Not too long ago, I found myself in the office of the CEO of a mid-cap software company after the senior team had reviewed the marketing program we had spent months in assembling. He told me that the leadership team liked our approach and recommendations, but that they were looking forward to reading about our proposal for their social media strategy. “Steve, are you aware that the social media section is missing from the document you distributed? How soon can we get a copy of the missing section?” the CEO asked dryly.
Social media strategy?
“Bob, there isn’t a social media strategy in the plan, beyond our recommendations for the design of and content for the new format LinkedIn pages for the company.”
“What?” I heard in that tone that seems to be so practiced among unhappy CEOs at their staff meetings. “We need Facebook, YouTube, blogs and commentary and forums, Twitter, wikis . . . we have to go beyond podcasts and webinars . . .”
“Stop!” I shrieked. I didn’t mean to shriek, but it just happened.
“Bob, what does Amalgamated Software sell?”
“Financial derivatives trading and portfolio risk management systems, mainly.”
“Name a few of your customers.”
“Ultra Mega Bank and Trust, Universal Telephone Pension Fund, Robber Baron Integrated Investments . . .”
“Now, how much does a typical system cost?” I asked, trying not to be petulant.
“I see where you’re going, Steve, and it’s making me a little uncomfortable,” Bob responded. “We’re not there yet with our SaaS offering, but we will get there – some of our really small customers spend as little as $5 million for an ‘intro’ package with basic features.”
“Bob, your customers and prospects are not going to be engaging the company or each other on Facebook.”
“I am sorry to predict that your most recent CTO video on breakthrough architectural revisions in your latest software release is probably not going to go viral.”
“I don’t think putting a picture of one of your server racks on Pinterest is going to have much of a ROI.”
“Lastly, you don’t have the internal resources necessary to effectively sustain a blog.”
It’s hard for marketing professionals to stay abreast of the continuing developments in new communications channels and the idea that social media is some kind of Holy Grail seems widespread. Businesses that are not consumer facing need to approach the whole issue of social media with caution. Never forget what social media offers – the ability for folks to be “social” on-line.
Discussions about complex and expensive high-tech information technology products and services that business customers buy from their vendors appear in reports generated by leading analyst firms and not in Facebook posts.
A well articulated analyst relations strategy is of infinitely greater value to many B2B technology vendors than are contributions to the blogosphere.
B2B companies need to keenly focus on their audience. This goes beyond avoiding unproductive investments in social media strategies to spending with great caution on other often not well understood tactics such as content advertising.
For our client, the CEO, do we really think business customers will be looking for the best derivatives trading systems vendors via an organic search on Google?
Or, are they more likely to invest a small sum in a professional services engagement with a consulting firm specializing in the technology sector and ask for its opinion on a short list of the best software vendors to contact and to issue an RFI or a RFP?
Again, the audience. Remember: if you’re a high-tech software vendor selling expensive enterprise systems you are marketing to three groups: 1) the end-users – the folk at your customer who will be staring at your screens, 2) the customer’s IT department – they want to know why they can’t build your product themselves and how it is going to interface to the 78 other systems in their environment and 3) the CFO and staff that are going to be cutting the multi-million dollar checks for the system – they want ROI and financials. You might meet the end-user community and IT staff on Facebook, but after folk get home from work, they more likely want to invest their time talking about other things than enterprise software. High Tech companies will find their investments in scholarly journal articles, well advertised webinars, an aggressive PR strategy and participation in the speaking circuit at leading industry events to be a better route to attract new customers than social media fan pages.
At Palm Coast Technologies, we specialize on building marketing programs that make sense for high-tech B2B companies. Let us help you navigate the maze of social and traditional media options to generate a marketing program ROI that will delight you. We look forward to hearing from you.