Rich Clark Marketing

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


Leave a comment

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


1 Comment

Recession Resistant?

Can online marketing escape the recession?

With any economic downturn/credit crunch/recession comes the usual questions at the board rooms of most organisations. 

How effective is our marketing? 

Could we do without our advertising?

Is our strategy a luxury?

It had been thought that in this current recession, online would escape the questions or criticisms.  However as a lot of organisations are facing tougher times, including several high profile victims, online is being asked to be even more accountable than ever.  Is that such a bad thing?

Well that depends.  If you have all the data to hand and have tried every potential opportunity for your brand, then it can only be a good thing.  You should be able to pin-point the exact levers to pull in order to produce the desired results.  Unfortunately, very few organisations have or are in that situation. 

So what is next? 

Well it makes sense if your organisation is able to invest in acquisitional activities it should do so.  And if possible increase that investment.  Channels that offer high levels of transparency, low costs or better still low risk (CPA or Hybrid deals).  Even with these options you still need to understand the customer journey and have an effective method of de-duping (I am amazed at how many organisations still don’t have that cracked).  Are these methods recession proof? I’m not entirely convinced.  Marketeers experienced in working with Google will have noticed bids and ROI change over the past 9-12 months.  Also, Google are experimenting with a number of tools or models to help maintain their revenue.  Including dropping their previous stance of no Gambling advertising.  It all depends on your sector, Finance in the main is seeing a dramatic fall-off – largely driven by sub-prime advertisers pulling back on their investment.  One thing is for sure, Google will probably be making more sales visits than they have in recent years.

What about display?

Display obviously pays a role in most campaign mixes or strategies.  However the traditional CPM model is a risky one, unless your brand can afford the luxury of brand advertising or if you aren’t responsible for a transactional website.  One point that is neglected or overlooked is the multiplier effect.  Most advertisers still look at last click wins.  This is why in a number of sectors display loses out.  Recent investigations by ComScore in the US indicates a genuine effect on search from display.  However is that enough?  The main benefit of display in my opinion is that it can not only drive awareness, it can also put more people in your sales funnel.  This is something search isn’t particularly good at.  Most people in search mode already have an intent, whether latent or active.  Would I start to invest millions of my budget in traditional display advertising?  In short – No.  However, with the market in its current state, new technologies are constantly evolving.  With the growing maturity of behavioural and re-targetting technology, an increasing number of media owners are willing to undertake activity on a CPA activity. 

 

Remember, although CPA presents far fewer risks, it sometimes can be more expensive than CPM or CPC and volumes are likely to be lower.