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In the B2B world, the emergence of the Social Buyer is causing organizations to search for better ways to reach its’ base of buyers. What we do know is that B2B buyers are demanding more social experiences in their buying processes. To date, it appears that many of the efforts to reach buyers remain tactical in nature. Companies are looking to social media and other means such as content marketing to fit into their existing structure and business operations. This approach, if wedded to existing structures, may in fact be impeding the evolution of B2B organizations to not only adapt to changes in buyer behaviors but also align their organizations to the emerging Social Buyer.
What we continue to witness is how compartmentalized efforts are being aligned with existing departments. Certain tactical initiatives related to social networking, content strategy, demand generation, and more continue to have a very provincial nature to them and the debate related to proverbial “who owns this” continues to be avoided. Business leaders, especially those in B2B, must take heed to what is happening in the under layers of their business industry and what influence the Social Buyer is having in their marketplace. Here are just three that are not visible until they are unearthed through discovery:
Ecosystems Are Shifting
Dependencies and interdependencies are ever so rapidly changing for the social buyer. Ecosystems relied on, perhaps for decades, are shifting with some members of the ecosystem being left behind and new members cropping up and fitting into the new social ecosystem. Social technology and platforms are changing the way companies co-evolve and co-exist. B2B business leaders will need to stop seeing themselves as just suppliers or distributors. In the emerging social ecosystems of today, businesses will need to become integral members with their role in the social ecosystem being redefined by the social buyers they interact with. A key understanding is that not only are B2B buyers becoming more social but the very ecosystem they live within is becoming more social.
New Business Models
The emergence of social technologies and social buyers means new business models are rising and old ones are being discarded at a fast pace. If not careful, B2B leaders can be caught in some sort of a slumber when it comes to reexamining their business models while new competitive forces arise with far more attractive business models to the social buyer. One only has to look at the newspaper and print media industries to understand that digital media is drastically affecting business models in these industries. Both changes in reader technologies and reader behaviors are altering previous business models significantly. How businesses price and execute business models, whether they be fixed pricing or variable pricing based, are being drastically affected by changes in social buying behaviors, social technologies, and social ecosystems.
Social Buyer Cycle
There has been plenty of reference to the buyer’s journey, including from myself, over the past couple of years. The more we witness the emergence of the social buyer as well as social ecosystems, the more inappropriate the use of the term “journey” becomes. The buyer’s journey as a description implies that there is a defined end destination, stages, and a period of time. This is no longer true in the social business world. Many processes made “social”, including buying, are beginning to take on a perpetual cyclical nature whereby where one starts and one ends is a blurred vision. The "buyer’s journey" continues to be viewed through the lenses of existing structures and systems. This presumes that social buyers continue to advance through neatly defined stages. That view may not be a truism anymore in the social business world. Learning about the various Social Buyer Cycles that are in perpetual motion, whether it be related to purchase, service, co-development, and the like, will become an increasingly important mandate for B2B business leaders.
By learning more deeply about new and emerging social ecosystems, social business models, and social buyer cycles, B2B business leaders can be better informed on the future direction of their organization. Without these, leaders will not have the requisite compass to guide them into uncharted territories. Territories that includes creating new social interaction models, new roles as members of a social ecosystem, and advancing social business models that may very well alter the structure and business operations they have been wedded to for decades – in ways they could not have dreamed of just a few short years ago.