The way that customers interact and participate online has changed the approach that marketers need to take when thinking of online advertising and SEO vis-à-vis traditional marketing. Increased active participation and networked interconnectedness has resulted in increased consumer power.
But the role of the marketer remains the same: to understand the customer and if they change, we change with them, and if we change faster we might get a competitive advantage.
It is understanding how digital technology has changed the buyer that is the key in digital marketing. B2B marketing is increasingly becoming more similar to B2C marketing as a result of these changes.
Fact finding has become important – that’s a fact.
What has changed is that fact finding has been much more important. Customers are using more and more Peer to Peer knowledge. With the rise of the internet, customers now have the ability to find out more about product and companies than before. A new supplier is only a few Google searches away, and recommendations online are abound.
Customers nowadays are more involved in the design and production of service through conversation with companies and other users online. This is making the lines between product, service and experience increasingly blurred. B2B customers increasingly want to gain knowledge, as much as they want a product that fits their need. This is where astute online marketing can make a difference.
Companies that understand that social media is about communications and not marketing, can gain a big following and do very well. Social media and online content marketing, such as blogs, are part of SEO efforts to communicate for the future benefits of the company. A company can build a following and gain recognition and participation from excising customers, employees and future customers, by creating content. Maersk’s social media activities, where customers and enthusiasts shared images of their ships online, is a prime example of how to use social media well. It is not about selling, it is engaging with stakeholders, but the long term effect can very well increase brand awareness and future sales.
The recommendation: Focus on how the technology has changed the customer, then adjust your strategy to get in touch with your customer. Tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and blogs are only really a manifestation of the changing behaviour of your customers. Key for B2B marketers is to adjust the strategy and use the correct channels and tools to get the message to the right customer.
Give the customer what they are looking for – the right content
Technology has changed since the introduction of the internet, and over time it has changed how customers use it. At first it was slow and company websites just a digital brochure. Nowadays, with
lightning fast internet, bloggers and option leaders online, referred to as Amplifiers, are ready to influence future customers. Amplifiers are those that influence others in their buying decision
process. But Amplifiers are not the only challenge these days for business, powerful search engines such as Google act as gate keepers. A company cannot simply just have a website that is a digital
brochure. The customer is looking for information, dialogue and problem solving, and is using google to find it.
In online marketing, “content is king” and that’s how you can help
How can a company help the customer find and learn? How can a company be seen by google? The reality is if you are not found on google in today’s world, you don’t exist online. Companies have to
be able to give the customer what they are looking for. Technology has changed how the customer want to do business, therefore marketers need to give the costumer what they want. In today’s
world it is information, Cawsey and Rowley (2016) has identified that “content is one key criteria for success in social media.” Likewise, a company’s website needs to have information and learning in order for customers to find them, on top of providing value.
The customer of today is looking to learn and to make an informed decision. Blogs and wikis are tools where companies can help the customer learn about technology and find what they are
looking for. A good example from the B2B environment is Atlas Copco Compressors’ blog
. With bite size technology information and learning, there is no selling, just educating. It helps Atlas Copco
Compressors be seen as a source of knowledge, and it will most certainly help position the brand as a thought leader when the customer is ready to buy. Equally as important, it gives Google and other search engines the information they need to generate relevant search results.
Who is controlling the conversation in social media?
The big challenge in the pinball marketing world of social media, blogs and Peer to Peer reviews is controlling the message. Businesses cannot completely control their messages, as they once could
with traditional communication marketing. It is important to guide the conversation, by posting what the customer wants to read, to comment and moderate conversations.
It is important to know that when the broad term social media is used, it is one of two things:
1. Online networking – commenting on social media posts and interacting in a dynamic conversation. This is a where the conversation is alive.
2. Online publishing – blogs and static content to be seen online, with the aim of guiding thecustomer through their learning. Such as Atlas Copco Compressors blog pages with
compressed air learning.
As digital marketers, it is important to consider both ends of this spectrum in order to be able to allocate resources and create relevant content.
Should I stop traditional media marketing?
To stop traditional media marketing would be a grave mistake. Social media and online marketing is only one side of the B2B marketing coin. Traditional media, such as print ads and exhibitions still play a key role in building your brand and positioning it in the mind of the customer. Stopping this to only do online marketing could hurt the company’s brand positioning, as the two forms of marketing complement and reinforce each other and coexist.
Social media is for conversation about the brand, while traditional media is for image building and brand positioning. Social media can create good electronic word of month online (eWOM). Cawsey and Rowley (2016) point out that stimulating eWOM is “not limited to messages that the company placed on social media.”
How can B2B companies influence content creation? They can influence directly by adding content and engaging in conversations online and by empowering and training staff to become content creators. Indirectly, companies encourage external users to post and create social media content, such as reviews and feedback that create and add to eWOM.
So, what to think about?
Firstly, online marketing and social marketing should be only one aspect of the total marketing plan. Traditional media with its one way communications, like bowling, means you can control the message and it is good for brand building and positioning. Online marketing is chaotic, like a game of pinball, and companies are not always in control of the message entirely.
Guidelines for posting online
Think like a publisher when planning to dive into digital marketing. Have minimum 12 month plan and make sure that it fits with your overall marketing plan and broader company message. Aim to
create content with the user in mind, and make sure it is relevant. Develop an editorial calendar, ensure there is an editor, know who is creating what content and who is posting what and where.
Furthermore, decide what digital channels are right for your content. Don’t forget to have an underlying call for action. What do you want to achieve? (Don’t forget that!) Lastly, be sure to create measurements for the content you are creating, otherwise how would you know if it is successful?
Final things to things to think about
Last words of advice when thinking about online advertising and SEO content. Go to where the customer is and talk to their interests. Contribute and guide the conversation (you can’t control it completely), listen to what is said online. This will make your message more relevant. Most importantly, when writing content for web, talk about what the customer wants to hear, and when you speak, speak like a human. Why should you speak like a human? Well, people buy from people.
Social media strategies for brands, Cawsey (2016)
Analyzing Behavioral Big Data: Methodological, practical, ethical, and moral issues, Schmueli 2017
The One Thing You Must Get Right when Building a Brand, Barwise and Meehan (2010)
Industrial branding in the digital age, Lipiäinen and Karjaluto (2015)