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B2B Integrated Marketing Communication: The Impact of Social Media

Social media enables B2B marcom managers to leverage the strength of their channel partners without losing visibility to end-user customers.

Leverage the strength of B2B channel partners while gaining greater visibiltiy to your end-user customers.

In the past, B2B integrated marketing communications (marcom) was about control—ensuring that the marcom mix had consistent brand messages, tone and approach. Social media is about letting go of control but offering a framework.

For B2B integrated marcom managers, social media represents a double-edged sword. On one side you have the outbound marketing communications, which you control; and on the other hand there are the channel partners, who are putting up Facebook pages, Tweeting about the brand, creating YouTube videos and conducting other social media activities that are beyond your control.

How B2B marcom managers can lose control without losing context

Integrated marketing communications in B2B companies with multiple channel partners presents an even greater challenge for marcom managers in the age of social media. Thanks to social media, it's even easier for channel partners to publish content. More importantly, social media creates another opportunity for customers and prospects to learn about your products and services.

So what does this mean for B2B integrated marcom?

It means that if you're a marcom manager, you need to at least start monitoring the social media sphere to find out which of your channel partners is participating in social media and what they're saying. This is another opportunity for B2B marketers to join the conversations already taking place in the social sphere as well as an opportunity to help frame these conversations in a way that supports the brand message. You may not be the originator of the posts, but you can still participate in the conversation and provide context.

B2B integrated marcom and channel partners: It's not about control… it's about content and collaboration

Knowing the Twitter handles, Facebook Fan Pages, LinkedIn Groups and profiles of your channel partners isn't about controlling the message. It's about collaborating with your channel partners in a way that adds value for customers and prospects.

Think of it this way. If you're a marcom manager at an industry trade show, for example, and a prospect walks up to you with a concern, you would try to involve the sales manager, rep or dealer right away. This may take a phone call or two. However, by monitoring the social sphere, this type of exchange can occur much faster and at greater scale.

It's a good idea to engage your channel partners, particularly those who are influential in social media. You can do this by offering content that channel partners can repurpose in their communities or by your direct participation in your channel partners' communities. Likewise, you can feature your channel partners in your social media and content marketing programs. For example, interview a channel partner and publish the interview on your corporate blog. Social media enables you to leverage the strengths of your channel partners while gaining visibility to the end users of your products and services.

For B2B marcom managers, collaborating with your channel partners in the social sphere, can help move prospects through the buying cycle and engage existing customers. Participating with your channel partners ensures that you maintain a stake in listening to and learning from your partners and your customers and prospects. I'd love to hear from my B2B industrial marketing colleagues.


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