Opening up a conversation about B2B marketing and communications

Welcome to the launch of The Business of B2B Communication weblog. What makes the business of business-to-business (B2B) communication so special that we have banded together to create an entire blog on the topic? Is there really a difference between B2B and B2C communication? What can we learn from B2B communications and communicators?

Communicating to a business versus a consumer does create different and unique challenges; however, at the end of the day many of the same principles, theories and tactics remain at the foundation. In fact, the great myth surrounding B2B communication is that it’s about communicating to the business. On the contrary, in the B2B world relationships are critical, and communicating to individuals becomes critical.

So here is a sample of what you will find as we begin our venture into the blogosphere with you.

* Case Studies: We learn from others. We learn from benchmarking. We learn from having great conversations. Part of what we hope to accomplish is to talk with professionals on both the consulting side of the B2B space as well as the communicators inside great B2B companies. We hope these conversations give you new ideas and help you build new relationships.

* Connecting: This blog will be used as a platform to help connect professionals doing B2B communication. While we may be doing the heavy lifting on topics for this blog, we hope to be able to connect others in the B2B community in order to network.

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* Strategies and Tactics: Weighing in on the old and new will be a part of what we discuss. We will of course look for your feedback, but challenging old assumptions and exploring new ideas is something we all will explore.

We hope you enjoy reading this blog and more so we hope you add your thoughts.

And we’re off…

Content Curation: What Does it Take To Be Successful?

WebProNews had a little Q&A with Kate, the Executive Director of Digital and Social Media at Syracuse University and Chair of Other Side Group about content curation on the web. Sh’ll be giving a talk on this subject at BlogWorld LA this Thursday, but WPN decided to pick her brain ahead of the talk, as this subject is one that only continues to become more important to the web as consumers are bombarded with endless information from so many different web channels.

You can catch the full interview here. Some of the questions covered:

  1. What does it take to be successful in content curation?
  2. What are the best tools available right now for content curation and why?
  3. Who is doing content curation right now?
  4. Who is doing it wrong?
  5. What are the boundaries of fair use?
  6. Do consumers care if they’re obtaining information from the original source?

SXSW 2012 Panel: “Down in Front! How To Control Bad Fans” on responsibility as a user of social media

I’ve got a SXSW panel I want you to look at (oh yeah, it’s because I’m on the panel!).  If you like it, give us a thumbs up.  My fellow panelists are Tim Walker, Aaron Strout and Troy Nalls, and we’ll definitely knock your flippin’ socks off.

[Disclaimer: I do not support the popularity contest that many of these panel pickers encourage, so please ONLY vote for us and pick us if you actually think our topic is valuable...I'm serious]

Description:

The customer ISN’T always right. You want to love your fans (customers, commenters, activists) but sometimes they don’t deserve it. The bad fans who tore up Vancouver after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup deserved jail time, not a Kumbaya approach. The same is true for the social-media-enabled communities we count on to buy our products and promote our causes. An analogy: Major League Baseball games are a lot more fun to these days because ballclubs started cracking down on fights and drunkenness in the stands in the 1980s. Have no pity for the jerks who got tossed: the rest of us are better off for it. Just as organizations should “think before they click,” users of social media have a responsibility to respect the very organizations that they demand respect from. This panel will follow the fast-paced, ultra-interactive style of 2011′s “The Steroid Culture of Social Media” to call for new thinking about the implied social contract of social media, for organizations and fans alike.

TO VOTE, GO HERE!

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    How do you reach the guy with the wallet?

    When you market in the B2B space through social channels, a large part of your audience can often times be non-decision makers.  I had a client who works in the production/post-production technology industry for the film, advertising and broadcast verticals – straight B2B transaction-  ask me what the benefits were of using tools like Twitter were for selling a product that’s tens of thousands of dollars directly to a production house or film team.

    My answer, simply put? Finding the users of that product/service, highlighting the pain point and our solution, creating a buzz and a demand from the bottom up.

    FIND THE PRODUCT/SERVICE USERS

    Using this example, when an extensive piece of technology is implemented across a large enterprise, the decision to do so doesn’t usually involve all the users, but a handful of decision-makers that head IT, Finance and maybe a few other departments. In other words, most of the users of the product/service have little say in the purchase of the product/service, but they’re the ones most affected by the implementation.

    These users are the ones who’s daily processes will be changed and improved by said technology implementation.

    HIGHLIGHT THE PAIN POINT AND YOUR SOLUTION

    Because these users are the ones who’s lives you’ll be ideally improving, you’ll want to make them directly feel their existing pain point, and communicate to them that you have the solution.

