I don’t think it will come as a surprise to many of you that marketing is becoming more personalised. The effectiveness of ‘one size fits all’ advertising is a thing of the past. The big retail brands demonstrate this very well with tailored made coupons based on our frequent, recent purchases garnered via our loyalty cards. Even my broadband and satellite TV provider addresses marketing mail to me personally with bespoke offers.
The Era of ‘Business to Me’ Marketing
In my opinion we have entered the era of ‘business to me’ marketing whether I have my business hat on – the B2B – or my personal hat on – B2C. One example of the B2Me approach is demonstrated by Facebook retargeting advertising. For example: if I visit a retailer’s website, fill up the basket, but then the phone rings and I abandon my purchase, savvy retailers will be retargeting me with the very items I so nearly bought. Do I mind? Well most of the time I actually welcome the reminder. As, on occasions, I might even be offered a better deal. So it’s a win-win. Naturally there are times when it can be irritating to be followed round the internet for weeks by display adverts but I can choose to ignore them.
But does the B2Me concept work in a corporate environment. Interestingly, recent research by LinkedIn into how IT committees select companies to pitch for contracts concluded that traditional marketing methods were becoming less effective and that the personal approach frequently via social media is gaining more traction.
The research revealed that IT committees are on average 60% through the decision-making process before they even make contact with suppliers as they are using social media to discover content and validate that information with their peers. LinkedIn commissioned comScore Inc., Starcom MediaVest Group and Mashwork to conduct research across IT decision makers across a wide range of industries in the US. IT purchases are frequently made by teams from a wide range of departments – finance, operations, marketing, and facilities as well as IT – to name a few.
The key trend for social media, and LinkedIn in particular, is its continuing growth in influence. It builds trust, improves efficiency as information is readily available, many find the information relevant, and they can find a broader network. The influence of social media is evident at all stages of the IT project decision making process as shown in the diagram below. For example 79% of decision makers use social media at the ‘awareness’ stage – the influence of social media has increased dramatically in the past year.
Source: ‘The Social Bridge to the IT Committee Study’ commissioned by LinkedIn
The overarching conclusion from the report is that the most effective approach to marketing complex services, in a demand led economy where competition is so fierce, is a blend of traditional lead generation activities together with building social relationships with valuable content.
The Pitch starts before the Beauty Parade
Whilst the study focussed on the IT sector it is likely that this trend will be seen in other sectors particularly in the purchase of capital equipment and high investment projects. Potentially the influence of social media in sourcing services such as auditing will become relevant.
One of our clients was the beneficiary of a direct approach on LinkedIn from a company looking specifically for their training services. The contract is worth over £1 million and will revolutionise their business. The training provider’s LinkedIn profile clearly demonstrated superior expertise in their field and many years of experience.
My advice to marketing directors and managers is to:
- focus on optimising the LinkedIn profiles of client facing employees as well as Company Pages.
- ensure updates are consistent.
- focus on relevant, valuable information demonstrating sector knowledge.
- publish Long form posts – vital marketing piece as each connection receives a notification.
- build networks with decision makers across functions within the same company.
Marketing managers without a social media strategy focussed directly on clients are likely to be missing out on opportunities, as social research pre-pitch becomes the norm.