Spoiler alert: It involves Twitter.
2020 was a year of disruption and fast pivoting across the marketing spectrum. But for B2B marketers — whose plans are often anchored around in-person events — this period has changed the playbook on how to reach the crucial business decision-maker audience. To learn more about how the business decision-making process has changed — and how marketers are adapting accordingly — Twitter partnered with Bain on a new research study.
What we found surprised us: There’s quite a disconnect between how marketers think they influence the buying process and how they actually do.
What B2B decision-makers say about your brand is more important than anything you tell them yourself. But there’s a silver lining: You can influence the conversations they’re having about you. And — you guessed it — Twitter is a great place to start.
Here’s how to do it, in three easy steps.
Step 1: Find new ways to connect
In this new environment, marketing hasn’t lost its importance.
What has changed, however, is that 50% of buyers expect networking to be harder in a virtual environment.1 They’re concerned they won’t have the opportunity to interact with vendors the way they used to.
Successful marketers are investing their time and resources in creating online platforms where buyers and vendors can communicate and form connections. In fact, winning marketers are 25% more active in community-building marketing activities than other marketers. They’re getting creative and getting in on virtual events, webinars, and executive Q&As.2 Some, like Salesforce, have pivoted their entire event strategy to providing thought leadership in online forums, streamed directly on Twitter.
To ensure these interactions generate community conversation around their brands, marketers are using social media platforms, like Twitter, as the central hubs. It’s a smart move: according to another study, 1 in 3 business decision-makers already use Twitter to connect and network with buyers and vendors.3
Step 2: Connect with the C-suite’s secret weapon
For many B2B marketers, the C-suite is the ultimate target. But as it turns out, middle managers have a much bigger influence than you think.
According to our study with Bain, nearly 90% of business decision-makers say that middle management provides key inputs into the decision-making process — from providing recommendations on vendors to testing out demo products4 — but only 33% of B2B marketers in our study assumed this was the case.5
Middle managers also happen to be the audience you are most capable of reaching on social media. They trust social media to discover new products, and they spend more time on these platforms than senior members during the workday.6 They are also more likely to attend virtual events and webinars.7
You’re not communicating with a business; you’re communicating with humans about business products and services.
That’s why during this time, we have seen brands shift their focus to their relationships with their customers. Brand leadership has taken advantage of social media to connect with consumers on a human-to-human level, providing recognizable voices for their brands.8 And winning marketers have resisted the temptation to divert all their marketing spend to lead generation, focusing energy instead on building brand awareness and affinity. In fact, winning marketers were 31% more likely than other marketers to drive brand awareness through digital channels,9 especially with programs addressing the challenges their customers are facing in their home and personal lives.
It’s not enough just to get your brand’s message out there, but by following these three steps, you can influence the conversation and convince people within the buying community that you’re worth the spend. And if you’re lucky, those buyers may even spread the word about you, acting as your own spokespeople.
Daniel Charness (@CharnessDaniel) leads business marketing for the Tech and Telco verticals at Twitter. In his role, Daniel develops and manages marketing programs to build awareness and drive growth within these industry verticals.
1. Bain Technology Purchasing Trends Survey (N=279)
2. Bain Technology Marketing Survey (N=121); Winning marketers N=33; Other marketers N=88
3. YouGov Profiles+ USA. 2020-02-09. Data retrieved February 2020. Q2 Which, if any, of the following reasons describe what you use the following social networks for? Please select all that apply — Twitter. BDM Definition: Job Title is any of (Chairman, Board Member, Partner, Owner, President, CEO, COO, CFO, Controller, Treasurer, CIO, CTY, EVP, SVP, VP, General Manger, Director, Department Head)
4. Bain Technology Purchasing Trends Survey Phase II (N=300); BQ7a: Thinking back to a recent technology purchase decision, how did members of your team influence your purchase decision?
5. Bain Technology Purchasing Trends Survey (N=279); “N/A” responses excluded
6. Bain Technology Purchasing Trends Survey (N=279); Director N=66; VPs - C-level N=184
7. Bain Technology Purchasing Trends Survey Phase II (N=300); BQ8: Thinking back to a recent technology purchase decision, which activities did you engage in?
8. Bain Technology Marketing Survey Phase II (N=100) M[Q16:] What are your senior executives — especially your CEO — doing to engage your customers and broader community on social media?
9. Bain Technology Marketing Survey Phase II (N=100) MQ19: What actions are you taking in response to the COVID crisis?