In yesterday’s post, I demonstrated that even in the case of the most extreme B2B sales situation (one customer, long sales cycle, few competitors), there could be a place for social media marketing. Today I’ll tell you why it isn’t that simple.

Does my schizophrenia seem strange? I’ve been around long enough to know that even when there’s a slam-dunk business case for something, it doesn’t mean a company will do it. This has been quite apparent in B2B where hard-dollar social media successes have been few and far between, despite a lot of hype. Here are five good reasons why some B2B’s should NOT adopt social media right now:

1) The economy sucks. Unless a customer is screaming for social media, it’s not likely a struggling company is going to voluntarily get into a brand new marketing effort in the teeth of a recession. Even though most social media is “free,” it still takes valuable time and resources many companies don’t have right now. (On the flip side, your competitors are in the same boat – why not get a jump start on this now?)

2) The strategy doesn’t make sense. In these economically-urgent times, the focus is probably on generating short-term sales through established channels. There is nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s an entirely appropriate strategy. If your company is burning the furniture to heat the building, it’s probably not the right time to start an internal battle to create a Facebook page.
3) The resources simply don’t exist. If you’re working in PR or marketing for a large B2B today, it’s likely that you’re doing a job that used to be two or three jobs a few years ago. Who really has the incremental time to take on social media and do it well? Maybe when the economy turns your company can free up the resources, but in the near-term, you may need to stay focused on only the most important customer initiatives. Be patient.
4) You don’t want to be social. Let’s say you work for a defense contractor. You really don’t want to conduct business on the social web, do you? So hanging out on Twitter is not for every business situation. I recently put a slide presentation out on the web that was promptly picked up and copied by my competitor. Will it hurt me? Not really. Could a similar situation hurt a company like Boeing? Yup. It might be more prudent to establish internal, secure collaborative efforts instead using the social web.
5) Your customers don’t care. I was at a gathering of about 15 B2B executives last week. All VP’s or higher … very influential to the purchasing decision at their companies. None of them were involved in social media. Nada. Wouldn’t know a tweet if it poked them in the nose. If these folks are your customers, you’re wasting your time on social media, aren’t you? In fact, I would say this is the number one issue facing B2B social web marketing: The customers aren’t engaged. Yet.

OK, please let me pre-empt a few hot-blooded retorts bound to show up in the comment section … I’m not saying DON’T do social media. You know me better than that. I know that every one of these reasons I listed could be turned around as a reason TO DO social media marketing!

My job is to consult and help businesses, and I actively recommend at least some social media component to the marketing plan of almost any customer. But I’m also practical and sympathetic to the needs of businesses that are just trying to survive right now. While there is almost certainly a place for social media in even traditional B2B situations, we need to realize that resistance may make perfect sense in the context of a lousy business situation. It might just be a matter of timing.
And although there may be real business situations that could delay social web engagement, there are also plenty of lame excuses. I will continue my schizophrenic journey tomorrow with some of these beauties!
OK, your turn. Let ‘er rip!
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