Everyone gets caught up in the trends, the shiny applications, and all that social media has to offer, but sometimes it doesn’t work. Today is the day to talk about those times. Social media isn’t some kind of communications cure all that can fix any problem. I have spent my time making the case for how social media is applicable in the B2B space; however, today I am going to outline five situations when social media doesn’t work for B2B.
In these situations sure some aspects of social media will work and help support other inbound marketing objectives like search and branding, but the truth is, when it come to driving transactions, there are better options.
1. Your product has less than 5 customers – In the B2B space some companies exist that are extremely niche. They fill a need by providing a product or service for only a handful of customers. When your customer base is so targeted, you have to be direct with your limited marketing budget. Regular face-to-face meetings, customer events and other tactics would be a better fit for this niche. Social media helps individuals and companies scale their social interaction, but when your scale is small you have less dependence on the scale that social media can provide.
2. Your decision makers spend all of their time behind a highly secure firewall – In situations where you provide products or services to the military, electrical power grid maintainers and many others, key purchasing decision makers spend their time in a work environment that is secure and locked down from access to most or all of the information made available online. If this is the case for your customer-base then using the web probably won’t be a successful spend of your marketing budget. The success and engagement of social media depends on the ability to reach and connect with customers digitally and in person. For companies in this environment the digital option is off the table.
3. You don’t have an internal advocate for social media – Sometimes it is not about your customers, rather about your organization. One thing that successful organizations have in common when it comes to leveraging social media and word-of-mouth effectively is that they have buy-in from key advocates within the company. At many companies it is the CEO, but at least it is a key decision maker within the organization that can supply the needed resources and leadership to allow the organization to be successful. If you don’t have this, then spend your time finding someone within your organization who can fit this role instead of rolling out an social media effort prematurely.
4. You need to generate a high volume of short-term sales – Can social media drive sales? Yes. Can it drive targeted short-term high-volume sales? In most cases it can not. If you have a charge to sell X number units of a product over the next 3-4 weeks, then social media isn’t the right choice for you. As Chris Brogran, co-author of the book Trust Agents says, creating transactional opportunities on the web takes trust, but trust takes time to establish. If you don’t have time then you must go a different route, most likely direct mail, pricing incentives, and enhanced sales support.
5. If you don’t have the resources to be successful – A major issue with social media regardless if it is for B2B or not, is that most people think that since most online platforms are free that it should be cheap to add social media to their marketing or communications mix. It isn’t cheap. Social media marketing done properly takes a lot of time and the support of staff that understand the business of the their customers. Many organizations now are simply letting social media happen as an experiment. The problem with this is that most of the time these experiments are drastically under-resourced and handicapped from the beginning. Understanding the resources that you need and having them in place is a critical factor for success.
I am not saying that companies in the situations outlined above, can’t use social media for their business-to-business organizations. Instead I am suggesting that for these opportunities there are better ways to leverage a limited pool of resources available.
Do you agree with the situations I have outlined?
Do you think you are in a situation in which social media won’t work for your B2B business? If so, what is it?