Social Media marketer (and Twitter rockstar) Chris Brogan posted a query on Twitter and an opinion on his own website on the differences between how social media is used in B2B and B2C marketing. It’s a question I’ve thought about a great deal, after many client conversations with smart B2B marketers who are very interested in social media, but simply don’t see it as a priority. And they’re not totally wrong — in the short term, for many of them, their cusotmers just aren’t there yet. But in the long term, they will be.
“Think of this principle: “Be there before the sale.” Sales cycles for B2B products are often very long. When I spoke at IBM Research’s headquarters in NY, I heard about a supercomputer of theirs that has a 3 year sales lead cycle. How much marketing can one do in 3 years to move that box? Instead, how HUMAN can you be for 3 years, while going through the process. I think that’s where B2B gets a big boost from exploring these social tools.”
And I agree. As I noted in a comment on Brogan’s post, the B2B company’s role is not to control the conversation ‘out there’ but listen, participate in human ways, as you put it, and, at the right times, engage in ways that invite participation in efforts to help the industry that happens to be your market.
But I note that it’s important to respect the B2B marketer’s point of view. And from their point of view, this can be a soft argument. Again, as posted on Chris’ blog:
When the typical channel-focused B2B marketer looks at his marketing investment, he looks first to direct-to-channel communications via literature and other sales tools, and next to PR — which, at least, gets you on the web — and advertising — of far more limited value, and their own website. Being seen online as human would be something to get to when there is time… and there isn’t time.
The challenge for organizations is that the marketing communications teams feel like they have no time to get what they see as “the basics” done, let alone do “technology stuff” in social media. What they need to do is step back and reassess how their organizations view the basics of communications. That reassessment has to happen across marketing, sales, product management and at the executive level.
The question they need to ask themselves is whether they want to be there as social media begins to grow in importance as part of the B2B sales process, or spend massive amounts of human capital catching up once it gets there.