B2B Marketing: Large Accounts Crumble
If you are a B2B marketer or sales representative and you are not yet active on LinkedIn, it is high time you grow a presence on the professional’s social network.
At least two major evolutions contribute to the fragmentation of the marketing and sales relationship with B2B companies.
The first is the transition, generated by the digital revolution, from a vertical society to a horizontal one. In the analog era, a leader generally communicated in a top-down mode with her employees because she controlled the information pertaining to the company. In the digital age, communications are horizontal because information is accessible to all. More than ever, the best managers are those who engage their teams in a horizontal relationship rather than those who give them instructions in a vertical relationship.
As a consequence, decision-making is more collegial and transversal than ever before: Today, an average of 5.4 different people are formally involved in a typical purchase decision in B2B companies.
The second major evolution of the marketing and sales relationship with B2B companies stems from the fact that decision-makers are accessible – and often active – on social networks.
Here, too, some data help to give an idea of the extent of the phenomenon:
- 75 percent of B2B buyers and 84 percent of B2B C-level/vice president executives use social media to support purchase decisions.
- 57 percent of the purchase process is completed before a customer’s first serious engagement with sales.
- 76 percent of buyers prefer to work with vendors that have been recommended to them by someone they know.
- More than 90 percent of C-level executives never respond to cold calls or e-mail blasts.
- 74 percent of buyers choose the sales representative that was first to add value and insight.
These data highlight the unique value of LinkedIn in the marketing-sales funnel.
Incidentally, they also explain the acquisition of the professional’s social network by Microsoft in June 2016 for 26 billion dollars in cash, whereas LinkedIn had reported 3 billion dollars in sales and an operating loss of 150 million dollars in 2015. That acquisition should enable Microsoft to integrate LinkedIn’s data into its CRM suite (Microsoft Dynamics), as well as into Outlook and Office.
Why are LinkedIn’s data worth 26 billion dollars? Because the company cofounded by Reid Hoffman has very detailed information about almost every company’s global organization as well as employees’ and executives’ individual networks. This is an unparalleled gold mine of insights for a marketer or sales rep who wants to grow an account. As a matter of fact, the power of LinkedIn’s social selling is based on the completeness of its professional social graph.
Knowing the identity of their customers has always been a key issue for marketers and sales reps alike. For the reasons mentioned above, a customer’s identity is now defined, in our social, collaborative and virtual age, at the employee’s individual level rather than at the corporate level represented by a few C-level decision-makers.
Marketers and sales reps must deploy a three-pronged approach to mitigate the fragmentation of B2B decision-making:
- Social: LinkedIn will become the primary sales tool for the majority of B2B actors.
- Plural: The people that sales reps need to convince are much more numerous and diverse than in the past.
- Editorial: Marketing and sales will increasingly be based on the use of original content, from a comment made on the post of a prospect on LinkedIn to a future-oriented vision presented to the decision-makers of an account1.
In terms of organization, the consequence of the changes outlined in this article will be the merger of marketing and sales functions in a growing number of B2B companies.
1 According to a study conducted by Forrester Research, 74 percent of decision-makers choose the vendor who worked with them to turn a vision into a clear path to value while only 26 percent choose the vendor who responded to their request.