B-to-b on the go

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Adapting to more fluid work environments, b-to-b marketers adopt b-to-c strategies
Adapting to more fluid work environments, b-to-b marketers adopt b-to-c strategies

Reilly says tablets will deepen the type of content that can be offered in a presentation. If a marketer is selling a complex piece of technology or machinery, he can demonstrate how it works and he can offer testimonials from customers or an expert point of view.

“The tablet has really changed the sales environment. It's the pocket army for a salesperson,” Reilly says. “They are able to bring the entire company with them, on the road on a very mobile device that is broad enough and rich enough to present to clients over a drink all the way to a boardroom.”

Social business

B-to-b marketers have also embraced social media, a more conventionally used b-to-c medium. Social enables b-to-b marketers to connect with decision makers on a more personal level. Sponsored social networks for particular trades or industries have become increasingly popular among companies focusing on b-to-b clients, but many companies are also engaging the more typically b-to-c networks like LinkedIn and Facebook to reach corporate clients.

While enterprise members have the ability to place banner ads on a site like LinkedIn, the site has proven perhaps most useful in allowing marketers to do more interactive brand and content marketing.

Facilities management and workplace solutions company Sodexo Facilities Management Solutions has created the “Workplace Experience” group on LinkedIn to engage members in discussions about workplace issues. The company also publishes original research and white papers on LinkedIn, such as the 2012 Workplace Trends Report, released in January.

“What's interesting is that you will not see our name anywhere on the LinkedIn group,” says Kevin Rettle, marketing director at Sodexo. “It's a much different approach to the usual print or traditional advertising as you move people through that b-to-b pipeline.”

Q&A: Sandra Zoratti, VP of marketing solutions, Ricoh

Sandra Zoratti, VP of marketing solutions at Ricoh discusses the changing landscape of b-to-b marketing.

Click to read the Q&A.

With just a few hundred members, Sodexo's Facebook page can hardly be considered a case study for generating “likes,” but it has proven to be an effective way for the company's marketing team to find and nurture leads.

“You have to be very methodical in how you send to them through this virtual pipeline before you even have a human interaction,” Rettle says. “It's a much different approach than the traditional print and advertising when you're in this space.”

The embrace of traditionally consumer-focused social media channels for b-to-b marketing has grown significantly in the past year. According to the Content Marketing Institute, b-to-b marketers increased their use of YouTube by 47% and LinkedIn by 39% in 2011, compared to 2010. During the same period, Twitter usage grew by 35%, and Facebook usage increased 30%.

Social media also allows b-to-b decision makers to more easily investigate potential partners, consulting other members of the individual's network about whether to use a particular product or service. With this in mind, marketers are finding it necessary to make additional efforts to ensure the brand's social reputation remains strong.

“Social plays a huge role in b-to-b, since one of the first things you'll do is test a company's credibility with colleagues or former colleagues,” Digitas' Reilly says. “You get information about how other people think about the company immediately on the Web.”

Marketers also have to think about the internal social dynamic of prospective organizations. B-to-b has a much more complex long-term sales process than b-to-c, where a number of individuals make decisions before any final agreements are settled.

“We as marketers or salespeople have to understand not only our offerings but how they will provide value for different types of individuals who have different types of roles within the company,” says Jonathan Block, VP and service director at SiriusDecisions, a b-to-b marketing services company. “No matter how many people are involved in that purchasing decision, you are still dealing with individuals with their own preferences and prejudices. There is that emotional level that we need to connect with that is very similar in b-to-c,” he explains.

Humanizing the message

The services and products that marketers are offering enterprise clients are increasingly reflecting the “on-the-go” decision maker. UPS has taken significant steps to make its offerings appeal to a remote or flexible businessperson, whether marketing the products through digital or traditional channels.

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