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Small Businesses Get Social and New Media Bang

August 25, 2011

(By Larry Eiler, owner of Eiler Communications in Ann Arbor. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.)
Business-to-business marketing, which is what many SBAM member companies do, is beginning to be understood by small businesses that need to use today’s new and social media effectively. 
Social and new media have been widely touted and used by consumers in increasing numbers over the past few years. We have all heard how Facebook has 600 million users, LinkedIn has surpassed 100 million, Twitter is effective for reaching millions of other consumers.
But when you run a business, how can you determine what “new media” are the best for you to help reach target audiences, measure and get more results in terms of your ROI for marketing dollars?
Here are some facts to consider
1. B-to-B marketers spend about $80 billion a year on their marketing, but only $3 billion online. (Source: “Social Marketing to the Business Customer,” Paul Gillin, John Wiley & Sons, March 2011).
2. Several B-to-B companies – Cisco, IBM, Microsoft – were early adopters of social media and now use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter extensively. Why? Because they find such channels highly effective for reaching specific targets. B-to-B marketing is vastly different from selling to consumers. Here’s how (Gillin).
a. B to B buy decisions are made by groups, not individuals. Groups can be consolidated, targeted well with social media – far better than with scattershot advertising and much more of an effective public-relations technique.
b. B-to-B marketing focuses on value, not experience. The “gee whiz” or “wow” factor important in consumer buy decisions means less in business buy decisions.
c. Buying cycles take longer in B-to-B because more dollars are at stake and more people – like special committees of people with various disciplines – make the decisions.
d. Relationships are more important in B-to-B marketing decisions and the deciders have to feel confident that the companies they select will validate the soundness of the collective judgment. Companies have to live with their buy decisions for a long time. Therefore, they must select a vendor that provides strong service, is reliable and trustworthy.
e. Top quality support and service are imperative.
f. Social media and the ability to target customers, measure results with tools like Google Analytics and the Foresee Results Social Media Calculator, mean marketers can provide solid analytical data to help bolster marketing programs.
g. B-to-B companies have more to gain from social marketing than consumers because social tools address factors unique to their markets.
h. Group decision making gets better when all involved in a decision have access to vendor resources and expertise.
i. Relationships can be developed at multiple levels – important in B-to-B buying decisions when multiple disciplines are involved in the decision – engineering, production, sales, finance, etc.
j. Buying cycles can be shortened because relevant parties do not have to go through red tape and multiple people. Rather, they can get information online and through direct channels.
k. You can control your messaging when you use social media for B-to-B. Check out “Monsanto According to Monsanto.” It is a blog the giant firm started two years ago when it wanted a public place to tell its story directly as it desired to present it.
Most companies still think social media is a mystery. But many large B-to-B firms have embraced various forms of social media to their advantage; and small businesses can do the same. Social media is today where the Internet was 14 years ago – no one knows how to use it. But companies like Clickable and Indium have proven blogs and other forms of new media can be harnessed to work well and provide superior ROI.
Truly, learning about social and new media is not as hard as it seems. Social and new media is where the world is going with marketing. We encourage you to take time each day, either by surfing the Internet or talking to professionals, to learn more about it and determine ways using social and new media tools will help your business.
Larry Eiler is the owner of Eiler Communications in Ann Arbor.
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