Topsy Turvy: The Shifting Relationship Between B2B Marketing and B2B Sales

We used to talk to a real person as a first step. To get familiar with the company. To learn more. To create bonds. Not now. Now we talk to a real person as a last resort when we’ve exhausted the supply of Zero Moments of Truth and have a query so specific only a human being can answer it.

This is most egregiously true in a category where the transactional stakes are often the highest: business to business marketing. In 2011 the Corporate Executive Board surveyed 1,900 B2B customers to uncover insights about purchasing behavior and found that customers will contact a sales rep only after independently completing 60% of the purchasing decision process. Sixty percent of the decision is made before the prospect identifies himself. Sixty percent of the decision is made before a call, or an email, or an entry into your lead tracking database. Customers are ninjas now. They are stealthily evaluating you right under your nose.

This has manifest consequences on the role of salespeople, whose job used to be to develop and nurture relationships. No longer. The role of the salesperson is now to answer specific questions capably and quickly, and to close deals that became possible due to the self-serve research performed by the customer. What does that 60% figure mean for marketers? A lot, according to the Corporate Executive Board’s Ana Lapter:

“The 60% mark is in that part of the mid-funnel that is critical in terms of driving the buyers’ consideration of a supplier for a potential purchase,” Lapter says. “Therefore, marketing needs to de-emphasize tasks like thought leadership and white papers, and focus more on advanced activities, such as diagnosing purchasing needs and identifying internal barriers to purchase.”

Marketing needs less top of mind awareness and more Youtility – marketing so useful, people would pay for it. Sounds about right to me.

Life Technologies Offers Self-Serve B2B Product Information Through Interactive Video

Global biosciences company Life Technologies operates in a business category not typically known for its cutting edge use of YouTube, nor its embrace of new marketing principles. But, in 2011, Life Technologies launched the most quintessentially useful video program with the best utilization of video annotations I’ve ever seen. (Annotations are words or phrases embedded in videos that serve as a call-to-action, and sometimes provide a direct link to other videos.)

Their “Interactive Selection Guide to Immunoprecipitation” is actually 42 short videos chained together with an elaborate annotation scheme, giving Life’s customers – working scientists – an easy, self-serve way to determine which products are the best fit for the job.

According to Oslo-based Andrew Green, Life’s Divisional Lead for Video and Interactive Marketing, the original plan was to create a customary, Web-based product finder. Realizing, however, that online arrays of pull-down menus and such are ultimately devoid of personality (and only passively educational), they decided to build it entirely in video, where they could better anticipate some of the questions customers might have, and actively incorporate them.

Mapping the content and determining how the videos would connect and branch was the most difficult part of the project, says Green – who sent me a photo of the wall-sized chart they used to plot it all out.

The videos have accumulated more than 75,000 YouTube views, extraordinary, given their extremely narrow customer target.

Smart B2B companies understand that providing self-serve information and giving customers and prospective customers the opportunity to find answers for themselves, without being burdened by personal, synchronous communication, isn’t shirking their duty as marketers; it’s become their duty as marketers.

Excerpted from Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype by Jay Baer, published in late June by Portfolio/Penguin. See YoutilityBook.com for other resources.

Photo credit: Flickr

Thoughts about Google Plus to Inspire B2B Adoption

As a preview to its launch of Google Plus last week, Google launched the +1 button last month. In my post at the time, I wrote that one of the biggest problems for the use of the recommendation button for B2B companies was its reliance on people’s Google network, not their professional network. This network exists in their work email and LinkedIn network. I offered a suggestion to bring business network relevance to the search benefit of +1. With the new Google Plus social network, Google already provides a connection to your LinkedIn network as part of your social graph.

From a business perspective, it is still too early to use Google Plus, but you can already start thinking about the benefits and how you will use it for your B2B company. Google has announced that there will be business specific functions coming, but for now Google Plus is based on personal profiles. The following articles provide some context for your inspiration, rather than explain the platform. So many articles have been written and shared in the past week, that I figured if you were interested, you have already read them and are aware of the details.

Remember that at its heart, Google Plus is about tying social to search so Google can provide you better search results based on your social graph. Jay Baer’s post on Convince & Convert below does a great job explaining why this is so important to Google. If you have thoughts about how you can use Google Plus for your B2B company, let us know in the comments below.

The Google Plus 50
from Chris Brogan
If you’re curious about Google+, the new social network platform from Google, you’re not alone. I’ve logged several hours already on the platform, experimenting, testing, and observing. It sparks my attention from several angles: marketing, technology, community, media, mobile, advertising, and more. To that end, I wrote down 50 things to think about with regards to Google+, in no particular order.
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Why Google Has the Hammer To Make Businesses Use Google Plus
from Convince & Convert
My initial, abbreviated take is that Google’s new social toy is essentially a Facebook Twitter hybrid with outstanding ease-of-use and eye-popping potential. In the very first release, Plus has a killer integration with Picasa (Google’s photo service), and its live video chat feature (called Hangout) could very easily become a Skype killer. The most obvious and ballyhooed functionality is the Circles paradigm, which puts segmenting your contacts front-and-center and makes it an easy process via drag and drop controls.
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Why Google+ Doesn’t Stand a Chance Against Facebook
from Social Media Today
So by now, you’ve likely heard Google+ is coming to an internet near you. You may have taken a look at the demo, or gotten an early invitation, you might think this could usher in the next generation of social networking. And you might be right. I’ll admit, I’m anxious to see if Google’s actually gotten it right this time.
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How to measure Google Plus with analytics
from Christopher S. Penn
Right now, Google Plus (hereafter lazily abbreviated as G+) is in its infancy. That said, it’s certainly got the buzz and the shine that social media folks have been craving for some time. It’s got the ease of Facebook plus the asymmetric relationship nature of Twitter. As a result, expect marketers to flock there in droves as they get invited. Shortly after their arrival and spamming of their friends, the inevitable question will be asked:

