I have always enjoyed speaking at the BMA conferences over the last few years.  My view is they provide one of the best forums for B2B learning’s related to marketing and now, social commerce.    If you don’t follow BMA via newsletter or attend one of their conferences and you are in this space, add it to your to do list.

I recently spoke at the annual meeting.  Afterwards, Matt Schwartz, BMA Buzz Editor, asked if I would do a Q&A for BMA Buzz.  I did and here is our talk.

All the best, Bob

Published in BMA Buzz August 9, 2012

Bob Pearson is president of marketing agency W20 Group and author of  “Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together” (John Wiley & Sons). Pearson, who developed the social media strategy at Dell, said that so-called “influencers” are a key ingredient in B2B marketers’ ability to cultivate new communities online and wed social marketing to the top and bottom lines. He shared some pointers about the dramatic changes that influencers continue to spark in the B2B marketing arena.

BMA Buzz: When you talk about the future of social commerce, one of its key tenets is how marketers need to understand online influencers who can affect their business. What are the top influence areas for B2B marketers right now and how can they align those areas with their companies’ overall goals and objectives?

Bob Pearson: There are never more than 50 influencers who drive the majority of share of conversation for a brand. There are rarely more than four key sources for each influencer.

So, you want to start by knowing those 250 people.  In B2B, there are topics, brands and issues where the number is even lower. The big question is do you know who they are? Do you know the order of their importance and what are you doing about it?

Overall, CMOs should know with complete precision who the influencers are, which keywords they most commonly use, what content they prefer and which channels are most important. We live in a world where you don’t have to guess like we used to.

BMA Buzz: What is the “1,9,90 Rule” and how does it relate to behavioral changes among B2B customers and prospects, regardless of the sector?

Pearson: One percent or less of people create content, 9% share or move content online and 90% lurk and learn. With B2B brands, the 9% is often lower.  So, the majority of the audience for a B2B brand is often not talking or creating all that much content.

This means that behavioral analytics (e.g. search, recommendations, views) will often show what is really happening in a market.

We want to know what story people get when they lurk and learn and where they are when they learn about our brand.

Since most people you want to reach never talk about your brand online, you need to find out where like-minded people are hanging out and introduce yourself. When your brand can become a relevant part of new communities you can start to reach new communities and start building new demand for your brand. Said another way, if you don’t branch out into the 90%, you are leaving revenue on the table.

BMA Buzz: What are some of the most effective ways that B2B marketers can build sales vehicles into their social channels?

Pearson: Start by knowing “where” your customers are, so you only focus on the social media mix that matters. Don’t build channels just to have them. No one cares.  The easiest way to understand if you are succeeding is to do the following.  Identify the top 10 search queries that a customer will make prior to purchasing your brand.

Then, see how you are showing up and ask yourself if this is the best content to tell your story. The punch line is, it won’t be. With your social channels you can introduce new content into the market, tag it correctly, syndicate it effectively, associate it with the right influencers and improve your search experience. What you are really doing, over time, is building out a second sales force.

You want your best story available for all key search queries by your most important customers 24/7. Focus on organic search and you will make progress. Remember that paid search is not the answer, it is only a supplement, to your organic search approach.