B2B Social Marketing: What to do when your customer isn’t a person 4

Just typing “B2B Social Marketing” in the title made me want to slit my wrists, but there is a huge obstacle facing companies like mine on how to utilize social media. The formula for consumer marketing is simple and effective, but B2B is more complicated. The business model for consumer driven companies is for people to love and buy their brand, so customers are natural fans, friends and followers of your product. Consumer marketing tries to make products part of your identity, so it’s only natural that people will opt-in for that connection.

But what if your customer is not a person?

Garvey makes conveyors and accumulators for the packaging industry. Our customers are large, mass producers of goods. We’re trying to reach the decision makers in these companies and establish a connection with them. Are there individuals whose identity is centered around the packaging machinery they buy? Yes, and they are insane and we love them, but for most people we are a means to an end. We help them achieve their production goals, but we will never have the identity power that¬†@HarleyDavidson, @dogfishbeer, or @CocaCola has.

So how do you reach those decision makers? In an ideal world the decision makers would all follow @garveycorp, but since they have complete control over their social media input (that’s one of the greatest things about social media, btw) why would they give up that valuable space to me? I certainly wouldn’t be interested in following most of my suppliers because there’s no way their tweets will be more interesting than my friends’ and idols’.

@garveycorp vs @bengarvey @bengarvey
@garveycorp vs @bengarvey

Not enough of my customers will ever follow @garveycorp, but would they follow @bengarvey? If I can be interesting and funny enough, maybe customers will follow me and in return, tolerate the occasional conveyor technology link. Could putting a face on the corporation change my marketing strategy from B2B to P2B? And by engaging them in things they’re interested in (what they tweet about), can I then earn the relationship that allows me to become a resource for them and ultimately a supplier.

There are a ton of risks in this. I have posted tweets that could be offensive to some people. It doesn’t scale well. I may not be as interesting as I think I am (hah).

But I think it’s worth a try.

So far I have one customer following me, so in my next post I’ll probably call it a success because I increased it by 300%.

4 thoughts on “B2B Social Marketing: What to do when your customer isn’t a person

  1. Casey Chapman Dec 11, 2009 1:02 am

    Ben,

    One thing here that strikes me about SM in B2B: What an opportunity it presents for these large business to become “human.” That is what will become the key in B2B, is to develop that humanity and use it to create the right image you hope to present.

  2. ben Dec 11, 2009 8:22 am

    Becoming human and presenting yourself as human are two different things as well. Ideally I’d like to be able to offer the kind of service that an individual would give all across the organization. I can present the company as a person all I want, but I also have to follow up with making sure our organization acts in human like ways (ie. caring, helpful, sympathetic). It will be a challenge.

  3. Jon Walman Dec 16, 2009 5:41 pm

    Ben, Casey makes a good point. The “human” element exists in every business. I just read about “social” supply chains where vendors can communicated via SM. Yahoo is spending $100M to make their search “experience” more social. This is what I think Casey’s getting at. SM provides a more efficient and effective means for people to connect and share business information. Jon Walman (SM consultant)

  4. ben Dec 17, 2009 10:28 pm

    Oh I definitely think there are uses outside of marketing. Improving internal and existing B2B communication could be greatly enhanced by social media, but marketing is a lot tougher.

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