In the competitive business environment of today, businesses strive to shorten their sales cycles and achieve large profit margins. Especially in the business-to-business (B2B) context, the need to sell more actively, yet more effectively, becomes imperative as consumers become more sophisticated and market shares seem to shrink under the pressure of competition and high concentration. To that end, social media seem to have the answer.
How B2B Works?
Business-to-business (B2B) is the practice of exchanging goods and services between businesses, which integrate business solutions in the aim of achieving the best possible results. B2B markets differ fundamentally from business-to-consumers (B2C) markets because B2B customers are not physically limited in the consumption of products and are well aware of the product as a result of own market research. Therefore, they can make well-informed purchasing decisions.
To better illustrate how B2B works, we assume that a business owns a publishing company with five popular magazines titles. Although the company has spent both time and money to create unique and appealing websites for each magazine, it did not use the appropriate web marketing strategies to optimize these websites and drive traffic to them, thus increasing their visibility in the major search engines. This is the point that the management needs to realize the importance of incorporating social media in the B2B strategy to achieve effective website optimization for the magazine titles and attract more customers to each website.
Social Media Evolution
A major growth factor in the B2B context is social media. The Internet era serves as an excellent basis for the development of integrated marketing strategies that target active social media users. According to a survey conducted by Edison Research (April 2010), 7 percent of the U.S. population uses Twitter, and 41 percent has an active Facebook account. So, there is a target audience that is familiar with social media.
On the other hand, although social networking has grown extremely fast over the last five years, social networks are not widely regarded as a reliable way of gathering knowledge when seeking for B2B implementation. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are on the lead and their importance has become evident, although not yet fully realized in the B2B marketplace. However, using social media in the B2B strategy can be beneficial for the business.
Social Media in the B2B strategy
Social networking is a great way to offer superior customer service. Many businesses offer great products at competitive prices, but they cannot establish long-term mutually beneficial relationships with their customers. This happen because they lack a direct point of contact to facilitate communication. Especially, in the B2B context, that companies want to make sure that they are doing business with their right client and the right person in the organization, social networking is a great way to bridge any gaps between the two companies and offer superior end-products.
Exchange of knowledge and collaboration are inherent parts social media. As companies track their customers’ increased activity in social networks, they exchange their knowledge and use their insights to engage more customers and expand their customer base. Although the social media landscape is huge and cannot be easily monitored and controlled, companies can leverage this knowledge through effective collaboration and implementation of SEO strategies in the B2B marketplace.
The more customers are attracted, the more traffic is driven to the company’s website, thus increasing the company’s visibility on the Internet. Increased visibility brings in more customers and more customers mean increased sales productivity. Web marketing strategies are based on visibility that can be increased through effective implementation of social media strategies including high quality web content and SEO optimization. This is equally important in the B2B as well as in the B2C marketplace.
In conclusion, social media is a great way for B2B marketers to interact, exchange knowledge and address the needs of their customers. Considering that customers seek to connect with a company that knows its business and is passionate about it, social media offer a huge landscape to develop the appropriate marketing strategies and connect on a level that can go beyond promoting a product’s benefits. It can go to the level of customers advertising the company on the Twitter or Facebook accounts. This is the credibility that comes along with implementing social media in the B2B marketplace.