As customers evolve and change the way that they find and consume information, marketers must innovate their approach to meet customers where they’re looking, especially in the social media world.
Business to Business marketing can involve many decision makers and sales cycles that take weeks or months. Navigating the mix of social content types for different customer segments over time can be a challenge. Luckily, we’ve picked the brains of some of the digital marketing’s world’s brightest to share their practical and innovative B2B marketing tips.
To that end, we visited with Amber Naslund, who is a business strategist with a strong focus on social media communication and community initiatives in the B2B Marketing arena. Amber is the co-author of The NOW Revolution, and her blog Brass Tack Thinking has been recognized for excellence in social media and community related content.
Please tell us about your role at SideraWorks and the kind of B2B marketing work you’re most excited about.
I’m the president and co-founder along with my business partner, Matt Ridings (our CEO). I’m particularly excited about the work we’re doing in traditionally challenging industries – higher education, pharma, and professional services – to help them move from “doing” social media to becoming social businesses, both culturally and operationally.
At the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum, the track keynote you’re giving, “Creating a Social Center of Gravity” is about creating a scalable foundation for social business. Can you share at least 3 of the most important takeaways?
Sure. First, we’ll…wait a second. Isn’t this part classified? I think this part is classified. As in, I could tell you, but then I’d have to hunt you down.
How about I give you some code words to remember? Like “networks”, “culture” and “scenarios”. All of those figure prominently in the quest to take your social media efforts and really weave them into the fabric of your business. The rest you’ll just have to show up for. Oh, and “Rosebud”.
There’s a common association that it’s tough to come up with new B2B marketing ideas, but as you know, innovation exists within B2B as much or more as it does with consumer marketing – just in different ways. What’s your process for coming up with new and innovative ideas for your B2B marketing efforts?
Oh, how tired I am of this argument.
Listen, B2B marketing is about one core thing: knowledge. Sharing it. Creating it. Making it more available to the people who need it. Enhancing it, adding value to it, offering new points of view on things we think we already know. Positioning a B2B company is about how you can help your customers do their jobs better.
We also take ourselves *way* too seriously in the B2B world (and I’ve been in it for the bulk of my career). We’re still people talking to people, we’re just spending more money and making a more complicated decision. But those decisions get made around individual connections and networks.
Innovative? Heck, I’d settle for seeing more really *good* B2B marketing based on the approaches and methods that we already have!
The digital marketing world with social media, big data and mobile has created a more complex environment for marketers and their approach in attracting, engaging and converting prospects to customers. Of course it depends on the project, but generally, what are some of the B2B marketing strategies you’ve had the most success with in 2012?
Content to explore ideas or share knowledge. Relationship development, both online and off, focused on identifying and solving key business challenges. Then making more content based on what we learn through those relationships. Rinse, repeat.
Developing a solid B2B marketing plan takes research, and understanding of the customer goals, pain points and journey. What are some of the most common myths or mistakes you’ve seen with B2B marketing planning? Any tips on how to be more successful?
Marketing planning in general often starts upside-down. We’re trying to sell our bosses and our teams the ships (Pinterest! Podcasts! Blogs!) instead of the destinations. Tactics come last, not first. Trust me, you’re glad now you didn’t have a fax strategy.
One of the reasons social business is becoming so important is that marketing efforts, especially through social media, have deep and sometimes complex implications for the rest of the organization. Marketing plans need to be developed in better concert with other areas of the organization to discuss those impact points, and plan for how to deal with them.
With all the hype in the business marketing media, it’s tempting for companies to chase trending B2B marketing tactics like social this and QR code that. How do you decide what the right B2B marketing tactical mix is for the engagements and projects you’re involved with?
It’s like you read my last answer!
The right tactical mix is only answered in one place: your listening and analysis efforts. That means first understanding where your customers and clients are – online and off – and making sure that at minimum, you’re serving their needs THERE and meeting their expectations for awareness, response, and participation. Forget the next big thing until you’ve got that figured out.
As for where your customers are going, or where they hope you’ll help them next, you need to ask them. Openly and often. The advantage for B2B is that we often have more focused client communities with very targeted needs, and a long relationship cycle that lends itself to talking with them. Even on that newfangled thing we call the phone.
There are many resources online and off (like the MarketingProfs B2B Forum) to leverage for practical and innovative information about modern B2B marketing. Of those resources, blogs can be particularly useful. What are your 3-4 favorite B2B marketing blogs?
Oh, the pressure of naming peers. Should I be using their code names too? Hmm. There are many, but for this round I’ll go with:
- Jay “Indiana Grizzly” Baer and the Convince and Convert blog
- Gini “Peloton” Dietrich and the Spin Sucks blog
- Jeff “Dastardly” Cohen and the crew at Social Media B2B blog
I’d add Lee “Top This” Odden and TopRank and Ann “Wicked Pissah” Handley from ‘Profs, but I’m hoping those are givens.
Please share your advice for other B2B marketers out there on how they can be more innovative.
Be more innovative by realizing that marketing is not an island, and shifting your focus as a result.
Social business – the result of actively adapting your organization to better collaborate and communicate with your peers, your customers, and your partners – should be part of your vision even if you’re miles away.
Once you understand how and where marketing critically touches every part of an organization and how it has the potential to affect so many things — for better and worse — you’ll find that your perspective gets much broader and your marketing will get much, much smarter and more strategic.
Thank you Amber, for a no-nonsense approach to Social Media and B2B Marketing.
If you’re looking for even more insight on making your business more social, be sure to check out Amber’s Track Keynote at the B2B Marketing Forum conference in Boston: “Creating a Social Center of Gravity” Friday, October 5th at 8:15am.
What’s your best B2B Marketing Innovation tip?
We would love to hear from you. Share your best B2B marketing innovation tip in the comments below and you will be entered to win your very own copy of Optimize AND a copy of Content Rules. We’re taking entries until Wed 9/26 so share your tip today.