Age-Old Behaviors + New-Age Media = Business Professionals Using Social Media.
In my last post I discussed the top B2B opportunities and challenges for lead generation through social media. But in this post I want to shift focus from B2B companies to business professionals. Specifically, I want to discuss how, for business professionals, social media boils down to old behaviors + new media.
How can I say such a thing when we’re talking shiny NEW media in an entirely NEW marketing era? Because even in this new age, the behaviors and needs haven’t changed... the media has. And given the new functions, features, freedoms and access of social media, these tools transform the way that professionals meet their age-old needs and how they perform the tasks they've been performing for, well, eons.
Let’s face it, WOM is as old as the hills, we just have highly efficient tools now to spread and amplify WOM further, faster and to far larger groups. Said another way, social networking isn't new, social media is. So on that note, let me support my argument by highlighting several ways that business professionals exhibit age-old behaviors with these new-age media.
•Business Professionals Must Lower Their Purchasing Risk.
Unlike consumers, when B2B buyers purchase products and services, the purchase doesn’t only affect them, but their entire organization. (Just ask any B2B professional that has purchased an enterprise-wide software system.) Additionally, the price of B2B offerings are exponentially higher than for most consumer products. So the risk of each purchase is very high; in fact many times the wrong purchase can mean a bonus and/or (gasp!) a job is on the chopping block.
When making purchases, professionals have always relied on assessing third-party feedback during the analysis and vetting stages, and that behavior hasn't changed. But the *way* that professionals conduct their pre-purchasing research and *who* influences their decisions has undergone dramatic transformation. In the past, customers looked for product feedback from press and analysts as well as professionals that they knew. But now they take to the Web and *also* seek online opinions shared from other professionals, whom they may not know personally, but whose opinions significantly affect their purchasing decisions.
It's essential to understand that professionals are communal by nature of their business focus, and automatically qualify as engaged around their functions, disciplines and industries. After all, these "professional circles" (read: communities) ensure their ongoing career development, the best interests of their companies and, quite frankly, their livelihoods.
Where professionals use to increase their knowledge through trade articles, books, analyst reports and conferences, they now have more options--many of which are two-way and real-time--and they supplement their old ways of learning through online information-sharing across a variety of Web 2.0 tools, like social networks, blogs, podcasts and forums. In other words, they're meeting age-old needs in new ways, through new tools.
Professionals grow their networks at industry conferences, local events, award shows and so on. It's why when professionals go to networking events they make sure and carry *extra* business cards, because it’s not just that they want to learn from the seminars and speeches, they want to meet OTHER professionals who share the same business focus but are at OTHER companies.
The exact same behavior is demonstrated through social networking and participating in online communities. And while nothing replaces the quality of face-to-face meetings, social media is a new way to initiate and build relationships and thus, grow one’s professional network. (Psst: Smart companies who want to engage these audiences will focus on connecting and fostering idea exchanges between these professionals, not just company-to-customer exchanges.)
Oh the problems we professionals face. If it’s not finding new ways of cost-cutting, it’s streamlining workflows, getting silo’d departments to collaborate (or at least start speaking with one another!), pushing products to market faster, filling the pipeline with new products and new leads, or figuring out new ways to blow past the competition. Or a myriad of other challenges that challenge us to think outside of the box by getting out of our heads and tapping other brains for ideas and inspiration.
This is where crowdsourcing, forums, social networks, professional networks, information networks and other 2.0 technologies and strategies are supremely helpful and convenient—because professionals can now query larger pools of professionals who have experienced the same challenges... as well as research ideas and recommendations that have already been posted online. So, once again, professionals are exhibiting the same behavior, but are using new tools, (and new media!) to accomplish age-old tasks.
And if you’re a marketer who targets professional audiences and are working to move your company into these new media, I suggest that you use these points with your executives. Because in giving them age-old reasons and long-understood rationale will help to make these strange new media more relevant (and less strange!) to them.
For a collection of 20 helpful B2B social media posts, presentations and series that no modern-day B2B marketer should market without, just go here!