Are you herding cattle or cats?

I recently came a across a blog by Chad Levitt who likened the changing approach to marketing and sales, esp in B2B, to herding cats when we are used to herding cattle. Chad Levitt is the author of the New Sales Economy blog that focuses on how sales 2.0, social, and inbound marketing can be used as a sales strategy for the Web 2.0 world.

As Chad says “The first thing about herding cats is….. “don’t let anybody tell you it’s easy!” If you’ve ever tried to herd a cat you know it’s damn hard. And anyone can herd cattle — they are slow, stodgy, and like to be told what to do. Cats are nimble, quick, and verrrrry hard to corner – so are our customers today. The parallel is that the majority of sales and marketing organizations are still trying to herd cattle, when the marketplace has changed to herding cats.”

I certainly think herding cats makes a very good analogy for the B2B marketplace today.

A key ingredient in herding cats is to supply the food they are seeking and this comes in the form of useful information… blogs, videos etc.

For some time I have been concerned that the people at the fuzzy end of business (PR, Marketing) believe they should control Social Media because it is about Communication.  But given they are the masters (along with Advertising) of one-way communication why should they?

Traditionally in business the best listeners and builders of dialogue are in Sales and Customer Service. While Marketing defines the what and who of sales it is the seller and the after sales servicer that pick up the How …  so who better equipped to understand what the market really expects of a business.

And then there are the internal “cats” how can they be harnessed to support the marketing efforts. Well that’s where HR comes in to develop and define policies on the internal and external use of Social Media. There are heaps of potential brand advocates within a business but they need to be told what they can and cant say.  An Outcomes focussed policy that encourages the use of Social Media can enable this rather than inhibit it!

So right now we have ”cats” everywhere looking for “food” from business but very few are producing the right “food” as they are leaving the “food” production to the wrong people. PR/Marketing traditionally sow the crops and hope for a good season or two….   While it is Sales and Service who are responsible for the harvesting and bear the brunt when a bad season comes along or PR/Marketing has decided to sow the wrong crop.

To try to fathom the best approach to implementing a good approach to Social media in business I recently ran a poll in LinkedIn asking:

Who should “own” responsibility for Social Media In Business environment? Who is best to Listen, Converse, Engage and Convert?

The somewhat surprising result given most of my LinkedIn connections are in PR and Marketing was the formation of a new cross functionality entity.

For more details on the poll http://polls.linkedin.com/poll-results/90949/uuhos

What do you think? How should such an approach be implemented?

In the meantime I will keep my focus on driving Social Media by focussing on Sales outcomes not just building Communities and Conversations.

Focus on Business Outcomes not on Social Media

When I speak about the potential that Social Media has to drive direct bottom line business benefits (eg Increased sales, reduced marketing spend, lower customer service costs etc) I hear that’s fine for B2C but it wont help B2B.

This has caused me to rethink my approach to selling Social Media to Business – I now focus on looking at required outcomes and working back to a Policy, Plan, Platforms (Web Presence) and Processes that will support these outcomes.

It is also interesting to hear from Marketing Mangers that business isn’t Social so what has this Social Media got to do with business, as they rush out the door to a Networking event, or to take a client to lunch or to a Conference in an exotic location!!

Rather than talk about building Facebook Brandpages, LinkedIn profiles and establishing communities it is important to focus on what the business needs and then on how to get there with the new tools and tactics available in Social Media.

The latest research from digital marketing agency White Horse highlights this in showing that while Business-to-business (B2B) companies are embracing social media, they are not yet as engaged as their business-to-consumer (B2C) brethren. This largely due to the internal barriers and beliefs that I alluded to earlier  .

While the research indicates that similar numbers of B2B and B2C marketers were not doing any social marketing at all, significant numbers of B2B companies say they had established a social media presence but had done nothing much more.

More than one-third of B2B marketers surveyed said there was little or low senior management interest in social media in their company, compared with only 9% of B2C marketers who said the same. In general whilst taking some steps in the social media space one third of corporate marketers say they need to learn more about social media to justify further investment, while this issue was a major focus for B2B respondents.

Not surprisingly 46% of B2B respondents said social media was perceived as irrelevant to their company, while only 12% of consumer focussed marketers had the same problem. As such it comes as no surprise that B2Bs also reported they still have a much greater preference for traditional marketing tactics.

Perhaps part of the problem for B2Bs in embracing Social Media is an unwillingness or lack of understanding when it comes to measurement.  34% of B2B marketers who said they were not measuring at all, at 34%,while it was just 10% of B2C.

Other studies have shown that B2B marketers are more effective at measurement because they focus on outcomes that matter to their bottom line, such as lead generation.

It is clearly in this area that major opportunities exist for B2B companies by realigning their traditional approach to marketing, sales and service to embrace Social Media. Whether you call it Social CRM, InBound Marketing or Research Based Selling it is clear that there are more effective business development and retention means available to business.

It is certainly well worth reviewing their business model to take a more client focussed approach to developing Interest, Consideration, Trial, Loyalty and Advocacy among their prospects and clients.

Given B2C companies (e.g. JetStar, Ford, Kodak) are now spending 25% – 40% of their marketing dollars on various forms of Social Media and reporting improved bottom line results there must be something in it!!

In my next post I will highlight some of the many B2B success stories.