This weeks Twitter #B2BChat topic: Influence and Influencers captured my attention so I had to join to download the collective wisdom of the B2B Twitterites, which inspired this post. I’ve been challenged by the B2B clients I’ve worked with on how to best incorporate social media tactics widely seen as the domain of B2C businesses – into their B2B world.
This discourse baffles me because Ive never really seen a difference between the two. My position has always been that the best way to sell a product or service is to position it as the answer to the buyers needs and that by buying it, their lives, businesses and/or net worth will be better. Secondly, in our current age of recommendation, people trust the recommendation of colleagues more than the sales pitch of advertisements and salespeople. This is true in both B2B and B2C worlds. In fact, Id argue that recommendations are even more important in the B2B side.
So it stands to reason that focusing B2B marketing dollars on identifying key influencers among your customer base and leveraging their clout to recommend your business or product while not always the most direct route is the most effective sales strategy.
Here are my 7 tips on creating an influencer marketing strategy for B2B businesses.
1. Build a better mousetrap. Nothing kills a good advertising campaign like a bad product; and in todays hyper-connected world you cant mask a bad product with slick ads. If you cant build a better product, try using online monitoring tools to listen to customers needs, their views of your product and your competitors products and consider how you may re-brand or re-position your product to better align with those needs/challenges.
2. Identify key influencers. In every audience there is one leader that drives conversations and that everyone follows, 9 active people that engage often and most listen to, and 90 who simply follow the crowd. Identify the top 10 and focus on making them your influencers. Youll save time, money and get the biggest return.
3. Develop an ecosystem. You cannot rely on social/online marketing alone. You must factor in the offline/face-to-face tactics in your efforts. Similarly, you cannot rely on one online network or tactic to be successful. Like an ecosystem in biology, your plan must ensure that every tactic both fuels and feeds the community.
4. Shift the focus. Your environment must be designed to focus on business-changing possibilities and not a forum for complaints. Lead the conversation, dont let it lead you; use wikis, forums or similar to encourage positive community engagement vs. complaints.
5. Make it easy. Provide the influencers with the tools needed to do their jobs. Were all too busy to do our own work, let alone that of our vendors so provide the content, syndication tools and opportunity that eliminates any obstacle to recommending your business.
6. Monitor and engage in the conversations. Ideally, an ecosystem is self-managed and self-propelling, however even in nature we sometimes have to step in to save an endangered species. Monitoring the discussions and where necessary feed the online dialogue with information that is relevant to the audience and not your salesmans ego.
7. Show some love. You compensate sales staff for a job well-done dont you? So take the time to thank, acknowledge and even reward those who have influenced the community towards your business.
In the end, its not your CMO or VP Sales that will drive online influence and eventually drive calls or orders its your customer community. Work on leveraging this channel and sales will be your reward.
Next post: Advocate vs. Influencer marketing tactics.
What are your tips on B2B marketing online? Agree/Disagree with any of my recommendations? I’m open to your thoughts.
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego