Friday, January 3, 2014

No Soup for You - Does My B2B Company Really Suck This Much?

Recently I was looking for a few new ways to give my printing company a little social media boost and I ran across a small company that has created a full-service social media management solution, Main Street Hub. After visiting one of their landing pages, I submitted my information to their online form requesting a free social media assessment. A few days later they sent me back an email thanking me for my interest but letting me know that it doesn't seem like my business is one that they can service. Instead, Main Street Hub solely focuses on providing their social media management solution to local, brick and mortar retail businesses.  Overall the email was cordial, but at the end I was left with the same problem I started with, how can I improve my social media marketing efforts?

I applaud Main Street Hub for knowing who they are. There is something to be said for creating a niche and getting really, really good at that type of business. We could all be so fortunate to be in a position where our business was growing so fast we can pick and choose our clientele. They simply believe they can't service me or choose not to because I don't fit their ideal customer mold. I get it, I'm not in a business-to-consumer (B2C) industry and I can certainly tell you from experience, it's not exactly easy to engage with customers through social media as a printing company. It's a hard problem to solve. But when I look at this email, all my mind sees is opportunity. What if there was an expert who understood exactly how to help me with my type of business? Chances are there are a few brave soles like this out there but I just haven't found them yet. But that is something I'd certainly be willing to pay good money for!

I know a lot of business owners might be familiar with this type of rejection, especially those with business-to-business (B2B) companies. And when you look at all the marketing resources available out there, it seems a majority of ideas and solutions are created with B2C businesses in mind. In fact, it is extremely rare to pick up just about any marketing book off the shelf and find that many examples of brilliant marketing strategies implemented by B2B companies. Why? For one it's harder but two, it's probably because it's boring content as well. No one wants to hear about marketing strategies of the Dunder Mifflins of the world! Instead they'd rather focus on some cool new digital campaign by Zappos. And while it makes sense to me that a brand like Zappos would bring more social currency and buzz with it, as they have a significantly larger customer base than your average B2B, what doesn't make sense is why so many marketers avoid the challenge of solving problems for B2B companies. B2B or B2C, money is still money. After all, a recent article in the October 2013 issue of Inc Magazine pointed out while promoting the benefits of investing in B2B start-ups, "They are really good at making money." Call me crazy, but a company with solid cash flow probably has a few extra dollars to spend on marketing.

I know my printing and marketing company solves problems for just as many B2B outfits as we do for our B2C clients. As a B2B company ourselves, it seems only natural that we should help our own kind. But the true irony of the message I received from Main Street Hub is I bet they are extremely good at B2B marketing and would actually be the perfect company to help my business! After all, they got me to their site through the use of good PR and well placed banner ads, they got me to download an informative white paper from their cleanly-designed landing page, they offer good content and they subscribed me to their email list. Not to mention they have over 3,000 likes on Facebook. Not bad for a small B2B company. So if they are going to go to the trouble of collecting all these leads from B2B companies, do something with them!! Heck sell these leads to me, I'll find a use for them.

My challenge to those reading, if you're a marketing company trying to grow your business, stop ignoring us! Yes, our businesses can be extremely difficult to understand and rather boring but once you get it, you suddenly become an expert in a less competitive landscape. How many other agencies would you be up against who are self proclaimed experts at marketing third-party logistic services for example? Also, while the response rate for B2B marketing efforts may be low at times, the ROI can still be very high as a B2B sale is typically in the thousands of dollars range. While a consumer facing marketing campaign may require a year round investment of both time and resources to generate results a B2B company can sometimes make their year with just one simple deal. I think I'd rather solve the problem of trying to find just that one B2B customer rather than the thousands needed to sustain a B2C.