Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Marketing in B2B: Keep the Best of Both Worlds

The burst of social media is creating many new avenues for B2B customer engagement and analytics. Being in a class where I work with state-of-the-art monitoring and analysis tools and as an experienced marketing professional, I see how social media can enhance customer feedback collection and analysis.  I will argue, however, that while embarking on new avenues of social in B2B can prove to be worthwhile, marketers should not ignore the significance of customer feedback collected by sales force. It’s time to organize our old closets of under-collected and under-processed customer data and finally meet our customer.

Image linked from the Real Time Report 
B2B companies are social, but 75% of them do not measure it 
One of the takeaways from the 2012 International BMA Conference as seen by B2B online, is “that B2B has always been social, is social and will always be social,” according to Ralph Oliva, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Business Markets. “The implication is more about this new way for community to happen and how you can penetrate that community and mine for value,Ralph continues. Yet, 75% of B2B companies do not measure or quantify social media. Could these ¾ of B2B marketers be relying on their sales teams for feedback gathering? In my experience, this is where marketers can lose visibility and control, if no formalized process exists for collecting and analyzing information.

A massive lost opportunity
B2B world sits on myriads of own data which doesn’t get processed or shared internally. Good, transparent, and easy processes of sharing customer data are not widespread in the B2B world. And now we have more data that comes from social.  “This is both a huge threat and a massive lost opportunity”, concludes Richard Owen, CEO of Satmetrix. “B2B firms have the advantage here because the "crowd” is easier to manage and engage.  And that presents a great opportunity for this "after the salevalue mining”, concludes Ralph.  

Still, marketers and sales seem to have slightly different goals.These are two functions with an identical mission, so how can they be like ships passing in the night?” sales guru Neil Rackham asked during his keynote.

So what can marketers do?
Ralph Oliva believes there are three distinct areas where change is influencing B2B marketing:
  1. Use new social frontiers – ask yourselves “how do we create new value by utilizing this new space?”
  2. Use integrated marketing efficiently – Align the entire company and its assets to customers and markets, and ask a question, “Can the whole firm be focused on achieving your objectives in the market place?”
  3. Bring state of the art tools that will make the whole firm better. The question that should drive the corporate marketer is "How can I mobilize the innovative capability of the firm?”

While social media should definitely be a focus and given more attention going forward, collecting customer feedback from sales remains to be a valuable underutilized tool. As a Northwestern University IMC graduate student and an experienced marketing professional, I see sentiments collected from social media and feedback brought by sales teams complimenting each other in an effort to meet our customer.  

Tanya Tretyak is a seasoned marketing professional and a part-time graduate student in Northwestern Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program.

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