B2B Marketers Need To Wake Up and Get Social

A year ago, Forrester released their CMO Mandate: Adapt or Perish where they spoke about the large number of CMOs who are seeking to transform their upended marketing organizations in 2011.

The reason for this change agenda, they said, was due to the havoc being brought by a combination of technology-empowered buyers, old-school marketing mindsets and the rush to outsource digital and content marketing to fill the gap created by their own team’s outdated skills.

But now, it is one year later, and a number of recent reports paint a picture  of slowing progress, even some reversals, begging  the question: have B2B Marketers adapted or are we ready to perish?

Accenture Survey: Just 8% Heavy Users of Social

Accenture just released this report stating that “B2B Marketing Executive Are Mission Out On Social Media Potential.” The key findings:

  • Only 8% of B2B companies are heavily leveraging social media today despite the fact that almost 2 in 3 consider social media an important channel for customer engagement.
  • Only 5% reported a strong link between social media and strategy.
  • Just 11% reported having the systems and tools required to be effective.
  • Almost 20% of executives did not trust their companies’ ability to make the right social media investments.

Accenture offered these tips to get over this hump:

  • Make social media one of the cornerstones of your customer strategy
  • Move from social media to “social CRM.”
  • Measure social media’s effectiveness.
  • Adopt a highly flexible and iterative approach to social media implementation.
  • Invest in the right technologies.
  • Achieve organizational buy-in.

But I wonder if these recommendations are enough!

I also saw some discussions on Twitter by folks claiming that this survey was flawed and did not reflect the reality the dissenters were seeing. But I tend to agree with the scientific research here vs. the observations of a few social-savvy marketers.

Additionally, when I get out from behind my real desk or my virtual one in Twitter and Facebook, I see a world of marketers struggling to keep up.

UMass Survey: Fortune 500 Companies Blogging Flat

To add insult to injury, Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer) who reports that social media use may be flat-lining at large companies. The research was conducted by the University of Massachusetts and shows that:

  • Only 21% of Fortune 500 companies blog
  • 50% of Inc 500 companies reported blogging
  • The number of Fortune 500 companies blogging is flat or down a bit from 2010
Again, more research to support a less-then-stellar showing for social media with B2B Marketers.

Over the last couple of months, I have had a number of experiences that back this up. I gave a presentation on social strategy to groups of about 50 marketers in 2 very separate parts of the country. Before starting I asked how many of their companies had a social strategy. Answer: about 10% (I am estimating).

I also asked how many of these marketing executives were personally active in social media. Answer. Fewer than 10% (it was more like 5%).

In fact, neither of those presentations yielded much twitter activity at the time or any social sharing afterwards despite the fact that I posted the presentation on my blog, facebook, slideshare, etc.

I even had a question from a senior marketer who strongly challenged my assertion that senior marketers should be personally involved in social media.

The Future Of Marketing?

All this reminds me of one of my favorite posts here that I called “The Future of Marketing“. It sort of predicted this.

In the article I talk about the rise of “Digital Natives,” who are probably taking a little longer to make it up the corporate marketing ladder due to the recession.

I talk about marketing that actually needs to be helpful to our buyers.I’ve beaten that horse to death, haven’t I? Or maybe not.

And I talk about how personalization will allow us to continue adding value for our buyers from the point of being strangers, all the way through the process of becoming customers and ultimately evangelists for our business.

And despite the recent data, I am still hopeful that we will wake up and start getting a lot more social, more helpful and more human!

B2B Marketing Call To Action

Going back to the Forrester report from over a year ago, I really like the 5 calls to action suggested by the author. He makes this challenge to CMOs but I think it applies to any B2B Marketer who wants to adapt and not perish:

  1. Accept change
  2. Dare the status quo
  3. Act continuously
  4. Participate personally
  5. Tear down boundaries

So ask yourself: what are you doing to drive the right kind of change in your organization?

If you’re reading this blog, I assume you already get what I’m saying. It’s the rest of the B2B marketers who need you. Now go out and spread the word. Or send them back here to answer why social is not part of their strategy AND part of their personal branding efforts.

I’d love to hear their comments or yours…

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

10 thoughts on “B2B Marketers Need To Wake Up and Get Social

  1. Michael,

    You raise a paradox of fairly epic proportions – and linking to the IBM Global CMO study for a second… while 67% of CMOs place customer intimacy and advocacy at the top of their priority list, 68% feel unprepared to use social engagement… The means and the end are still pretty far apart.

    There’s an adage… “The strongest trees from acorns grow.” While that creates hope for change agents helping business contemplate the pivot … you do wonder when those with the tallest forest, will pull inexorably away from those with a few modest saplings.


    1. Great point Bill. That’s why I have been telling our peers in marketing that there is a new competition and the game is almost over before many even realize the game started. Not a huge fan of sports analogies but it I think it fits here. Thanks so much for the comment!

      Best, Michael

  2. Thanks for some great observations, statistics and conclusions, Michael! I find in my company, while I’m technically responsible for Social Media, very few others seem willing to contribute to our SM efforts. There does seem to be some “disconnect” between understanding how critical a Social presence is, and feeling comfortable engaging in the activities required to create a Social presence!!

    1. Great point Deanna and I think this is what is being represented in these survey results. Some businesses think they can just hire a social director, outsource some stuff and be done. But one of my favorite lines is “The ROI of Social Media is that your business will still exist in 5 years.” The proverbial “writing is on the wall.”

  3. Michael, while the numbers are gloomy I have hopes that the data would be more encouraging in the next couple of years.

    One thing that is muddying the waters for a lot of big brands is managing the social and the mobile experience. Because both of them are so disruptive I have a feeling that many organizations are retreating into their comfort zones as they try to figure out which way the wind is blowing.

    That does not mean that they are doing the right thing- you don’t learn how cold the water is merely by staring at it from the shore. But it’s happening and I suspect that the push has not yet come to shove. When it does you will see the graph shoot upward, by which time it might be too late for a lot of laggards.

  4. Why not anyone look at the real fact behind why B2B companies never give a damn to social media.. the fact is current social medias couldnt exactly address the need for B2B ..

    Facebook is more of a personal site , linked in is more of professional and career related and so the rest of existing sites. there is a need for a something new for B2B

    1. Ismail, I think there are plenty of examples to the contrary. Do you have some facts to back up the statement “B2B companies never give a damn to social media”? I know my company is very much interested in using it as a channel to reach our customers. We have people in place, budget behind it and some documented successes. While we are by no means perfect, we are still on our own journey and getting better every day.

  5. I found this very thought-provoking. I see two main factors at play. Established companies become complacent and assume that what they have always done will continue to be successful (superficially this appears to be comfortable). Corporate history is strewn with the dried up bones of these dinosaurs. At the other extreme you have people jumping on to social media and content based strategies without having a sound grasp of marketing and advertising principles – this won’t work either.

    Over the next couple of years I’m sure that we will see people who understand marketing and who have the ambition and skills to adapt coming to the fore. When you look at the pre-sales potential of excellent on-line content and the efficiency of social media in cultivating prospective buyers it seems bizarre that B2B marketers are not exploiting social marketing for all it’s worth. But businesses are collections of humans and, therefore, not always logical. We’ll get there.

    1. Thanks Richard, I agree. I just read a great article about how some universities are combining marketing, literature (liberal arts) and engineering studies to train future marketers to be able to write, analyze data and execute sound marketing strategies. Brilliant! I agree we’ll get thee too!

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