Social Media Marketing's Impact
on the B2B Value Chain
By Alex Romanovich
Chief Marketing Officer at EuroSpaClub International
As B2B marketers continue to seek unique ways to influence various channels of marketing and demand, the introduction of social media marketing (SMM) techniques has the potential to directly impact the value chain (figure 1). When products and services are passing through all stages of the chain, the ultimate goal is to maximize value creation, brand awareness and lead generation, while minimizing costs.
Figure 1: Popular visualization of Michael Porter's Value Chain Analysis
The most recent eMarketer polls, as well as BtoB Magazine's report "2010 Outlook," indicate that SMM will be of rising importance for B2B marketers, with 60 percent planning to increase spending on it this year. The most frequent reason for engaging with social networks was thought leadership in their field (see diagram below).
Given the complexity of the decision-making process, competition, and the many other influences on these decisions, B2B marketers must develop needs-based segmentation in B2B markets, using marketing techniques to demonstrate unique value. It is for this reason alone why SMM, which lends itself well to the presentation of value through content and thought leadership, is increasingly the most effective choice for B2B marketers.
As with B2C, B2B marketing in general is about relationship building and trust. Social media has given B2B marketers a unique opportunity to connect prospects and clients to expertise, which will begin to matter more to organizations than traditional (and at times expensive) learning delivery programs. Additionally, because expertise is shared and accessible, and feedback allows us to assess the demand for this expertise, organizations will be able to fine tune focus areas much more readily and more efficiently. This will result in a better use of resources and eventually impact the bottom line.
With so many choices available for social media engagement, many of them focused at consumers, how does a B2B marketer decide which social networks or facilities are the most effective?
Figure 2: Social2B's "Social Value Chain Lens"
The above diagram (figure 2) shows a randomly chosen B2B firm that has to grapple with the many SMM choices available, with potentially limited resources. With the growing complexity of social media networks and tools for interaction and communications management, companies must understand what each social network has to offer, its potential application to the problem at hand, and its viability for the business objectives chosen. The SMM strategy and tactics may vary with industry (product-specific versus service-oriented) and size and maturity of a company (new market entrant versus well-known brand).
Social media marketing and its outcomes will affect not only the B2B marketing value chain as we know it but will also have a long-lasting impact on the entire organizational chart. Social influence maps (or social influence grids) will likely replace the traditional hierarchical structure in the near future. All areas of business involved with support activities, such as HR and legal, will continue to harvest ideas and feedback, enabling primary activity areas, such as logistics, marketing/sales, and customer service, to flourish.