I had an email from a young guy recently. He had just graduated from college and was lucky enough to land a marketing job with a multi-million-dollar B2B manufacturing company in the Midwest.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed,” he wrote me, “I’m trying to get a social media program going and I really don’t know where to start.” So I set up a time so we could talk on the phone. Here’s a synopsis of the call …
ME: So tell me about what you have done so far.
HIM: Well I am trying to set up a Facebook page and a blog.
ME: How do you know that should be your first priority?
HIM: What do you mean? Shouldn’t I dive into social media for them? They have nothing set up.
ME: Well perhaps. But how do you know for sure? As the marketing manager, you have to help the business acquire customers. There are lots of ways to do that. Maybe you can do that with new products, new services, new ways to deliver your product or how you price your product. The job certainly doesn’t start with a Facebook page.
HIM: Well I guess I did learn about those things in school.
ME: How many customers have you visited?
HIM: None so far.
ME: Four months on the job and you haven’t visited a customer yet? OK. This is where you start your marketing initiative — Have a meeting with your boss tomorrow and tell him you need to spend the next week riding along on a delivery truck.
HIM: A week on the truck?
ME: Maybe two. Go see what your customers are doing. How are they using your products? What are their un-met and under-served needs? What do they love? What do they hate? How are they displaying and selling your product? What about your competitors? What problems can you solve for your customers?
HIM: That does make sense.
ME: This is really the beginning of the journey. You need to know your customers better than anybody. Then figure out where you can maneuver in the marketplace in a way that will help you sell more stuff and make more profit.
In your B2B business, the first priority probably isn’t Facebook. If you’re creating a marketing plan from scratch, social media might not be in your top five priorities at all if your competitors just lowered their price and you’re getting hammered in the marketplace!
I wanted to bring this up today because I face questions like this all the time. Sometimes the first step in social media marketing … is NOT social media!
Just last week I had a conversation with a very large New York City company and I pleaded with them NOT to create a Facebook page (it was not what they needed to meet their goals).
We seem to be in a world where social media is a hammer looking for a nail. Social media marketing doesn’t start with social media. It starts with marketing.
Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and National Acrobat