3 Ways Most B-to-B Marketers Get Off Track With Social Marketing

I get asked all the time, “Jeff, where do most B-to-B marketers go wrong with social media?” My response these days is becoming more focused and sharp: “They market on it rather than sell with it.”  There are three mistakes that most B-to-B marketers are making with social media marketing.

[For more of Jeff Molander’s insights on B-to-B marketing and social media, be sure to catch him on Thursday’s Multichannel Marketing for Business roundtable webinar.]

I get asked all the time, “Jeff, where do most B-to-B marketers go wrong with social media?” My response these days is becoming more focused and sharp: “They market on it rather than sell with it.”

There are three mistakes that most B-to-B marketers are making with social media marketing. They:

1. Have a very weak expectation of social media to begin with … they don’t expect it to produce leads nor sales.

2. Focus energy on finding effective ways to measure social’s effectiveness rather than finding ways to sell with it.

3. Make mistakes 1 and 2 because they’re looking to relatively inexperienced, unqualified people to decide what it is they should be doing with social media.

Expect Social Marketing to Sell
Your thoughts manifest reality. It’s a metaphysical fact whether you turn to new age gurus, the Bible or other philosophical belief system aimed at creating emotional, spiritual and financial wealth. What you think becomes reality and if you’re thinking about marketing outcomes (engagement, clicks, visitors, customer sentiment, etc.) that’s what you’ll get—by law!

Selling requires not only a change in expectation but a process mentality that generates tangible outcomes. Marketing usually involves a creative process with fungible, intangible outcomes like “good branding” that somehow results in sales. Marketing is faith-based.

If marketers could have anything they want when it comes to social media they want “better engagement” and better ways to measure it. The result is a world where B-to-B marketers continue to put today’s interactive version of branding before revenue.

Get Off of Social Media and on to a List
What if we cast aside such marketing aspirations and replaced them with dreams of creating leads? For instance, changing the goal from engagement to leads means changing what we do all day long—and how we do it. What if the goal was to get prospects OFF of social media?!

I’m noticing how B-to-B marketers who create revenue (and think about it all day long) think this way. They don’t care to spend five years wondering, “What’s the value of a Facebook fan?” only to find out that the question is as pointless as the half-baked answers self-appointed experts cook up.

Successful social sellers ask different questions like, “Can we use what we already know works to start generating leads sales with social marketing techniques?”

For these companies, the answer is, “yes, sometimes” but only when the social platform can be used in a way that moves sales prospects off of it and onto a lead nurturing program. In the end they rely more on traditional, process—driven database marketing—telemarketing, direct mail, email—and not johnny-come-lately metrics like “return on engagement.”

Believe in Yourself, Ignore the Experts
In many cases the reason why marketers are making mistakes 1 and 2 is because they fall victim to the uncertainty created by self-appointed experts.

In a moment of remarkable candor, former Apple brand evangelist, Guy Kawasaki announced his secret to social media success: Do not have any plan whatsoever for it. Because you can’t understand these oh-so-new technologies, he says the smartest way to approach them is to just do it.

You can understand Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, etc., if your context remains founded in business principles that are not revolutionizing—no matter what the experts say.

Resist the urge to hire who you know are ambitious, bright yet inexperienced, unqualified people to decide what it is they should be doing with social media (and how to do it). The truth is most social media experts have one main qualification: “I use it more than you do” and (my favorite) “I ‘get it’ because I study other companies that ‘get it'” (when “it” is largely hot air).

So if you want to avoid the three most common mistakes, expect social media to sell start learning a systematic way to make social platforms serve your business, stop trying to measure social’s effectiveness in intangible terms and trust your business instincts more than young social media experts.

How ‘Keeping Up’ With Social Media Will Sabotage Your Ability to Sell With It

What separates the leading social sellers from the aimless, follower marketers? Thinking. Sure, most of us believe we’re thinking about social media, but we’re actually just reacting to it. The sooner you stop reacting to every johnny-come-lately and defending against “the next big thing” in social media, the sooner you can start creatively applying existing strengths with the new social tool set. It’s the difference between an attitude of lack and one of abundance.

What separates the leading social sellers from the aimless, follower marketers? Thinking. Sure, most of us believe we’re thinking about social media, but we’re actually just reacting to it. The sooner you stop reacting to every johnny-come-lately and defending against “the next big thing” in social media, the sooner you can start creatively applying existing strengths with the new social tool set. It’s the difference between an attitude of lack and one of abundance.

Ignore the Deluge
“How do you keep up with all the change in social media, Jeff?”

I don’t. Keeping up with technologial change doesn’t grow my business. Adding new knowledge about Pinterest, Google+ and whatever might come next into my consciousness only inhibits success. Keeping pace with how, when and why customers are using social platforms might help grow my business and is where to focus attention.

The belief that we must keep pace with social technology arises out of a feeling, not an actual business need. Social media marketing feels very new, dangerously fast-paced, difficult to understand or define, and that’s a little scary. We’re only human, and like every new technology before it, it feels damn urgent to get involve with because … well, just because. Paradigms are changing yada-yada. Your business depends on it, right?

