It would be wonderful if all we had to do to sell our products was tell our customers how incredibly great they are.
"This is the top-rated widget of its kind," we'd say, showing them results of competitive rankings. "None of the other widgets can match this one for performance."
But, as you know, the decision maker's response is often, "Oh, well, we aren't really using widgets these days." Or, "Our plants are still using gadgets, and we aren't ready to make the jump to widgets yet."
That's when you have to back up. Stop marketing your widget and start promoting the category of widgets in general. Give the customer a complete education in why widgets are the best investment they can make.
Using social media to educate the customer
Social media tools are ideal for doing broad marketing of a product category. That's because people are always looking for valuable information to share or re-tweet.
Sure, by writing about the latest research on cloud servers, or blood pressure monitors, or web hosting software, you risk sending a buyer to a competitor in your field. But if your company's name is the one attached to the blog post or tweet, whose website do you think they are going to visit first? Which company will be remembered as an authority on the field?
Successful product-category promotion
Here are a few tips for minimizing the risks and maximizing the gains of social media marketing for a product category:
- Focus on a favorable feature. When citing research or news about your category, make sure it focuses on the right feature or benefit. If you sell a high-end medical diagnostic device with all the bells and whistles, you'd want to write about how diagnostic devices with a particular new feature are saving lives. On the other hand, if your product is aimed at the lower end of the market, you'd want to focus on news about how medical offices are economizing on equipment.
- Choose your words carefully. For blog posts, use keyword phrases that are associated with your company. Avoid using keyword phrases that lead to a competitor. If you don't already have information on which phrases are which, ask an SEO analyst, or do some searching on Google.
- Use hashtags. On Twitter, look to see what existing hashtags are appropriate for your tweet. This can vastly expand your audience. Or create a hashtag for your product category and associate that with your expertise. Use hashtags regularly — they will lead searchers interested in the topic directly to your tweets.
- Drop names. Cite experts in your field. People searching for their recommendations in a social media channel will find your company, as well.
- Manage the conversations you start! This is an important part of all B2B social media marketing, but even more critical when you are taking the risk of promoting the category (and the competition). Follow your information as it is shared. Contact sharers, "like" and follow them, and make sure that someone in your organization is evaluating them as prospective customers or brand advocates.