As a B2B marketing brand guides, we’re committed to a newer, more social future.
B2B social dissenters appear thinner on the ground, but some still cling to the wreckage of their sunken email campaigns and struggle to adopt even the simplest social marketing strategies.
Adopting social B2B marketing practices is perhaps a little ambitious for the real ‘prove it’ dissenters who resist the overall concept of B2B social. The very idea that a company’s resources should be invested in listening to the customer (for a change) is a real challenge. The opportunity for customer engagement to provide long term buying insight appears to have no value, certainly no immediate value to them. And if it’s not instantly gratifying, well, Sir is simply not going to do it.
How very ‘prove it’ pre-apocalyptic chic.
How very… western. In the west, we process information sequentially. One thing must lead naturally to another – preferably in a straight line and absolutely in as little time as possible. We spend a known marketing budget against a known activity for a known outcome. We have done this the same way for years and everything is… known (and a bit dull).
But what about the unknown? What about the creative? What about the social ‘big bang’ in digital marketing?
In eastern cultures, the detour is expected. Encouraged even. Eastern logic is not sequential, it’s more lateral. There is no instant gratification. The longer, winding road is expected to provide greater enlightenment. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. Irrespective of the potential return, the journey itself holds more value than the destination. Maybe we could all learn something from taking a wider perspective with our marketing plans – it certainly seems to be paying dividends for the Chinese at the moment.
Perhaps in B2B marketing we all need to learn to appreciate value in new places. Is an investment in listening to your customer worthwhile? Of course it is. Is a better understanding of your customers’ needs and desires valuable? Of course it is. Is the ongoing engagement with your customers, their networks and their network’s networks going to increase your thought leadership, influence in the market and improve your branding position within it? Of course it is. Will your social media strategy directly and immediately increase sales from your failing email campaigns by a guaranteed percentage? Of course not.
I followed a couple around a contemporary art exhibition at the Tate Modern Gallery recently. I wasn’t ‘stalking’ them, but to listen to the guided tour, we all had to group together. At various points along our circuitous journey, the man would interrupt the guide to snort, point a finger and exclaim, “Pah! Call that art? I could do that.” The guide smiled tolerantly and we all shuffled along, but it wasn’t long before the man again said, “That’s not art, that’s a pile of rubble. I could do that.” A little later, “Ha! How much did they pay for that? I could do that.” The guide continued to smile and continued her commentary. Eventually the man’s partner turned around and hissed, “You didn’t do it though, did you? That’s why we’re here. You didn’t do it but someone else did so shut the fuck up and try to learn something.” The man didn’t say much after that.
I’ve sat through enough equivalent social marketing strategy meetings to learn that the social investment needs to be a measured one, with realistic objectives and managed expectations. It needs to be integrated with the rest of your strategy, and it needs to be scalable and measured over time. But the marketing mix is no longer the same as it was. What could be done in the past and what is being done with digital media now are very different things.
The science of B2B marketing is accepted. It’s a given. But the art of B2B is still being explored. It’s a creative exploration, not just a scientific one. You think, “I could do that…”, but you don’t. You’re still too busy with 2007.
Some B2B organisations are able to accomplish the socially obvious, but unable to achieve the socially creative. Some have the social policy but no social process. Some have the content, but no community engagement. It’s a long road to social enlightenment, not a fast track. But if you make it as far as the gallery, try to learn something.