Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Strategy and Tactics in B2B Marketing with Social Media

The world of B2B marketing is changing. A lot.

Many of us have been in conversations where we discuss the tactics we are using, and how they add up to an overall marketing strategy. I've been in a lot of these discussions too, and the general definition of what makes a marketing strategy leads to an interesting discussion.

The question is whether a strategy needs a defined outcome (an exact destination) or a general outcome (a general direcational goal) as it's intended target.

In my view, restricting strategic thinking to a defined outcome, instead of just a directional outcome leaves it almost useless for uncertain areas like social media. I would be rather suspect of any marketer who felt comfortable setting out exactly what their 5 year (or even 2 year) goals were with their social media strategy, along with tactical milestones along the way. The honest truth is we don't know. None of us do.

However, that does not leave us strategically hamstrung. If you look the the strategy and tactics for a participant in the American migration in the mid 1800s, you see a similar pattern.

  • Go West, Young Man

  • Get covered wagon
  • Drive to western edge of town
  • Keep going west
  • Avoid any disasters that arise on route
  • Repeat steps 3 and 4
  • You'll know when you end up where you want to be
The reality is you are getting into unknown territory, and as such, it is not possible to define a strategy down to an exact level of detail with a specific end goal in mind.

Today's B2B marketing world, especially as we engage with social media, has a similar challenge. If we attempt to define exactly what the outcomes are of any specific initiative, we end up unable to even start. Directionally, we do know where we want to go:
  • Better engagement with customers
  • Better understanding of their needs
  • Better awareness of our message in the market
However, it is not possible to always accurately map our tactics to these directional goals. Sometimes we just have to set a directional strategy and execute against it as well as we can.

Is this how you're thinking of your B2B marketing strategy in social media? Here's what we're doing at Eloqua which is working well in terms of engagement, understanding, and awareness, but as a general direction, not an exact destination strategy. Have you been able to get your executive team comfortable with a directional strategy?
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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