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marketing mindsets and the rush to outsource digital and content marketing to fill the gap created by their own team’s outdated skills.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, I saw this article from 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 is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. 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 shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

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