Hey B2B Businesses, Don't Build or Enhance
Your Web Site, Build a Marketing Platform!
By Alex Romanovich
Chief Marketing Officer at EuroSpaClub International
According to Wikipedia, the term "business-to-business" was originally coined to describe the electronic communication between businesses or enterprises in order to distinguish it from the communication between businesses and consumers (B2C). It eventually came to be used in marketing as well, initially describing only industrial or capital goods marketing. Today, it is widely used to describe all products and services used by enterprises. Many professional institutions and trade publications focus much more on B2C than B2B, although most sales and marketing professionals are in the B2B sector.
By a more anecdotal definition, a B2B business is supposed to provide value to other businesses as it markets, sells, and implements its goods and services to them. When you sell from your business to other businesses, you are to enable them with better products and services, helping them target their customers, most of them being consumers. Examples of value-enabling B2B businesses include professional services companies, such as accounting and legal firms; information technology and outsourcing firms; and wholesale and distribution firms, which resell manufactured goods and add value through services and add-on products.
With recent advances in integrated marketing and social media marketing, a B2B business, similar to its B2C brethren, is now able to offer and distribute more value—faster and more precisely—as it is targeting its clientele. Yet, many B2B enterprises and small and medium-size businesses are still struggling with what "value" they can and cannot share and how they can convert leads into tangible business opportunities. Many B2B businesses turn to their Web site properties and other content delivered electronically. But the more I talk to small and medium-size B2B businesses, the more I hear, "We need to build a better Web site or improve it."
Don't do it!
In the age of social media and "doing more with less," you don't have to build a Web site anymore, nor do you have to improve it. You have to, and you CAN, build a marketing platform. So, what does this mean?
For starters, as a B2B business, you need to ask yourself, "What is it I want to do next? Grow my business? Generate leads? Enable my customers? Or establish or improve my brand?" Once you are able to answer this question, establish who your audience is, and what you want to share with them, you can then select the appropriate marketing strategy. That's where social media comes to the rescue!
Remember, as a B2B business, you not only need to solve problems and create value for your customers while generating revenue, you also have to share your expertise in the form of content or tangible services. If you can deliver value, the revenue will come! And while you are adding value, you need to constantly improve your ability to do so.
Marketing platforms have been around for some time now. You are already familiar with many of them: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. Yes, they are social media marketing platforms, because companies, many of them in the B2B space, conduct campaigns and attract audiences—and even build brands—using these. Except that many of these networks do not have all the necessary ingredients and tools to answer some very important questions, nor do they give you total control. But even with limited control and hosted content, these platforms give you the opportunity to target and select your audience, connect and engage with them, post content, and promote your products and services.
So why not build your own? Here is what you would need to begin with:
- Database of contacts: You need the ability to manage this database using tools, such as a basic CRM system (even Microsoft Outlook, Mac Address Book, or Google Contacts will do for starters). Many B2B businesses already have implemented these databases internally or hosted them with such services as Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, and others.
- Interactive and engaging Web site: This will provide an opportunity for your prospects or readers to review, engage, leave comments, and interact, leading to some kind of engagement (purchase, content download, etc.). Social media elements are great for this, as they allow your B2B brand to provide interactivity to other platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
- Simple and efficient e-mail management system: Create a system capable of providing additional information about and to your "opt-in" audience. This function can even be outsourced to various service providers, such as ConstantContact, Campaigner, or others.
- Basic content management system (CMS): A CMS system will allow your business to create, manage, share, and distribute content to your customers, partners, and media, targeting social media specifically.
- Basic management and analysis toolset: This will enable you to better understand traffic patterns, interest levels, "likes and dislikes," and the overall sentiment. (Again, social media tools can be of help here, allowing you to initiate and then monitor the conversation, in contrast to search tools alone, which are of limited use here.)
- Value-added set of functions or content library for your customers and partners: They are important in helping your business grow and expand (could be a part of your content management system).
- Ability to be flexible in adding new functionality: As the need to engage your customers, partners, and providers changes, you can scale with the growth of the business.
Of course, the above list is fairly basic for B2B enterprises. You can implement more sophisticated solutions from industry leaders in the interactive and integrated marketing space, such as Unica (recently acquired by IBM), Marketo, Aprimo, and numerous others. Yet, even many of the enterprises sometimes find it difficult to integrate the functions listed above, based on legacy system inflexibility and data ownership issues.
Here is the exciting part: the above can be accomplished with well-designed WordPress blogging software (an open source solution, which means it is FREE) and a few plug-ins, combined with an intuitive interface and a simple and inexpensive hosting solution, giving your B2B business the power to innovate, listen to your customers better, and create new marketing campaigns.
So the next time you are thinking of building a Web site, think again. Don't build a Web site, build a marketing platform!