Marketing to business executives in a Web 2.0 environment

Indivduals’ Expectationsáfor online interactions are changing dramatically. So, how does one meet these individual expectations about online interactions for a business-to-business market? The following eight principles lend some insight.

Prospects are people. In the consumer space, it is easy to identify winning new approaches to learn from, for example, MySpace, Facebook, Digg, YouTube, Craigslist, and Second Life. But in the BTB sector, these dramatic changes in the consumer market are not yet reflected. There is no escape from the expectations set in the consumer market. We should always keep this front of mind.

Kill the corporate voice. Everyone is deadened to the language of traditional corporate marketing: the acronyms, the buzzwords, the sentences that no one understands, even though everyone uses them. Some companies have tried the hip corporate voice. This is even worse than the traditional voice in that it is painfully obvious that a company is trying too hard. The only solution is to let individuals speak for themselves.

Deputize bloggers. If you kill the corporate voice, you need other voices (real individuals) to take its place. The good news is that you already have folks that have volunteered for this job – the best bloggers within your company. In many ways, the rise of the blog can be seen as a craving for honest communication that pierces the veil of traditional corporate marketing language.

Tear down the fortress. Nearly all BTB companies follow the same approach to lead generation on their Web sites: Create content and force anyone who wants it to register by supplying their contact information. This creates a problem: Search engines won’t list content that is placed behind a registration wall. If your prospects are starting with a search, your content better be accessible or they will never find you.

Set the data free. Nearly every BTB company has data that prospects are very interested in. The traditional marketing approach is to guard the data and only share it with prospects in a one-on-one meeting. Instead, use the data to form a basis for a community of interest that can become a source of leads for your company.

Stop issuing press releases solely “over the wire.” For press releases sent using major newswire companies, the pricing model is typically based on the number of words in the release. Using this method, the average press release can cost between $500 and $1,000 to put “over the wire.” This method does not always suit a company’s needs. Consider too e-mailing releases to reporters and bloggers to build a personal connection and increase the probability of coverage.

Syndicate. Syndicate. Syndicate. According to the recent Business to Business 2007 Survey, 72.6 percent of BTB buyers start their process with a Web search. Actively share content with other sites that your prospects frequent. This approach dramatically increases your visibility in search engines and the likelihood that potential prospects will learn about you.

Web site as a gathering. The metaphor for a Web site during the first generation of the Internet was a corporate brochure – static content that became known as “brochure-ware.” In the next-generation Internet, the appropriate metaphor is a gathering that includes the conversations and interactions of multiple stakeholders for your business. Think of the best conference you have gone to and the quality of the conversations, and how your thinking was stimulated. This is what a Web site should be.

Implementing these principles should significantly impact the visibility of your company for prospects searching for the products and services you provide, increase the interaction time with them on your site and generate a greater volume of qualified leads.

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