Image by Maria Reyes-McDavis via Flickr
When the term “engage” is used in a business context, there can be a tendency to think of engaging as an act we do to others. As in we are engaging the buyer in the buying process for example. The representation is still that the seller is in control and is engaging the buyer. The buyer being the object of engaging. In the new social age, engaging is taking on a whole new meaning.
The underpinning of a new meaning being that of the social buyer “chooses” to engage – as in the buyer chose to engage with ABC Industries. This subtle difference can actually be the rock that sends out ripples of influence to other social buyers in the sea of social networks. A key component for engaging the social buyer persona is that an organization today must offer avenues of engagements that buyers choose. A company’s engagement strategy should be built on three solid foundations:
- The first is having an outside-in perspective on engagement with buyers. Adopting a view that buyers today choose the types and levels of engaging that are available to them.
- The second is attaining the requisite qualitative buyer insight into not only the avenues of engagements that social buyer personas prefer but also how and why they wish to engage with their preferrred choices.
- The third being a willingness to place more autonomy in the hands of buyers today. This statement is the one that seems to cause the biggest hurdle to creating an engagement strategy that is outside-in.
Let’s look at several collective thoughts on the potential avenues the social buyer persona may find appealing to initiate engaging:
Buyer Reviews: In the B2C world, customer reviews are becoming more commonplace and accepted. In B2B, it remains a skittish type of commitment. Setting up avenues for B2B buyers to place reviews of your product or service can be powerful – and yes – frightening. Social buyer personas today expect transparency.
Collaboration: Opening avenues of engagements to collaborate on innovation and new product development is another step B2B companies can take today to allow buyers to opt-in on engaging.
Word-of-Mouth: Most often we think of WOM being one person just deciding to talk to another. True but in terms of engaging, offering a more robust way of selecting different social networks to engage in word-of-mouth can be a means for buyers to have an easy ready vehicle to do so.
Content Curation: In B2B marketplaces, and those specialized markets that content tends to be industry specific, offering content curation can be an avenue for buyers to engage with an organization. This can attract new potential buyers to engage on a level they haven’t before. Engaging by choosing to read, collect, and comment.
Storytelling: offering avenues for buyers to tell stories of their environments and how your product/service fits into the story is a means for spreading brand advocacy and engaging buyers. I use the term storytelling to distinguish from the sometimes stale approach of formalized written case studies.
The overriding principle of engaging the social buyer persona today is that of autonomy. Each of the approaches I mentioned above means a company must be willing to allow autonomy to buyers to go where they may. The ability to choose how to engage and to be offered different avenues to engage will grow in importance as social technologies continue to evolve. How successful B2B companies can be with social engagement as well as autonomy will be determined by how transparent they are willing to be with their social buyer personas.