Thursday, July 2, 2009

Does Social Media Marketing Work for B2B Companies?

You betcha. This new style of marketing is as relevant to clients selling high-ticket B2B products as it is to clients selling B2C. I’ve seen it in my own work: for example, the power of social news sites and bloggers to reach database architects.

In early 2007, I helped launch Vertica Systems, a company with an ultra-fast, low-maintenance relational database management system (RDBMS). This database lets companies store huge amounts of data for a fraction of the cost of other databases. It also enables non-technical people to query the database anywhere from 10X to 2000X times faster than competitive products. Therefore, the product is of huge interest to database architects, the people responsible for building corporate data warehouses and business intelligence/analytics applications.

We used social media (database-savvy bloggers, one very sharp blogger in particular), social news sites ( and Wikipedia to get the word out. The engineering staff commented on social news sites and blogs, creating a dialog with their counterparts in corporations. Our technical advisors wrote technical articles and papers, which we promoted on social media. We also used traditional technology trade media, with an emphasis on reporters who were social-media-savvy: for example, reporters who routinely cross-promoted their own stories to or other social media.

Pre-launch, we talked about the business need for a new kind of database and for speedy access to huge amounts of data. We talked about the limitations of current databases and the new technical requirements. We talked about everything except the product details.

This story and the combination of communications techniques positioned the company as a thought leader. It also created a critical mass of interest in the company and published opinion about the company in advance of its formal launch.

As a result, the launch generated 10 times the anticipated traffic to the Web site and 10 times the anticipated signups/downloads for the company’s Early Adopter program.

The company went on to start its own (successful) blog, and today its executives and senior technical people are active on Twitter (director of field engineering Omer Trajman, VP of marketing Dave Menninger, director of marketing Andy Ellicott, director of business development Colin Mahony, and CEO Ralph Breslauer).

Two big reasons for the success of this launch were:

(1) a marketing and sales strategy that truly leveraged the Web, instead of the traditional enterprise sales model (expensive advertising and bag-carrying sales reps) and

(2) a visionary management team and marketing director who really “got” the new marketing and weren’t afraid of losing control.

1 comment:

  1. An inspiring story for all of us in the B2B social media world. For me, it's important to separate this from pure online content distribution since it sounds like you were starting conversations rather than just posting material. I like your point about the management team's vision too – these things struggle to get off the ground unless the people at the tope appreciate the potential.
    Nice case study.