    CREATE BUZZ AND DEMAND FROM THE BOTTOM UP

    Now that they know you have the solution, part of the process of you reaching the decision-makers comes from upward pressure from the users.  In part, the decision-makers pain point becomes the users – their employees – clamoring for a solution to their own pain point (which they’ve found from you).  If you’re top-of-mind for the users, it’s likely this will reach the decision-makers.

    It’s a simplified model, and only part of the sales and marketing process that goes into the equation, but something to think about as you’re contemplating the ways social media can help your B2B marketing.

    HBR: What’s Your Social Media Strategy

    The July/August 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review focused on collaboration, and building a culture of trust and innovation. One of the first articles, “What’s Your Social Media Strategy?” shows four ways companies are using technology to form connections.

    It’s worth reading if you have time, but here’s a quick summary:

    The “predictive practitioner”

    This approach confines usage to a specific area, such as customer service. It works well for businesses seeking to avoid uncertainty and to deliver results that can be measured with established tools.

    The “creative experimenter”

    Companies taking this approach embrace uncertainty, using small-scale tests to find ways to improve discrete functions and practices. They aim to learn by listening to customers and employees on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes they use proprietary technologies to conduct internal tests.

    The “social media champion”

    This involves large initiatives designed for predictable results. It may depend on close collaboration across multiple functions and levels and include external parties.

    The “social media transformer”

    This approach enables large-scale interactions that extend to external stakeholders, allowing companies to use the unexpected to improve the way they do business.

    Organizations will tend to move between these to some extent, and the article suggests that companies with clear strategies should start in the predictive practitioner stage.  This means focusing your efforts in specific areas, for specific purposes, which I might say isn’t the path that many organizations will take (many take a variation of the “creative experimenter,” but that may be due to a lack of clear strategy).

    To get significant results, the author suggests that companies should develop large-scale strategies, such as a specific “social media champion” campaign. And, as you may have guessed, the “social media transformer” strategy can have the largest impact, but requires major, companywide changes. “The social media transformers we’ve seen often have broader social business objectives and view social technologies as a key enabler of – but not the final answer to – those objectives,” suggest the authors.

    Where do you fall?

    62% of executives cited say social offers the potential to achieve better customer loyalty and service levels

    Last week, Jive Software came out with a study that discussed how social marketing strategies are currently being viewed amongst executives. There were several interesting findings:

    • 78% of executives admit that having a social strategy is critical to business success.
    • 66% of executives believe that social applications for business represent a fundamental shift in how work will get done and how companies will engage with customers.
    • 62% of executives cite the potential to achieve “better customer loyalty and service levels” and 57% anticipate “increased revenue or sales” as a result of implementing a Social Business strategy.
    • 53% of executives believe they must adopt Social Business or risk falling behind.
    • 92% of executives and 82% of millennials believe that work-related web-based apps greatly or somewhat increased their productivity.
    • 73% of executives, 73% of millennials and 64% of general knowledge workers agree that social platforms will fundamentally change the way people share, connect and learn at work and with companies.

    While there are several conclusions that can be drawn from the body of statistics that was drawn from this report, it shows a clear increase in the use of social strategies and social tools to accomplish not only external marketing goals, but also internal communication goals.

    Additionally, the significant difference in commitment level for future social strategy implementation and the view of where executives see their company’s current social strategy could signify a low-level tipping point in adoption of social across all business sizes and types.

    While past statistics have been similar in terms of where executives view their company, the numbers that have identified a social strategy as “critical,” “fundamental,” or that they “must” adopt social have not been that high in past years. I’m guessing that the number of respondents who feel more comfortable about their social strategy will rise – perhaps significantly – over the course of this year.

    Don’t miss the cool infographic that Jive put together.

    Blackberry World: Social Networking and the Enterprise

    I’m in hot and humid Orlando for Blackberry World, and attended a session yesterday on how social networking tools are or could effect enterprise-level communications.  The speaker was John Jackson of CCS Insight.  I thought he had a lot of good things to say, which I was tweeting about during the session.  There weren’t too many other live session tweeters, so I included below some of the thoughts he had from my point of view:


    Visualizing B2B Social Media Marketing [Infographics]

    If there’s anyone that loves infographics, it’s me.  That’s why I was pleased last week when Lee at TopRankBlog presented us all with a series of infographics that focus on B2B social media marketing concepts.  I’ve included a few of the ones he highlighted below, along with a few new ones.

    B2B Social Media Landscape

    Social Media Facts and Figures

    The State of B2B Social Media Marketing

    Social Media Marketing: B2C vs B2B

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