Excerpt featuring Many Kostas, VP of strategy and marketing at Hewlett-Packard Imaging & Printing Group, from “The @Work State of Mind Project” – a joint effort of gyro, award-winning b2b agency, and Forbes Insights. To download the complete report go to www.gyro.com/atwork.
While two in three respondents (67%) said that input from work-related social networks plays an important role in business, social networks still remain a less compelling resource than other online and traditional outlets, including industry and business websites.
Some marketers expect that to change as social media sites now separately targeting business or personal life blend. “We have started to think about Facebook and LinkedIn as reality TV channels with everyone curating their own shows,” says Kirk Chartier, a vice president at financial services firm Charles Schwab & Co.
A number of companies in the @Work world have recognized that social media’s effectiveness as a marketing tool depends on a thoughtful, disciplined strategy that focuses on reaching the right individuals at the right time.
Consider Hewlett-Packard’s Imaging & Printing division. It recently introduced a new commercial digital printer that it sells largely to small and midsize printing firms for about $1 million. Some of these companies may not generate revenues much over $10 million, so the expense of replacing a printer is carefully considered.
Kostas says that his unit decided to launch the newest product at a customer’s plant before a select audience of journalists and other individuals whom the company identified as influencers. In the past, HP might have staged the event at its own site, but the company felt that a neutral environment gave it more credibility. HP provided video and other materials that could be used swiftly online to help spread interest. “The information went out via tweets and re-tweets from about 1,300 people who were attending,” Kostas says. “They were helping other print-service providers qualify this big capital investment they were about to make, or they were print-service providers themselves who actively have a community discussing among themselves what the best new digital printing technology is. That just fostered an official HP communications path. What’s most critical is we’re choosing a medium that the customer has chosen.”
Kostas says that once the event took place, his group entrusted the content and distribution of messaging to the circles of influencers and other interested parties. But he believes that the benefits of relinquishing some control—open discussion and a more engaged audience—outweighed the main downside of potential criticism in a public forum. “The customers know better what’s most important to them, not necessarily the manufacturer or even the salesperson,” Kostas says. “So when you rely upon the industry analysts and members of the press that focus on this very small, distinct market as well as the customers themselves, they trust each other more than they trust the manufacturer to help sort the most relevant and compelling data out of this information overload that’s coming to them. As long as you get the content in the form, in the vehicle that’s relevant to them, but then they self-select and talk amongst themselves, then you deliver the message far more effectively.”
Kostas says that the same principles apply in marketing to individuals and businesses. “We don’t separate the pure B2B from the individual because the owner-manager or the professional is inundated on the personal as well as the professional front. The explosion of content, whether it’s email coming to them, tweets, searching queries or blog posts, all that information is coming at them whether they’re on their way home, on a cell phone, on a tablet or in the workplace. We have to manage that in its entirety.”
Kostas adds: “The key is to embrace it and to understand the right time, the right form, and glean amongst all that information what’s most compelling.”