Why “We’re a business-to-business company” is NOT an excuse to ignore social media.
One of the great misconceptions about social media’s place in the public relations (or marketing) arsenal is that it’s only for the big consumer brands. “We’re B2B, so social media isn’t really right for us,” goes the familiar refrain.
But a quick test can turn this misnomer on its ear. Think about the last five significant sales your company closed, and select which of the following actually made the sale. Check all that apply:
- Your building
- Your copying machine
- Your kitchen
- Your storage closet
- Your lobby
- An actual living, breathing human being
Which did you check? If you checked any of the first five, you’re right: Social media does not apply. If you only checked the last, you have something to consider:
Businesses don’t sell products or services to other businesses. People within businesses sell products and services to other people within businesses.
If your building is out pounding the pavement making sales for you, congratulations…you truly are B2B.
For the rest of us, we deploy marketing people, sales agents, business development personnel to market and sell our services. These folks thrive on relationships. They must nurture existing ones to survive and establish new ones to prosper. And at the end of the day, social media is all about relationships. Finding them. Creating them. Nurturing them. Leveraging them.
The Technology is But a Tool
Does this mean that Facebook replaces your prospecting efforts? Hardly. Does it mean LinkedIn supplants your sales staff? Never. Social media—the right social media—are merely weapons best utilized when complementing existing sales and marketing channels. Social networks serve as a tool to facilitate face-to-face introductions—not replace them.
If you do nothing else, nearly every business-to-business professional needs to learn, understand, join and be active on LinkedIn. While it’s not THE business social network (as many claim), it is certainly one of them. To ignore it is to miss opportunities—opportunities that are really not all that difficult to pursue. Whatever your prospecting and networking activities are, social networks make it all exponentially easier for you. They facilitate connectivity, and they foster expansion of your circles (for you, actually).
As a business owner of a B2B company, if it’s really okay for your sales and marketing teams NOT to be top-of-mind among existing prospects and clients, and NOT to explore and forge new relationships with potential clients and referral sources, then ignore all of the above. If any of that sounds like imperative job functions in the sales/marketing job description, social media most certainly is for you.
Of course, LinkedIn is only the beginning. How you integrate your LinkedIn efforts with other social channels will ultimately dictate your success. If your team is big on presentations, Slideshare is a content community for you. If your product or service lends well to video, YouTube or Vimeo is for you. If documents (white papers, e.g.) tend to be the quivers in your marketing basket, there are document sharing sites for you. All of these channels are easily integrated into both your LinkedIn account and your overarching LinkedIn strategy. Or Facebook. Or Twitter. Or something else.
Determining which social networks (it might not be LinkedIn after all) and content communities make the most strategic sense for your employees is another task altogether. But I think it’s high time we stop having the conversation about if social media makes sense for B2B firms and move onto the more important discussion of which social media make sense.