Social media marketing strategist and author Paul Gillin gave a thought-provoking presentation on the value of social media for business-to-business marketers at the PRSA meeting in Cleveland, Ohio this week.
Here are some of Gillin’s key points, which raise interesting questions for every B2B marketer seeking to develop a smart marketing strategy.
- Anyone Can Be an Influencer: Before the web and social media, B2B marketers could identify the influencers in a specific industry and strategize ways to impact the views of those individuals. But we no longer know who the influencers are. Anyone can be tweeting or blogging about their experience with your company at any moment. Social media has made everyone a potential influencer.
- Anyone Can Be the Media: Traditional media is in collapse because the business model no longer works. According to Gillin, there were 5,500 ad pages in B2B IT magazines in 2001. That number fell to 1,200 in 2009. Also, not long ago, there were about 50,000 people (news directors and news editors) who told all the rest of us what we should know. Now it’s the opposite. Anyone with an Internet connection can be “the media.” And since information spreads faster from the bottom than the top, the result is an “influencer inversion.”
- The Sales Funnel May No Longer Apply: Gillin says the B2B purchasing process now starts with Google and as a result, the traditional sales funnel may no longer apply. Thanks to online search, people now can know so much about your business before they approach you that they can come into a potential engagement with your company at any point in the sales process. Thus, it’s critical to understand where people are coming to you into the buying cycle.
So what does this mean for your B2B marketing strategy?
- The prospect’s ability to get information from peers before making a decision is better than ever. It’s difficult for B2B marketers to outshout this dialogue with paid messaging, like advertising.
- With so many sources of information available for prospects to consult, no one needs to listen to the marketer anymore. If you’re not helping, they’re not listening. Thus, B2B marketers should seek ways to be helpful to the prospect.
- Gillin believes the solution is content marketing. He advises B2B marketers to develop helpful, free content that delivers great value to the prospect and distribute that content via multiple soclal media platforms.
What do you think? Is Gillin right that the B2B purchasing decision now begins with a Google search? Is the traditional sales funnel a dinosaur? And is content marketing the secret to a smart marketing strategy today?