There is no question that cross-channel marketing is essential to make the most of social media and mobile to reach and touch consumers. But how important is it for B2B markets? Depending on the sector, somewhere between important and very important, I would say:
- Web 2.0 technologies are becoming more widely used. They make difficult communication problems (group functionality, interactivity, mixing media, live content) easy. The technologies are as applicable in the enterprise arena as in the consumer space.
- The scale of online transactions. In the US, in 2011, the value of B2B transactions was almost twice that of B2C transactions reported in the 2010 census. (US government data quoted by Oracle, B2B Cross-Channel Commerce; Complexity, consumerization, and change).
- Buyers like to be in control. People are used to the efficiency of the online purchases process, where product selections and related reading content, including third party recommendations or referrals, dynamically present themselves depending on menu selections. Static presentation via catalogs and static pages of content that are all from the vendor are likely to become more irritating as they take more time and often do not answer the question in the buyer’s mind.
- The growth of social tools in the B2B space, from the widely adopted (blogs, webinars, customer forums, Twitter) to the up-and-coming (customer communities, innovation platforms, crowdsourcing solutions) means companies have to adapt to customers’ preferred style of interaction.
- Social media solutions can bring greater stakeholder participation, for example in innovation, support and market research, and thereby increasing involvement, satisfaction and product and marketing innovation.
The problem is complexity: sales may require several steps and buyers, and international markets add the complication of currency, language and culture. There is also the question of confusing customers or employees by multiplying channels. The opposite problem is depriving customers and staff of channels of communication that fit personal preference or communication needs.
The cost-benefit ratio of more channels vs. more communication also depends a lot on your (current or planned) cross-channel management software. Perhaps asking a few questions about that is a good place to start when assessing how many channels to get involved in.