The truth is your business probably already has the answers it seeks from so-called social media experts.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing
Most social media platforms are solutions looking for problems that offer little, if any, immediate or future value to marketers. Consumer buying paradigms (their collective habits) are not actually revolutionizing, they’re just speeding up. Sure, once in a while something really useful comes along but even then it’s typically years before most of us can figure out how to apply it in ways that serve us. Why? Because we’ve lost track in keeping the main thing-customers-the main thing.

Social media has literally become the main thing! The conversation should be about how to sell stuff by innovating around customers’ problems, goals, fears or ambitions. Right? Instead, it often devolves into using social media to create conversations about the conversation. Whoops!

Social media has become “the main thing.”

Speed Up, Calm Down
The real opportunity for your business and you is to speed up and calm down. This has been the promise of every technological advance history has offered. We’re supposed to be launching, selling and distributing our products and services more efficiently to customers-and kicking our feet up a bit more. Right? Well, for some businesses, large and small, this is actually happening. Even kitchen cabinet dealers are selling with social media!

Hey, I know, the marketing world certainly didn’t ask for Facebook or Twitter. We didn’t need more ways to market our businesses. Social media just showed up at our door on a Wednesday night at 5 p.m. and invited itself over for dinner. “Hi, I’m social media. Need another dozen ways to do marketing?”

Who were we to say no? We let the well-dressed fella in. No sooner was he inside than he texted all his buddies to join in. So what did we do? We ordered take-out and outsourced to social media experts who, in fact, aren’t very expert because it’s new to them too!

Get Things in Order
In the end, we don’t think we have time to get creative in the kitchen feeding this beast, but we actually do. Therein lies the opportunity. The best “next step” you can take is to surround yourself with what you already know about customers. Find ways to leverage what you are already doing (outside of social media) that effectively creates and nurtures leads. Start using social media to give customers results in advance-a taste of success-in ways you can easily connect to the lead management process.

Next time a social media expert says something like, “You’ve got to be authentic, transparent, human and honest,” muster up the courage to say, “Well DUH, we didn’t build our businesses on a pack of fake, opaque, ogreish lies.” Now go get ’em!

A Twitterview Live From TWTRCON

Question: What’s the best way to learn about what went on at TWTRCON SF 09 (www.twtrcon.com), the first conference entirely focused on Twitter as a business platform?Answer: Do a Twitter interview, or a Twitterview, live from the conference.So that’s what I did with Michael Della Penna, an attendee of the event and founder of the Participatory Marketing Network, which was a sponsor of the event. (Full disclosure: The Twitterview wasn’t exactly live. It took place a few days later.)

Question: What’s the best way to learn about what went on at TWTRCON SF 09 (www.twtrcon.com), the first conference entirely focused on Twitter as a business platform?Answer: Do a Twitter interview, or a Twitterview, live from the conference.So that’s what I did with Michael Della Penna, an attendee of the event and founder of the Participatory Marketing Network, which was a sponsor of the event. (Full disclosure: The Twitterview wasn’t exactly live. It took place a few days later.)At the conference, which was held in San Francisco on May 31, attendees learned how to create Twitter business strategies, use Twitter applications to create revenue, and use Twitter to listen to customers and respond. Attendees also networked with marketing and media executives, Twitter developers and social media experts. Speakers included Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Alltop; Stefanie Nelson, who runs the marketing communications for Dell Outlet; Jeremiah Owyang, senior analyst at Forrester Research; Bob Pearson, president of The Blog Council; and Ed Terpening, vice president, social media marketing for Wells Fargo.Mike and I discussed some key concepts brought up at the event, all in tweets of less than the specified 140 characters. The following are some highlights from our discussion: mcampanelli: What are the some of the biggest obstacles for companies looking to adopt social media?mikepenna: Typically 1. Fear; 2. Costs; 3. Scalability concerns; 4. Perceived lack of tools; 5. IT/corporate departments.mcampanelli: I just learned of a study your org. presented there that said Gen Yers aren’t using Twitter. Why?mikepenna: Most don’t get it. They do text messaging and visit social networks, but don’t understand the value of Twitter yet.mcampanelli: What do some of the best corporate social media policies include? mikepenna: 1.What you can or can’t say; 2. What behaviors are appropriate; 3. Who owns what; 4. Disclosure info.; 5. Education. mcampanelli: Are companies starting to put these policies in motion? If not, what could happen? mikepenna: They are — but have to re-examine traditional approaches and policies and address new ones.mikepenna: One example of what companies now must address is “who owns the followers” when an employee leaves? mcampanelli: Let’s talk about marketing with Twitter. Can you do real targeting with Twitter? mikepenna: Yes. New tools are coming to market. In essence they will allow marketers to create groups, schedule tweets, etc. mcampanelli: What are some of the new tools out there? mikepenna: There were several at the show. CoTweet for one helps marketers manage dialogs with customers. They are in beta now.mcampanelli: Any interesting case studies from TWTRCON? Firms that do marketing on Twitter right?mikepenna: Yes. Several in fact. Some of the bigger ones were @comcastcares for customer service and @delloutlet for sales.Click here for a larger version.