If there's one thing I hear time and again it is this: What we are doing doesn’t work anymore.
One of the big reasons why this statement is true is that business-to-business customers have changed. They buy differently and social media is a big reason for it. They now can research vendors and decide which companies should compete for their business and then invite those companies in.
With websites and social media, vendors can find out lots of information and form an opinion about a company long before the company ever calls them. What can they find out?
Well, they can go to a manufacturer’s website and have a look around. A static website with bare bones stuff like company history, capabilities list, equipment used? Those companies are a dime a dozen. What does a customer want to see in a website? Information they can use...and lots of it. A blog, webinars, white papers, news, testimonials from customers--information that gives them an edge. They want information that makes them better at their job. New information should be added on a regular basis. Why? Because it brings people back. If you would like to see an example of a company that does this exceptionally well, go look at Indium’s website.
Next, customers can go to LinkedIn. There's a ton of information you can find out about companies by checking them out on LinkedIn. Company pages, groups that they own or participate in, and, in particular, who has LinkedIn profiles and how they're filled out. The person looking for vendors wants to find out more about the possible choice he or she has. Companies that have this information available on LinkedIn have a leg up on their peers who don’t.
Any company can claim they are a leader. The companies that use social media well--including their websites--prove they are leaders. If I look at 10 companies, and four have teriffic, active, and informational websites, and six companies don’t, from which group do you think I want to choose?
A study conducted by IDG found that the average enterprise customer looked at five pieces of online content before deciding to contact a vendor. Companies delivering content via social media will have a huge advantage over other companies that don’t adapt to the new reality.
Does having a bare bones website or a minimal presence on social networks make a company unworthy? Of course not. They may be a terrific manufacturer that delivers great value for the prices charged...they just aren’t using social media to tell anyone. They are, in a way, keeping it a secret.
If a competitor has a more informational, regularly updated, and active website, and has sharp profiles for key employees on LinkedIn, well, in the words of the old movie, the bare bones guys have "brought a knife to gun fight."
You can be old style and not give the buyer a better reason to buy from you--just let them assume you're selling on price; or, you can be new style and sell based on the value you bring to the table. I have worked with new style companies and I have worked with old style companies and here’s the difference: New style companies charge higher prices, are perceived to be worth those prices, and wind up very profitable.
Believe me, it is a lot more fun being new style.
By Bruce Johnston is a sales consultant specializing in social media and especially LinkedIn