How do you measure this thing?
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Google+ Invites
from sbdc blog
Traditionally, invites have been handled via a company giving out a set number of invites to beta users who then decide who to send those invites to. But with Google+, they are doing something different. Rather than giving beta users a set number of invites, they are systemwide making invites an option or not. They are turning on the invite/sign up process when they want to add to the userbase, and then turning it off when they think they have enough people.
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Win a FREE copy of The Now Revolution

Jay Baer and Amber Naslund wrote a book called The Now Revolution about the seven shifts that will make your company faster, smarter, and more social. Thanks to Jay and Amber for giving me a copy of the book to give away to one of our readers. Watch this short video to find out how you can enter to win your own copy of this book. Enter by March 4, 2011.

In The Now Revolution companies will learn how to:

  1. Strip away silos and overgrown business process, and create a culture of NOW
  2. Hire and empower a new type of employee who is adept at pattern recognition, human relations, and immediate analysis
  3. Organize internal teams for maximum external impact, and empower every employee as a marketer, even if they aren’t
  4. Listen at the point of need and answer the social telephone
  5. Travel the Humanization Highway, and respond effectively and persuasively to customer inquiries
  6. Plan for, find and manage real-time crises
  7. Redesign success metrics in a business world that’s increasingly instantaneous

And if you want to see previous interviews we conducted with Jay and Amber, click on their links.

Continue Learning with these B2B Social Media Posts

As I gather a handful of relevant B2B social media posts that have either bubbled up through Twitter or from my RSS reader, sometimes I start with a theme and other times one emerges. It certainly makes things more interesting. Today, two themes emerged. The first is the continuing importance of education in the B2B social media space. As we reviewed our 2010 predictions, we found that while the adoption curve has been slower than anticipated, more and more practitioners are building a foundation from learning. So all these posts derive their content from events, both live and online. They include presenters’ perspectives, attendees perspectives and information that was presented, but relayed in a blog post. As I also presented at and attended a conference this week, it is instructive to see people’s takeaways.

Which brings us to our second theme. It doesn’t run through all the posts, but several of them. As today is the opening of the new Harry Potter movie in many parts of the world, there is a British slant to several of the posts. How could I not include a post that includes the line “Powerpoint is rubbish.”

As always let us know in the comments if you have read anything this week that was not rubbish.

Facebook Pages for B2B Social Media Marketing
from TopRank Blog
Yesterday in Auckland, NZ I gave an all day workshop to 150 marketing and communications professionals on Social Media Content Marketing & Strategy at Social Media Junction. One of the questions that came up was whether B2B companies are successfully using Facebook Fan pages. I shared a few of our client Fan pages like Marketo & McKesson Medical Imaging (forgetting to mention our own completely) but wanted to share a few more examples here.
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B2B Social Media – Plus Ca Change?
from Ketchum Blog
Earlier this month on a balmy autumn morning, Ketchum Pleon had the pleasure of hosting a PRmoment conference on Social Media in B2B Communications. Adding to the resulting posts from Ben at PRmoment and others, I thought I’d share some personal reflections on what really stood out from the event and some quick research we did off the back of it. I was always a fan as a kid of join the dots, so can you see what picture emerges when you connect the conclusions below that emerged from the conference?
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Destroying the 7 Myths of B2B Social Media
from Convince and Convert
B2B social media is one of the most nettlesome of all social media marketing topics. There are plenty of half-truths and misunderstandings about what, where, why, and how B2B social media works (or doesn’t).
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What I learned at the B2B Marketing Annual Conference
from B2B Marketing Online Blog
The great and the good from the world of B2B Marketing gathered in London yesterday as B2B Marketing Magazine hosted its annual conference: ‘A Brave New World: Digital Marketing in the 21st Century’ ‘I was also there as part of my relentless quest to seek knowledge, learn a thing or two and enjoy a fancy lunch served in a box.
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Q&A Excerpt: Driving Leads with Social Media
from Funnel Focus
In Tuesday’s webinar Social Media Integration into Marketing Campaigns – Does it Drive Leads?, Manticore Technology Demand Generation Manager Emily Mayfield examined her own successes and failures with social media in a recent, multi-touch marketing campaign featuring The Quintessential Marketing Automation Guidebook. In this Q&A excerpt, Emily Mayfield and VP of Marketing Christopher Doran will answer audience questions regarding integrating social media into a marketing campaign to successfully drive leads.
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B2B Social Media and the Business Revolution

Jay Baer, social media strategy consultant and co-author with Amber Naslund of the Now Revolution, spoke yesterday at Blogworld in Las Vegas. I had a chance to chat with him about the changes he sees in businesses that allow them to take advantage of the real time web.

  • Social media success is more about customer loyalty and retention, rather than customer acquisition
  • Everyone in your company is a potential first-time contact, marketer and customer support person.
  • Social media is more important for B2B than B2C because of fewer net customers and more considered purchases.
  • The less social media chatter about your B2B company that is out there, the more content you need to create.