I’ve focused a lot of my attention over the past year on the emergence of B2C social media marketing, how various social channels compare, and what capabilities are needed to evolve from simple outreach to engagement and ultimately conversion (selling more stuff) via social campaigns – see my recent guest piece in Social Times and prior blog posts.
Consumers and business-to-consumer marketing have certainly been at the leading edge of social media (and social marketing and business software) adoption, but what about business-to-business (B2B) marketing? As an analyst, consultant and former CMO in this space I’d say that there are 3 key differences in how social applies in B2B vs. B2C (yes, there are many others as well):
- B2B sales cycles tend to be much longer, and require a continuous marketing approach and extension of corporate assets to social channels – promoting case studies on Twitter, advertising and integrating events with Facebook or LinkedIn groups etc.
- B2B purchases are typically complex decisions involving multiple parties at the buying and selling side – social tools for collaboration, and the use of blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. for reaching/engaging with influencers is key.
- B2C has many more impulse (non-considered) purchases: books, gifts, food etc. that lend themselves to coupons, social/group buying, event-marketing etc. It’s an open question how this model applies to B2B beyond office supplies or events, training and other ‘small-ticket’ items.
Interestingly, according to a March 2010 White Horse (http://www.whitehorse.com) study, slightly more B2B firms (86%) are using social media compared to B2C (82%), but while over half of B2C firms are engaging daily, only 32% of B2B firms are. Perhaps this makes sense given the timeframe of B2B sales vs. B2C marketing as noted above. There are many other excellent stats on B2B social media here.
Looking at the dynamics outline above, the evolution of B2B in social has been mostly about establishing trust, content strategy, thought leadership and ongoing discussions as Ogilvy points out. And while not all social channels apply to most B2B marketing, it should be clear that a businesses’ social media presence and use of tools like blogging and Twitter can have a material impact on the buying process.
In fact, 91% of B2B technology buyer decision makers now use social media to gather information according to Forrester. And in high-tech software sales, where the channels for delivering and supporting products are increasingly the same as those uses for marketing and selling them, the growing importance of social channels should not be ignored.
How social are the leading CRM and SBS vendors?
As a follow on to my first look at how some of the top CRM vendors were engaging on Twitter back in March, I recently took another look, this time expanding the list of vendors to include some SBS/Social CRM platform providers and tweaking my methodology as well. Given my general belief that the foundations for B2B social media and community marketing are 1) frequent publication of useful, trusted content and 2) participation in relevant discussions, I again focused on how each of the vendors are using Twitter and blogging as a measure of their ‘social activity.’
As for methodology, I evaluated the primary corporate Twitter accounts and blogs listed on the main homepage for each company. 14 of the 21 vendors I looked at feature a link to their Twitter feed on their home page, 5 link from their press or product page, and 2 didn’t have a visible link.
To evaluate social content, I looked at the last 3 months of blog posts (May-July) and total number of tweets from the corporate Twitter account. The score for this part was = number of posts + 0.05 x the number tweets (rule of thumb: 20 tweets = content value of 1 post).
To evaluate social discussions, I looked at the last 3 months of blog comments (May-July; yes, I count trackbacks/pingbacks, as they show cross-channel links) and level of ‘engagement’ on Twitter. The score for this part was = number of comments + Tweetlevel engage score as of Aug 15.
I combined and scaled these scores (in a couple cases capping sub-scores that were ‘off the charts’) so the top ranked vendor = 100. I didn’t try to judge quality of posts or tweets or comments, and favored these 4 components since they are quantitative/measurable AND also a decent proxy for the amount of content and level of discussions (activity) the vendors are having via Twitter and their corporate blog. And before I show the scores, I don’t think the actual numbers are as interesting as the relative rankings/groupings.
Finally, if there was
no blog (I could find) like on the eGain or CDC sites, I didn’t include the
vendor in the analysis. And for
disclosure, Evoke CRM/I have current or prior relationships with 5 of the
vendors included in this analysis – Jive, KANA, nGenera CIM, OutStart, and RightNow
- although none of them sponsored or was aware I was conducting this research prior to this post.
Overall the vendors in the study have generated an average of 670 tweets from their corporate account, 13.5 blog posts during the past 3 months (interestingly my rule of thumb of 1 post a week is almost exactly what this group does), and 5 comments. We can tier the scaled total social activity scores I computed into three groupings – ‘Mavens,’ ‘Climbers’ and ‘Late Arrivals.’ Note the vendors are in alphabetical order in each group:
Early Movers & Mavens (>60 pts):
CRM vendors: Amdocs, OracleCRM, Parature, Sage, SugarCRM
SBS vendors: Awareness, Jive, Lithium
Climbers (>30 pts):
CRM vendors: Convergys, nGeneraCIM, NetSuite, Pega, RightNow
SBS vendors: KickApps, mZinga, OutStart
Late Arrivals (<30 pts): CRM vendors: Aplicor, Astute Solutions, Consona, Ciboodle, KANA
And here’s how all the scaled scores stack up:
Some other highlights and observations:
- The top ranked vendor, Parature, has some great use of multimedia on its blog, some active discussions in the comments, and lots of Twitter promotion to drive traffic. Also, a cool vibe on their site – but I did NOT give them extra credit for this ;-).
- OracleCRM had the most blog posts, while the CRMOutsiders blog (SugarCRM) had the most blog comments – and likely the most guest bloggers as well.
- Jive and Lithium, the leading vendors in the recent Gartner Social CRM Magic Quadrant (see great commentary on this analysis by x-Gartner analyst and friend of Evoke CRM Esteban Kolsky here) both have active communities and fall in the ‘Maven’ camp – showing they are walking the walk.
- Awareness has the highest Tweetlevel engage score, and Aplicor the lowest.
- Astute Solutions has some great blog content and 23 posts…but not a single comment.
The bottom line
If you are a B2B marketer, how would your company stack up using this scorecard? And if you are with one of the vendors I looked at I’d love to hear what you think (or hear what I missed). I didn’t reach out to vendors prior to this post so my analysis could have a bit of a ‘mystery shopper’ approach. Because of this I’ll admit I may have missed some stuff – but I don’t think it would have changed the results significantly in any case.
Also, I know I am rewarding vendors who got started earlier with social media, and perhaps punishing those that are late to the party. But in a way these late adopters are in a great position to learn from first movers, apply emerging best practices for social engagement and even use some of the new tools for marketing on Facebook and Twitter.
I am happy to share my thoughts on how companies might use a similar approach to benchmark their efforts to date, along with our Social Marketing Maturity Model to plot a path forward. I am applying the same techniques and perspectives in my CMO role at Offerpop currently. Which for those who are interested, scores a 33 – ‘Social Climber’ – 8 weeks after our launch.
I look forward to your comments and feedback and encourage you to follow me on Twitter (@abonde) for updates to this analysis and commentary on other social marketing trends.