There’s been a stream of negative posts about social media in B2B circles lately—a marketer’s lament that social isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It sucks your time. It doesn’t deliver results. Everyone is so fake. In fact, social media is anti-social, replacing real friendships with artificial ones. Let’s all cancel our Facebook accounts and stop this life-sucking abomination, as if the loom might be broken.
Have you ever stopped to consider the terminology of marketing, and how it both reflects and affects the way we think about our relationship with customers? Marketing activities are organized as campaigns (often launched with advertising air cover) which focus on targets for the sales force to acquire. These terms are not only militaristic, they betray an attitude of control over customer relationships that is an artifact of a bygone era. Businesses no longer control customer relationships the way they once did, and marketers needs to adapt.
The new world of marketing is inbound over outbound—instead of putting a target on the backs of your customers for your sales team to hunt, you attract customers with relevant content that addresses their interests and needs. You do that by engaging with your market, cultivating peer connections, collaborating with partners and driving dialog with customers.
Over the past several years, inbound marketing has grown to be one of the most influential approaches to modern marketing. Inbound marketing addresses a number of key challenges in marketing today, most notably the need to engage with customers in a more productive and sustainable way. Although inbound marketing has been growing by leaps ands bounds among both B2B and B2C businesses, it hasn’t yet taken hold in the channel, largely due to the challenges of scaling quality content for a distributed network of partners. Bits and pieces of inbound marketing have been adapted for the channel, such as social media syndication and content curation, but it’s high time for a true Inbound Channel Marketing solution.
Twenty years ago when I was a couple of years out of college and dreaming up my first startup, the commercial Internet was just getting off the ground. I worked as a news editor and journalist at a mid-size daily newspaper and had access to the Internet through a Mosaic browser, where I could read the first online newspaper called The Nando Times. All of the market analysis at the time focused on content business models for the web, which is when I first heard the old saw “Content is King”. Twenty years of mind-bending evolution later, we’re still saying the same thing as if learning it for the first time. It’s time to move on.
One of the most common refrains I hear among marketing solution providers in the channel is that any kind of partner marketing initiative must be blindingly simple for partners to execute. If you require partners to do so much as press a button from time to time, that may be too much to ask. God forbid you ask your partners to put some effort into their campaigns. The ideal scenario is for your partner to just open their mouth so your automated message can tumble out.
The Value Proposition, and its close cousin, the Unique Selling Proposition, are two time-honored tools that have been used for ages to help marketers crystallize a message that is relevant to customers. In the age of social media and social selling, they still represent the crucial core of good positioning and messaging. But marketers need some new ways to address the unique challenges of dialog.
Over the seven years we’ve been working with companies to incorporate social media into their marketing mix, we’ve seen a lot of changes in the way companies approach social marketing. Mostly for the better. But one area where we still see companies struggling is in deciding who should speak for the company in social media.
There’s a dangerous undercurrent we see developing among channel marketing organizations trying to deal with the confusing landscape of social media options that can best be called “Checking Off the Social Media Box.” Everyone knows social media is important, but it’s hard to pin down exactly where it adds the most value, so business objectives get over-simplified to reduce the confusion.
Chris Becwar at Channel Management published a post last week that points to one of the central challenges channel marketers face today, a challenge we discuss frequently at SocialRep: how do you enable channel partners to market most effectively?
It’s a seemingly simple question with a time-honored answer: sales incentives! If you provide the right incentives, channel partners will move heaven and earth to close deals. What’s missing from that simple equation is the depth of disruption rocking the global IT channel, reducing the effectiveness of traditional incentive approaches. Continue reading
The Wall Street Journal released an article Monday hyping a Gallup report on the “Myth of Social Media”. The report and the article are so flawed it’s an embarrassment to both organizations. Half of the buzz making the rounds this week manages to find the one kernel of blindingly obvious truth in the article, that social media marketing is about quality of engagement, not likes and follows. But many people are blindly retweeting the link-bait title of Gallup’s report, that the influence of social media is a myth, and it’s Gallup’s report that deserves to be busted. Continue reading