help customers engage with us further so watch this space.

Would love to hear what you think of what we have done so far and of course any ideas for the future.  Also, do you think we deserved the lofty position?

Just a final point, I would personally like to thank anybody that nominated us and thank the guys Headstream and the panel for their views and feedback.  Now we just need to aim for higher next time!


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Football Sponsorship in the changing climate

Is the backdrop for sponsorship changing?

There is a lot of talk in both the marketing and sports arenas that the climate for sponsorship is changing.  Sponsorship in football isn’t new.  During the 1920s Lillywhites negotiated exclusive rights to publish FA fixture lists.  In the 30s the top players of the time such as Sir Stanley Matthews, were seen to endorse and advertise a range of products from cigarettes to mens cosmetics.  So David Beckham was beaten in his endorsements by some 70 years.david beckham england

In the 70s football was in the midst of a mini economic crisis, crowds were falling and players’ wages increasing.  The Football League decided to create some (short-lived) tournaments such as the Texaco Cup and the Watney Cup (won by Bristol Rovers).  However it was the Football League Cup that secured the first major sponsorship deal in 1982, the Milk Cup was formed.  Most of the major tournaments have since secured sponsorship deals, either associate or title sponsorship.

The combined factors of the economic downturn and the rise of online for more than just purely acquisitional methods of promoting your brand, has helped to create this perception.  Examples of the changing commercial climate in football were cited, when the likes of Setanta failed to make their rights to major football pay.  The collapse of Setanta in the UK despite rights to Premier League football and Scottish Premiership and several other high profile sporting occassions could be perceived as the end of the commercial euphoria that has changed the English game.

Never has the English game been under this kinf of pressure since ITV Digital collapse put a number of English clubs at risk.  The increase of clubs entering administration in the game at the lower levels also adds fuel to the fire.  The current decline of the pound against  the Euro (combined with 50% tax rate) is also resulting in some top players such as Ronaldo moving abroad or considering the move.

All doom and gloom?

However, there is still an influx of cash from (in the main) overseas backers, meaning football at all levels is still getting investment.  This isn’t just top flight any more, the likes of Southampton and Notts County are also being pushed.  The fact that Setanta had their rights replaced so promptly by the likes of ESPN also helped ease some of the concerns.

There are also some key sponsorship deals that have been signed recently including Chelsea‘s deal with Samsung.

A new approach

Obviously it isn’t always possible to rely on investment from overseas billionaires.  For every Chelsea and Abrahmovic there are 50 not so fortunate clubs.  So how do they survive?  Well frankly, some don’t, however others have discovered more creative approaches to their sponsorship.

Some of the clubs have benefited from giving away naming rights.  For example when Arsenal moved from their long-term Highbury home to their new stadium, Emirates Airways secured a reported 10 year muli-million pound deal to create the Emirates Stadium.   A number of traditional supporters think this is a step too far, however most accept that this is the current trend and the only way to stay competitive.  So stadiums have been sponsored, shirts don logos, individual players have become commodities, the only thing left is the club itself, steeped in tradition and part of the community.  Not for too long.  Whilst accepted overseas with the likes of Eindhoven being name PSV (Philips) and Salzburg (FC Red Bull Salzburg) bringing corporate life to the centre of their existence.  Now financially troubled Stirling Albion are looking to go the same route and offer naming rights on a five year deal.  Whilst it will undoubtedly annoy the real traditional football followers it is better to keep the club going.

Whilst other lower league clubs continue to grapple with the current climate not all are going down the extreme route of auctioning their identity.  Bristol Rovers took the creative route to gain revenue by raffling its shirt sponsorship.  The club claim to have come up with the idea as they feared their sponsorship revenue would decrease if they managed to secure one at all.  The raffle is estimated to have generated double the revenue that they would have expected for sponsorship in a growing economy.  It also created a lot of buzz around the community and generated some good PR.

Whatever happens to the economy overall, the British game will continue and will without a shadow of doubt continue to generate revenue, either from wealthy investors, major sponsorship tie-ups or the inventive methods shown by smaller clubs such as Stirling Albion and Bristol Rovers.

What about the sponsors?

Never has the need for sponsors to connect to the recipients of their sponsorships been so great.  With the growing consumpion of alternative media, people are now driving the news and owning the media agenda.  With the likes of Twitter or Facebook, users can endorse or undemine a sponsorship within mintues of its announcement or perhaps more importantly within minutes of being exposed to it.

Big Brother LogoAny organisation that sponsors any property, whether it is a football club, event or a broadcast property such as Big Brother, needs to have a reason to be associated.  When I was at Nationwide we developed a whole campaign that enveloped our sponsorship properties (primarily the England Football Team).  Our “Sponsored by You” campaign put all the perks of being a corporate sponsor back in the hands of our members and the average fan.  Members of Nationwide could win VIP tickets to see England, get a player to a local school or get signed merchandise.  It also encourage winners to post videos or photos of their experience.  This kind of approach allows the organisation a place within the recipients passion, and makes them feel welcomed. 

Sponsors need to move away from thinking about sponsorships as merely a means to get their name out to a mass audience.  They really need to make them work or face a waste of marketing spend that could have been utilised to a far greater degree elsewhere.


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Monkey Sphere

 

monkey in marketing

 

 

 

 What on earth have monkeys and their brains got to do with Marketing? Hmm, absolutely nothing?!

Well as interlinked to marketing and advertising as sociology is, so is the monkey sphere. But what is the monkey sphere? The monkey sphere is a concept, some consider abstract, others think derived from science, that outlines how many people we can establish meaningful relationships with. Still not sure what this has to do with Marketing?

Well look at community sites. They are there literally to enable individuals to connect with one another. Facebook, MySpace and Bebo were literally set-up for people to meet, connect and speak to others. Twitter has in a way evolved to a similar realm, with people counting the number of followers they have.

The monkey sphere is a number that outlines how many people we can ‘genuinely’ connect with. Why is it called the monkey sphere?

 Scientists ran a number of tests to establish why monkey’s stayed in specific communities and seemed capable of only caring for certain other monkeys. In pursuit of the answer, they cut up so many monkey brains, that they could actually take a brain they had never seen before and from it they could accurately predict what size tribes that species of creature formed. Most monkeys operate in tribes of 50. But to test the scientists hypothesis a slightly larger brain was presented and they estimated the ideal group or society for this particular animal was about 148. The human number varies (due to variances in brain sizes), and if you research monkey sphere around the net, it is invariably rounded to 150.

front_monkeysphere

Essentially, similar to monkeys, this number is the critical number that humans can form meaningful relationships with. As a human you come into contact (either passively or actively) with hundreds of people every week. How many do you care about? And I mean, really care about. Very few! These feelings are normally reserved for family, friends and in some instances work colleagues. Very few brands have really connected with people and entered their monkey sphere. Some times brands can enter and then go equally as quickly. Others just click with some individuals and can do no wrong, no matter what (Apple?).

So for all the organisations grappling with social media or community marketing, just remember, the odds are very few people will actually really care about your organisation. Don’t enter the environment, thinking you have a god giving right to be there. Provide content and materials that the audience actually want. Communicate on their level. You may, just may enter their monkey sphere. But don’t get too down heartened if the base aren’t communicating with you day in, day out. It doesn’t mean you have failed, it just means you aren’t in their monkey sphere.

OK, so it was slightly off-topic, but interesting nonetheless.