Many B2B companies have been slow on the uptake to integrate social media into their marketing strategy. Even though most internet businesses appreciate the benefits of search engine optimisation and web analytics, it seems that the B2B crowd have been tentative to invest in social media. Perhaps it’s a case of not understanding how social media can fit into a B2B world – commercial and B2C companies are embracing social media marketing with open arms, and with successful and positive results, but it’s often difficult to see how a B2B company can utilise social media to a cost-effective degree.
However, it seems that B2B companies are catching on – social media marketing budgets are slowly increasing, and are predicted to double by 2012. Currently, social media marketing budgets make up an average of 3-7% of B2B budgets, and the main reason for reluctance lies in measuring ROI. What many businesses fail to realise, however, is the power of social media does not necessarily translate into hard figures; social media is a method to build your business online, to increase your brand strength and your reputation, to promote positive word-of-mouth and create worthwhile relationships with clients. All these attributes bring success to your business, even though you may not be able to put a percentage next to them on a spreadsheet…
Every customer, whether consumer or business-based, begins their journey to an online purchase with a search. They google, research, browse, read reviews and compare prices. Nowadays social media has become an integral part in the journey to purchase, bringing their peers into the mix, asking advice, comparisons, opinions and experiences. Whereas in simple B2C business, the customer’s aim is generally a product, in the B2B world, clients may be looking simply for information, a solution to a problem or a specific service. This, however, makes social media no less important in that process – in fact, it may be even more imperative to B2B success, since the majority of a B2B company’s client-base are long-term and recurrent customers. The relationship matters even more in B2B, and social media is making the creation, development and maintenance of quality and trustworthy business relationships easier and more efficient.
Your clients are looking for answers and long term support and service. If they find relevant (and free) content on your website, your blog, your social media profiles; if they find out that you are attentive to your customers and communicate freely and frequently through social media; if they decide that your company is transparent and your reputation is excellent on the basis of peer recommendation, then they will choose you over another identical company that lacks the social media presence you have.
Social media for B2B is not just about sales. An increase in sales should be a product of your social media efforts, but it is not the sole aim. Along with your services, you should be providing your clients with solutions, free information, advice, experience, connections, great customer service and long-lasting personal relationships. If you want clear-cut ROI stats, you can use analytics to track how and where your customers are sharing your content, and how much traffic you receive from social media platforms, but these figures will not reflect the complex and diverse effects social media has on your brand, your company and your reputation. Only time will show that.
The internet today is vast, and so as consumers and business owners need to utilise social media to find the best deals and forge the most successful business relationships. We graze on information, we follow a trail via search and social media until we find what we need… It’s up to you to ensure your business is at both the beginning and the end of that trail:
* Use SEO to achieve high ranking results and have your website appear at the top of a relevant search, therefore placing yourself at the beginning of a customer’s purchase journey.
* Use social media marketing to secure trust and approachability and end up as the final and definitive choice, therefore placing yourself at the end of a customer’s purchase journey.