Late to the party may best describe business-to-business marketers' acceptance of social media, in particular writing blogs and advertising on social networking sites. But that may be changing.
A recent whitepaper from technology and market research firm Forrester Research, Making Social Media Work In B2B Marketing, examines how business marketers are beginning to integrate these tools into their future plans.
This is the first part of our three-part coverage of this whitepaper. Check back next week for part 2, where we'll outline a four-step method to help your B-to-B company create the most effective social media strategy. We'll also dole out tips to help your organization prepare for its meetings with sales, customer support and professional services peers to map out how Web 2.0 can be a part of your 2009 marketing plans.
Even with their newfound acceptance of social media, tried-and-true lead generation digital tactics (i.e., e-mail newsletters, webinars, microsites, online display ads) still account for the majority of B-to-B marketers' budgets. According to the whitepaper's survey of 189 B-to-B marketers, 60 percent-plus said they use the more traditional lead generation tactics, while 31 percent said they've begun to use tactics including blogs, podcasts and social networks to engage buyers. Even fewer — less than 10 percent — plan to include widgets, mashups, advergames, mobile ads or virtual worlds in their marketing plans.
The biggest hurdle to complete acceptance of social media for B-to-B marketers is a lack of a direct correlation between these tactics and subsequent sales. While 25 percent of the respondents believe social networks and online communities help build brand awareness, they don't know how to measure the impact the medium has on buyers.
3 things B-to-B marketers are doing wrong
Business marketers' first forays into social media haven't been without their problems, the whitepaper notes. Above all else, their inability to differentiate social applications from other outbound communication channels stands out. The whitepaper highlights the following areas where B-to-B marketers struggle in using social media:
- Don't know how — or when — their audiences use social media. Business marketers generally lack the data or insight to know whether their customers socialize online or if the medium can affect their purchase decisions.
- Assign social media a minor role in the marketing plan. Business marketers face the added task of having to sell to multiple decision makers, including sales and channel partners, which consumer marketers don't often face. These layers obscure the relationship between social participation and deal flow, making business marketers less likely to invest money in social media.
- Fail to use social approaches to engage existing customers and build loyalty. According to the whitepaper, several factors make B-to-B client management and service ripe for a community marketing strategy, including:
* long sales cycles, consultative selling and highly-considered product evaluations increase the cost of customer acquisition versus cultivating current customers; and
* customer satisfaction and retention suffer when sales attention evaporates after the deal closes, leaving customers without community support to help create successful deployment and business results.
Despite these factors, 79 percent of the B-to-B marketers surveyed said they don't turn to emerging Web 2.0 tactics when communicating with existing customers.