Senior VP and CMO at Dell, Karen Quintos, wrote in her forward to the new book Social Marketing to the Business Customer: “Embracing social marketing and finding a way to integrate it into the fabric of doing business can help B2B companies truly provide more value to the people they serve and create loyal customers for life.” Well said Karen! Alas, the choice of which social channels to use or how to make the most of them is not always so cut-and-dry. B2B sellers face a unique complexity of selling to multiple individuals and roles for a single deal. This is the subject I want to address today – figuring out how to take into account the specific needs of each stakeholder so that your social media strategy and tactics speak directly to all of them!

The Challenge

You have to be able to connect with a multitude of individual stakeholders at a company in terms of what matters to each one. What is important to the IT Director will likely differ significantly from the VP of Sales’ key interests. Yet the decision to buy your products may be influenced by both of these individuals, along with several others! For example, at Visible we often work with Marketing, Social Media, other specialized Marketing divisions, Market Research, Corporate Communications, PR, Research & Development, and Customer Care. Each business group has very particular objectives they need our products and services to meet.

To complicate matters further, within each stakeholder unit there will be those who must agree to purchase your product, those who evaluate it and make recommendations, and those who will use or support it. The latter may not ever be involved in the evaluation or purchasing process, but they are obviously important to the long-term success of the business relationship you are trying to establish, grow, or renew. Layer in any outside consultants or agencies who work with your client and you could be faced with anywhere from 4 to 40 stakeholders!

What is the answer, then? Do you just pick the primary one or two buyers you normally deal with during the sales cycle and focus social media efforts on them? You could do that. However, I recommend first creating a Buyer Profile for as many key stakeholders you would potentially work with throughout the customer lifecycle. This will help you focus your social media efforts to get the most momentum across all channels.

Buyer Profiling

I sure wish I could just say ‘Here are the top 10 Buyer Profiles, go get ‘em, Tiger!’ Alas, I cannot – you have to create the profiles in the context of what your business provides to each one. While there isn’t exactly a shortcut, there is a relatively painless (even fun!) process to figure out what the Buyer Profiles are for those key individuals you would potentially want to connect with in the social media space.

Step One: Decide on the key stakeholder roles you want to profile

Step Two: Bullet point the features, advantages, and benefits that a company will have by choosing to do business with your company.

Step Three: (Here is where things get personal!) Identify what’s important to your stakeholders. What keeps them awake at night? What are the biggest problems they are trying to overcome?

Step Four: Now that you’ve figured out a little more detail about those people who are very important to the success of your business, it’s time to draft the profile. The Buyer Profile is a positioning statement of the value that individual can expect to gain from doing business with you. Remember, you must be able to articulate what’s really in it for them and what stresses you can alleviate for that particular stakeholder. What could you help them to achieve that would make them shine!?

Note: You could also do this exercise for each key product or service that you sell. However, in general, the profiles will work if you assess the features, advantages, and benefits of doing business with your company, regardless of the mix of products and services your clients purchase.

The realm of B2B offers an amazing array of ways in which we can connect – to conduct business and build great relationships. Now that you know how to speak to each of your key stakeholders in terms they’ll resonate with, you’re that much better prepared for making the most of social media!

For more resources, I recommend:

  • Social Marketing to the Business Customer, Gillin & Schwartzman (2011)
  • Pricing Strategies for Small Business, Gregson (2008)

Thank you,

Vicki Blair

Social Media Yogi in the Making

(and Director of Account Management at Visible)