Social Media and the Case for Marketing Optimism

Michael Brenner on May 10, 2010 in Social Media

Recently, I have read and participated in many conversations on the new optimism spreading through B2B Marketing organizations. In many ways, Social Media is simply another proof point of the power of customer-driven, inbound marketing. But now, we are seeing a whole new class of converts.

Push vs. Pull

The battle has raged within  B2B Marketing departments since the dawn of the web: push vs. pull, traditional direct marketing vs. newer inbound techniques like search.  The truth of course lies somewhere in the middle. A strong campaign includes a combination of both push and pull. For me, the strength of inbound marketing techniques lies in the power of giving up control to the customer. When we allow our prospects to tell us what words they use, where and how they search for solutions, what their pain points are, and when they are ready to engage, sales and pipeline opportunities appear- almost miraculously. Or at least predictably.

Isn’t this obvious to everyone? Who doesn’t accept this as fact? I was struck head-on with this fact a few weeks ago while on a partner advisory call. Myself and another B2B marketer were discussing how the recession had forced our marketing budgets to the inbound techniques with the highest ROI. But now that the economy was slowly coming back there was a resurgence of traditional budgets. Some on the call were shocked. Wasn’t this debate settled long ago? Apparently not.

Social Media

Along comes social media. Two years ago it was interesting. Last year it was growing too fast to ignore. This year it has crested the infamous Tipping Point and marketers are finding the call of social media tactics irresistible. In companies across the world, social “experts” are rising up and taking new positions like “Community Manager” and “Social Strategist”. And direct marketers are feeling compelled to jump into the fray. Marketers of all specialties are realizing that the customer is clearly in charge.

We have lost control of the message. A single negative brand experience can reach every corner of the globe in minutes. The risk of not responding, of not engaging, is now understood by marketing and sales leaders and senior executives alike. But this is not the great race. It doesn’t matter when we reach this destination, only that we have arrived. And so we begin to see this evolution of the voice of customer moving out of marketing and into the board room. Social Strategy is now important to them.

The Case For Optimism

I recently read Why it’s time for new marketing optimism by Lisa Donohue and it really struck a chord. I agree with Lisa that it’s a great time to be a marketer.  I can see the impact of social media in B2B companies today – bringing customers to the center of everything we do – and marketers are leading this movement.  Traditional marketers, who in the past may have shunned inbound techniques, are using words like “clicks,” “mentions”, “keywords”, even “SEO”.  They want to understand who the “influencers” are so they can “listen” to them, possibly “engage” with them, and “monitor” the brand conversation for swings in positive or negative “sentiment”.  Granted, some marketers are being led into the water as we hear cries that their boss told them to “open a twitter account and learn the new ways of marketing”.

But to me this is all good stuff.  If the current hype cycle of social media lands us in a place where we all listen a little more – where discussions of “top keywords” and “pain points” begin our meetings – where we analyze our messaging and test if it resonates before we waste money on offers that no one wants. If social media does nothing more than bring the principles of customer-focused marketing to the forefront – it is all well worth it. And so as we wake up from the dark days of the recent recession, here are 6 key B2B Marketing Insider tips to remember:

  1. Embrace the power of inbound marketing techniques – Know your top keywords, know your customer’s pain points – and make all messaging reflect this. See this article for 6 Steps to Find your B2B Audience on Twitter.
  2. Reach across the aisle – It is time to embrace both push and pull – centered around the customer in a truly integrated approach.
  3. Stop dismissing social media as “hype” – Accept the power of social media to transform the way we reach customers – not just in marketing – but also in sales, customer service, and beyond.
  4. Define your Social Strategy – There are 3 simple steps: Listen, Respond, Engage across marketing, sales and support.
  5. Innovate – Ask customers what they most want from you. Ask them why they chose you over the competition. Engage employees.  They are the greatest untapped resource in B2B companies. We know how to serve our customers.
  6. Get Ready to Lead – Social media and inbound marketing is providing marketers with a unique opportunity to lead our companies to our greatest innovations in demand generation, new products, higher customer retention, and a lower cost of sales.

As always, comments and topic suggestions are welcome. And Thanks to Elizabeth Brenner for copywriting and editorial services.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
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.