Word-of-mouth marketing is a great classic in B2B marketing, it is an alternative method to advertising and classic marketing particularly adapted to the sector. Marketing in B2B means establishing an expertise, a competence, making yourself unavoidable (but without ever saying it outright). In BtoB, everything is very segmented, you can’t generalise an approach to an entire sector, you have to proceed in a much more refined way.
Buyer behaviour in B2B: developments and consequences
Decisions in B2B are subject, perhaps even more than elsewhere, to group logic (decision circuit), to recommendation (one could even speak of lobbying in certain cases), to personal preferences and even in the case where the decision is perfectly rational and weighed up, to the quality of the human relationship with the supplier, which is essential.
B2B buyers are sensitive to the words of so-called influencers. B2B influencers are more likely to be found on LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs. And in this case, the influence is going to come through the written word, unlike influence in the general public. In B2C, it is no longer enough to write, as was the case in the days of bloggers and journalists. Today, you have to be able to produce beautiful photos, and videos too, which tend to be more popular than photos.
Changes in B2B buyer behaviour
Social media in B2B is extremely useful and brings an unparalleled return on investment, which is ‘practically’ zero (it’s the principle of word-of-mouth marketing, the initial investment has to be low).
While it is easy to believe that these social media are primarily used in B2C, it is a fact that they are also very useful in B2B.
Today, including social media in one’s B2B communication (and sales with social selling) strategy is essential. They allow you to find new playgrounds, to get out of the anonymity specific to B2B companies, to dialogue with your ecosystem and to establish a lasting and fruitful relationship with audiences as rich as they are varied.
Brand posts on social media have to be specific, social media in B2B are about establishing expertise, know-how. They are demonstrative without being pushy. They naturally show your ability to perform.
This is how content marketing works, and it is never stronger than in B2B, because it works the same way as professional marketing: see my expertise, I don’t demonstrate anything, I solve your problems, naturally.
In business-to-business, most brands are named “under the radar” i.e. little or no spontaneous discussion exists on the web.
Social media can thus be used to crystallise and engage with the often small but very passionate business communities.
This opens up many possibilities, from exchanges on the future of the profession, good practices, the evolution of services, etc. Everything is imaginable. Paradoxically, the more disinterested the corporate social responsibility approach, the more it leads to commercial actions, initiated by the clients.
The limits of WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing)
While it is now obvious that every company should have a presence on social networks, choosing the right channels is strategic. It is essential to choose the social networks that are best suited to develop your company’s visibility and dialogue with your customers.
To help you make this choice, it is essential to first identify :
- Your objectives
- Your audience (vs. a target);
- What differentiates your company (values, qualities);
- Your means (human but also financial);
- The specifics of each channel.
With these elements in mind, you can choose the social networks that are best suited to your communication needs and operational constraints. It is important to understand the differences between the main social networks.
Trends and innovations
Word of mouth is a must in B2B, because the full cost of digital/social advertising is a thorn in the side of B2B companies, which also have an advertising complex.
This forces them to find alternative strategies and it is always, in my humble opinion, again, in B2B that the most interesting and imaginative strategies are found.
There is huge potential but only a limited number of agencies focus on these areas, as few have the means – or the capacity and know-how – to invest in these complex, technical and seemingly daunting niche subjects. This is why, and also because of the low maturity of clients, this sector remains – to this day – largely untapped.
B2B often involves small, close-knit communities, often passionate about their field. Social media works very well in this area, especially around blogs, where there are often small numbers of comments but very rich and well researched.
B2B is based on an ecosystem approach, which is classic in word-of-mouth marketing and works perfectly in business-to-business. Technicians talk to technicians, and in this case there is no shyness or withdrawal effect, everyone can express themselves freely.
Word-of-mouth tools and methods
There are many tools to manage recommendations, word-of-mouth, but the best tool is the network!