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The theory of B2B social marketing

October 17, 2013

I didn’t study the theory of marketing; something I’m constantly thankful for.

My issue is that while a theory is all well and good, its presence can easily cloud judgement, cancel out experimentation and discovery, and make it very difficult to change the way we think. By its very nature theory is just that – theory. Theories are things that are there to be tested, proved, or disproved.

Social marketing is a case in point. It’s a practice that’s still in its infancy, especially if compared to the Universal Theory of Marketing. It’s the Higgs-boson to Einstein’s Relativity. It’s here to be discovered and experimented with. It’s here to disrupt, to change the way we think about marketing theory altogether.

That’s because social marketing can only be successful if it goes beyond the application of technology, and the original theory of marketing. Social marketing is about people; and just like people it shouldn’t be bound by the rational mind-set of the marketer. It must have heart, and soul, and emotion, and pay homage to our collective humanity in a way that’s rarely seen anywhere else. Social marketing is storytelling at its very best.

As I’ve said, I didn’t study the theory of marketing and as a result I’ve always found the division between the worlds of B2C and B2B a strange one. They exist like two opposing tribes that seemingly speak separate dialects of the same language, wear different uniforms (quite literally when you put corporate chic next to consumer cool) and practice different rituals. This division is especially evident when it comes to marketing storytelling.

When we think about interacting with consumers, we happily default to a storytelling approach that is built on emotional engagement. Yet as soon as the word ‘business’ comes into play, the emotion threatens to disappear, and we’re left with a dry, disengaged and functional story that’s often barely a story at all.

B2B social marketing is our opportunity to change this, through emotional storytelling that seeks to engage at a human level, while still in the context of a business conversation. B2B should be B2C, because it’s still a consumer we’re talking to, regardless of how we’ve been trained to categorise them.

For me this column will be about examining B2B social marketing, and specifically the way it is already changing the way we think. It will be an exercise in turning practice into theory and vice versa, and a way of championing what I believe are the new principles we should adhere to. After all, just like the discovery of the Higgs-boson has the very real potential to disrupt and even unseat that particular theory of Relativity, in time social will do the same thing to our view of marketing.

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