Effective marketing has many parts: well-crafted messaging, audience targeting, and, of course, getting your message in front of those audiences, just to name a few. If you’re marketing to consumers, social media marketing offers a new way to reach your key audiences in their favorite online “homes.” Social media ROI for consumer marketing can be a challenge to measure precisely, but it’s generally accepted as effective. However, what if your audience isn’t consumers at all? If your business needs to reach other businesses, such as those in the reusable packaging space, will social media marketing move your goals forward?
Different, But Equal
According to Natascha Thomson, social media expert and co-author of “Rules for B2B Social Media Marketing,” social media can be just as effective for reaching B2B audiences, but an understanding of the unique B2B sales cycle is crucial:
“The B2B sales cycle is generally more complex and of a higher dollar value; and the purchase decision is less emotional,” she writes. “ … the sales cycle typically runs several months with different stakeholders participating at different points in the process. Unlike selling a piece of consumer electronics, many people can say ‘no,’ and the ‘wow, this is cool’ factor is minimized by the many meetings to discuss the purchase.”
The unique sales cycle in business affects the audience, creating a need to reach several levels of people within an organization, as well as the message. But can social media still effectively get the message across? A number of businesses think the answer is yes (a recent CMO Survey reported that B2B social media spending increased 9.6% last year) and that number grows daily.
Social Media the B2B Way
While B2C social media often entails entertaining an audience, but B2B audiences are usually motivated by different messages. Either way, the strategy is the same: give your audience what it wants. It’s just that the “wants” are different.
OEBIS Corporation helps leading companies enhance sustainability and profitability by offering reusable plastic containers, pallets, dunnage and bulk systems that improve the flow of product all along the supply chain. The company also uses several social media networks to disseminate product information and connect with customers.
ORBIS posts new product announcements and trade show information and links to earned media coverage, among other items, on its Facebook page, as well as through shorter-form Twitter messages. Both of these networks offer a way to reach existing and potential customers with product and service information, but they also allow Orbis to interact with its audiences, gauge reaction to announcements and products, and display positive feedback from partners and customers.
Orbis also uses YouTube as a channel for how-to videos, providing a central location for customers to go for information on how to repair or replace parts in their products.
Finally, LinkedIn offers the ideal social network for Orbis to create and build relationships with prospective customers and industry leaders. Orbis uses its LinkedIn network for recruiting as well.
ITW Dynatec, a global supplier of adhesive application solutions, uses social media to communicate both with customers and employees. In addition to product and trade show information, the company’s Facebook page and Twitter feed celebrate employees giving back to the community, offer links for professional development and highlight noteworthy processes and projects of the company’s partners.
ITW Dynatec’s YouTube page gives customers easy access to product demonstrations and training videos, while the company’s LinkedIn page displays its Facebook and Twitter posts, as well as job postings.
How Much Is Enough?
The next question, (to be answered in Part Two of this series) then, is this: Pick a strategic network and focus marketing efforts through that channel, or hit up all the usual social media channels? Whatever you choose, the good news about the current status of B2B social media is this: if your company does it, and does it well, social networks offer an effective way to stand out from your competition. Why not give it a shot?
Juli Anne Patty is features editor for PackagingRevolution.net.