150,000 Years of Social Network Media Experience:
Why B-to-B Marketers Will Pioneer the New, New Media.
If one were mustering a regiment to step into the breach of social network marketing, one could do worse than rally a corps of B-to-B marketers, for this is the field that has always been about social network marketing.
In what seems a matter of months, social network marketing has become the rage. We’re all a twitter with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr, to name a few of the new social media apps. The gurus and pundits opine social media’s ascendancy as paradigmatic, the end of advertising as we know it, a permanent role reversal in the relationship between communicators and the communicated. Skeptics have read so many jump-the-gun obituaries of advertising at the advent of every new technology: radio, television, Internet.
No doubt, most of the gadgets and gewgaws of social network media so aglow with buzz today will ultimately rest in the well-populated graveyard of overfunded PowerPoint presentations. But, what’s here to stay is word of mouth on steroids—energized, technology-enabled, peer-to-peer communications that will necessarily be the centerpiece of any fruitful marketing communications program.
B-to-B has always been peer-to-peer. According to some historians, business decisions have been made by groups of people for over 1,500 centuries. Successful B-to-B marketing has always been as dependent on sociology as it has on psychology. Consumer purchase decisions are often impulsive. Business purchase decisions are considered.
The consumer who unilaterally makes a bad decision on a new brand of toothpaste is probably out a few bucks and a nagging bad taste in the mouth. The business decision-maker who decides badly puts a career at risk, and maybe even other people’s lives. So, they travel in packs for their own protection. The task of decision-making has always been done in what everyone now calls a “social network.”
Winning at B-to-B requires a keen understanding of the psychosocial dynamics of what’s going on in and among the “community of a customer” involved in considering, specifying, recommending and purchasing goods and services. The best at B-to-B understand not only the entire cast, but also the plot to be played out during the purchase decision process, what role each person plays in contributing to the decision, and who they are in relationship to each other.
In the ’90s and early naughts, the Internet turbocharged the productivity of B-to-B marketing by enabling the delivery of rich messaging to tightly defined business niche audiences, and the ability to customize form and style of integrated presentations to satisfy the varying information requirements of the different players in the business decision team: charts and graphs for engineers, imagery and poetry for marketers, and numbers for finance managers.
Now, a new set of tools emerges that allows the B-to-B marketer to encourage interaction, not just with the source supplier, but also between and among all the members of the decision-making team.
This is terra incognito for consumer marketers, but well-familiar ground for those in B-to-B. Only the tools are new, not the mission. B-to-B marketers will be the first to demonstrate the real efficacy of social network media.
Chief Executive, North America
Global Practice Leader, B-to-B