I was reading an interesting blog a few days ago by Matt Heinz (@HeinzMarketing) in Seattle. Hat tip to him. I didn’t totally agree with his point of view but that’s fine, he got me thinking. One of his central tenets is that would-be buyers are already active within social channels and this provides salespeople with a short-cut into those organization’s challenges / opportunities – just so long as the salespeople know where to look i.e. Hootsuite and the like. There’s plenty of logic in that. It’s the whole ‘social selling’ argument.
But I got to contrasting that approach with the findings of a recent client project in the traditional manufacturing industries. We’d used our methodology to identify the top market influencers. The majority of these individuals were buried deep inside their giant employers – these weren’t outside world-facing people but they had tremendous clout internally. Many had been with the same employer for twenty or thirty years. When at the end of our research we were checking their LinkedIn profiles we found the majority almost totally empty. A number had less than five connections and many contained perhaps just a single line on their career history. It made our team wonder why they were on LinkedIn at all.
Most likely it’s because at one stage of their life they were curious and created an entry, then thought twice about it, couldn’t see a reason to be there, and abandoned it. If they weren’t looking for a change of employer they likely saw no point in filling out their profile. Their lack of LI engagement has made no difference to the influence they wield in their industry.
As for their blogging and tweeting – well, they’d paid even less attention to that. Their online footprint was often zero. Yet they were undoubtedly influential, many had responsibility for large numbers of people and in some cases very substantial budgets. ‘Social selling’ wouldn’t reach these people, indeed it wouldn’t even know these people existed, and I can’t help thinking there are many thousands of middle-managers in traditional industries who are similarly ‘invisible’ to social selling.
Before we’re told that social selling is more immediate, more cost-effective, more engaging and whatever else, we need to bear in mind that it will only reach the minority of sales prospects. In the largest, most established industries, it may be a very tiny minority. And that’s not about to change.
Have just read a fascinating blog post from Andrew Koller and his team at ShareBloc, a new service they describe as ‘Reddit for professionals’, aggregating existing online content relevant to would-be B2B buyers. Until a recent change in direction their service was known as VendorStack. The post outlines why they made the change and offers a number of conclusions reached about what buyers will and wont do when it comes to researching upcoming purchases. As ever, there are many lessons learnt out of failure and the management at ShareBloc has been brave enough to have blogged about this. Respect to them.
Why We Pivoted: A Story About Lessons Learned From Failure – See more at: http://blog.sharebloc.com/post/64787600665/why-we-pivoted-a-story-about-lessons-learned-from#sthash.LHPCJ9dh.dpuf
Loved the recent Mckinsey report ‘How B2B companies talk past their customers’. I posted about it last week but I just have to return to it. Not all the findings are obvious.
It seems most marketing messages (from the largest 90 global B2B brands) only correlate on one topic – the importance of a vendor having specialist expertise. The vendors thought it more important than the buying audience, but both did rate it. That’s as far as much agreement went. All this posturing about global reach, driving for innovation, corporate social responsibility, sustainability practices and promoting equal opportunities within its workforce – well, these apparently leave the buying audience largely cold.
Some of this is surprising – you might think that buyers want to feel morally good about their supplier choice. They do but not in the phrasing vendors use. Buyers want their suppliers to treat them, and society, in an open and honest manner. That was the clear number one. And they do want their suppliers to act responsibly throughout their supply-chain. ‘Transparency’ is good.
What was also interesting: brands thought that promoting low prices was an attribute. Buyers, conversely, didn’t think this contributed in any way to improving their brand image.
What Mckinsey also noted was the ‘herd mentality’ in each brand’s adoption of messaging. Few looked to establish their individuality, with IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative raised as a far-sighted exception. The majority repeated the messaging of their competitors – resulting in minimizing their differentiation. Surely not the original intention of their marketing.
As the report concludes, “even in the digital era, the actual personal interaction with the supplier’s sales reps was considered the single most influential factor – across touch points – (in the buyer’s impression of that brand).”
We come back to that age-old saying, at the end of the day “people buy from people.”
For those in the UK, the Channel 4 Dispatches TV show – ‘Celebs, Brands & Fake Fans’ – is replaying tonight I hear. It covers how corporates and celebrities alike are using illegal click-farms to create fake Facebook fan numbers and contracting marketing agencies to illicitly hype up their Twitter buzz. It features various interviews with experts and interested parties – including me.
One hour long, it was originally broadcast in Aug’13.
I was watching an online training video the other day on Content Marketing. It was aimed squarely at marketers and the trainer at one point said, “I cannot stress enough, practice with your content, keep putting more and more out there and you’ll gradually get better at it.” He then went on to discuss the various tools and processes required of today’s content marketers. He was saying there were no excuses, every marketer needed to be on Facebook and Instagram because that’s where customers were sharing their photos.
Watching the video all the way through was hard but I persevered, just in case it all made sense at the end. Needless to say it didn’t. And that’s what the buyer community has to face – marketers putting endless ‘stuff’ out there in the hope that some of it sticks. And marketers ‘practicing’ on their audiences.
At no point did he mention anything about the customers – what they might want to receive and interact with, what they might need to hear to prioritize their purchase, what might be needed to differentiate one supplier over another, etc. It was clear that this marketer didn’t see it as his job.
If you’re a company selling accounting stationery it’s difficult to see how Instagram should be central to your campaigns. If you sell jet engines to aircraft manufacturers I’m not sure how Facebook will help fill your order book. But too many marketers think like this trainer clearly did – that a full marketing plan is a series of cookie-cutter processes. It’s nothing of the sort. A marketing plan should wrap around the needs of the customer – what they need to hear, when they need to hear it and in what format they’ll listen.
You don’t need to cover all bases – as this trainer advocated – you need to cover the right bases. And only your customer- or prospect-base can tell you what’s ‘right’. None of them will appreciate you treating them as guinea-pigs as you misguidedly practice your marketing. They’ll remember that when it does come time to buy.
Can’t help thinking that Twitter (the company itself) won’t have appreciated PeerIndex‘s recent ‘Top140 Twitter Influencers in the UK’ list. Fair play to Azeem, PI’s CEO – I’ve plenty of respect for him and it yielded great media coverage – but when the first five places in the Top140 were taken by the five members of One Direction it hardly helps position Twitter as a channel for quality conversation. The PeerIndex list also fell foul of our long-held central tenet for influence – influence has to be measured for its effect on somebody or something. One Direction’s tweets are no doubt highly influential on teenage girls of a certain age, but that’s a completely different audience from most others in the list. How you can credibly compare influencers when it’s influence on very different audiences is hard to comprehend. Except in this case it wasn’t hard – it was just measuring the number of retweets – it didn’t matter to whom. So it was really just about noise. And noise as I always say, has no correlation with influence.
So what use was the list? It was just a bubble gum media-friendly news bite that maybe served PeerIndex’s purpose of promoting its name. But it surely wont have helped the migration of further real-world influencers onto Twitter. And the execs at Twitter do care about that .. as I’ll write about some other time.