Technology decision-makers use online resources such as community sites and social networks to make buying decisions more than ever. They read product reviews from real users, engage in online discussions, and connect with other actual users.
In "Your Community Upgrade: From Experiment to Strategic Approach," Forrester reported that “Tech buyers are using web and community resources to complete nearly 70% of their buying journey before they ever engage with a sales resource.”
Here’s a comparison of how the era of marketing campaigns will fade away:
- 2012: We have an e-book people may be interested in, so we send it out as part of a campaign.
Results: We get a list of contacts for sales to call until the list is depleted.
- 2013: We join in real-time conversations where marketers know the person already is interested and then use tools to monitor social media and become aware of what’s in the news in general.
Results: We find out what people are talking about online and offer a solution.
Traditional marketing campaigns now give way to a more real-time focus on getting maximum exposure through online social media. Becoming more real-time means adding to the mix tools such as:
As you can see, Forrester found the top types of content that buyers look for are peer experiences and product reviews. Expert opinions come in behind them at number three.
- Increasingly popular B2B online review sites in which B2B customers write product reviews, just as we do as consumers for electronics, hotels, and restaurants, on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
- Engaging in discussions happening now about your products. These are taking place in LinkedIn groups and other social media channels.
- Responding to customers in community sites, whether they are “on-brand” (hosted by your company) or “off-brand" (hosted by a partner).
B2B social marketing key points
Sources of Influence
The strategy for B2B social marketing requires a few shifts in the traditional marketing of the past.
Spend time focusing on the right networks and communities where you can find users discussing your products and services.
Focus on reaching prospects when they are genuinely interested in your products. That means less spamming them and more engaging in the discussions they start and the questions they ask.
However, do not abandon some of the customer relationship management processes you already have in place. You still need to leverage email campaigns, track contacts, and facilitate your marketing processes.
Focusing more toward online social media leverages more value for stakeholders.
- Vendors: Getting secure customer testimonials for their products, vendors can influence high-quality prospects that are in the buying process. Input from current users helps in the planning process.
- Prospects: Prospects find others who have already completed the selection process and get unbiased information from real users. They can create a vendor short list pretty quickly and easily.
- Customers: Customers evangelize products that have helped them succeed and can be seen as thought leaders to help peers. They also network with other professionals in their vertical markets.
Joining online communities puts you in a perfect situation to have real-time engagement with the users of your products and competitors -- helping you to better distinguish between prospects who are ready to make a decision and those who might need more information about how your product fits their needs.
— Russell Rothstein is co-founder and CEO of IT Central Station. Follow him on Twitter @RussRothsteinIT.