Traditionally, differences between the B2B market and the B2C market are easily identifiable and lead to different marketing goals and actions. As social media becomes such an integral part of sales and marketing online, some have even wondered if there is much of a place for it in the B2B market. The findings from a recent study by Accenture (“Making Social Media Pay: Rethinking Social Media’s Potential to Bolster B2B Interactions, Customer Loyalty, Revenues and Brand Reputation“) reveal that only 8% of B2B companies identify themselves as heavily leveraging social media, and those making the decisions in the B2B world see numerous barriers to general adoption of social media.
The survey asked executives from more than 200 North American businesses operating primarily in the B2B sector, who had annual revenues of more than $1 billion, a number of questions about their attitudes toward social media. Almost one-third (30%) stated that they felt social media was “extremely important” and “could not be ignored” in today’s business world, and an additional 35% said it was “important.” So what’s been holding them back, such that only 8% are heavily leveraging it and just over one-fourth (26%) are either slightly or not leveraging social media at all? According to additional questions in the survey, it appears as if a lack of confidence may be to blame. When asked about barriers to adoption of social media tactics, half cited the need for investments in new tools and technologies, increased skills in management (40%), and improved measurement (35%). Interestingly enough, the need for improved collaboration with other groups within the business (38% for marketing, sales, and service and 30% for improved collaboration with IT) was cited by significant percentages of respondents to the survey.
One thing that players in the B2B world need to consider in regard to social media is the potentially wider playing field that they have, as compared to many B2C businesses. While a coffee shop may only find it can connect with its customers on matters related to coffee in the social media environment, a B2B venture can engage its clients not only on the matter of the product or service they have in common, but also other aspects of business in general. For example, a coffee shop may use social media to connect to its B2C customers in relationship to their purchase and enjoyment of coffee, but think of how many other options for social engagement the company that sells paper products to that coffee store (in a B2B relationship) has? The paper products business has similar concerns as the coffee shop in terms of business setup and operations, customer service, sales, etc. If you start thinking about the various ways a B2B operation can connect with its clients on a social networking level that doesn’t simply involve the product/service provided, there are a lot more possibilities apparent.
What do you think? Is the relationship between B2B operations and social media a whole different kettle of fish from that faced by B2C?