Tag Archives: online WOM

How WebMD Has Changed B2B Marketing Forever

webmd2Many B2B companies, and professional services firms in particular, do not succeed at marketing for two major reasons:

  • Failure to understand that the vendor selection process has fundamentally changed.

Prospective customers now turn to their personal networks and publicly available information — via digital and social media channels—to self-diagnose their problems and to self-prescribe their own solutions. In this new WebMD World of B2B Marketing, making the short list of potential vendors relies heavily on being visible and appearing smart in appropriate online channels on a consistent basis.

To appreciate the magnitude of this shift in how customers select outside resources, consider 2012 market research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board’s Marketing Leadership Council, which surveyed more than 1,500 customer contacts (decision makers and influencers in a recent major business purchase) for 22 large B2B organizations spanning all major NAICS categories and 10 industries. As depicted below, the survey revealed that the average customer had completed nearly 60% of the purchase decision-making process prior to engaging a supplier sales rep directly.  At the upper limit, the responses ran as high as 70%.


The implications of this research are clear: B2B companies that fail to “show up strong” in the online world are missing engagement opportunities with potential as well as existing clients.

  • Failure to respond properly to the new vendor selection process.

Unfortunately, many B2B companies that understand the new dynamics of vendor selection have responded in knee-jerk fashion, by saturating every possible online / digital channel and social media platform with content that neither reaches nor resonates with decision makers in their target audiences. Although buyer selection habits have changed, when it comes to brand awareness and positioning of a company’s value proposition, less is still more. And this chart explains why:

Attention Web

The online world makes it easy to obtain information, but extremely difficult to gain attention over all the noise. Increasingly, B2B firms are learning that simply having all the online visibility tools – company blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, etc. – does not guarantee marketplace attention. They’re also learning that tactics designed to feed those online beasts – most often “currated content” from 3rd parties – can be akin to the “throw some shit on the wall and hope something sticks” marketing approach.

The firms benefitting most from the new WebMD World of B2B Marketing apply traditional marketing disciplines: they stake out intellectual territory that supports their brand with insights that are relevant and interesting to clients, prospects and referrals sources; they drive top-of-mind awareness (and new business inquiries) by ensuring that those target audiences receive their insights on a consistent basis; they create opportunities to engage, rather than talk at, decision makers; and they use online tools to enhance, rather than replace, direct communication with existing and prospective customers.


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Is it Ethical to Edit Online Customer Reviews?

Marketers Can Leverage Knowledge of Online Behavior

In a discussion on WNYC regarding the economic impact of restaurant reviews, Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon claimed there is research to support the counterintuitive notion that the most important aspects of online customer reviews on Yelp.com and other community opinion websites have less to do with whether the reviewer pans or praises the restaurant, and more to do with how well the review is written – in terms of its sentence structure, grammar and spelling. In other words, people are more likely to try a new restaurant that has well-written customer commentaries, regardless of the reviewers’ opinions.

Let’s assume this consumer behavior – driven by form rather than substance – is based on the likelihood that review readers conclude that if the restaurant’s online reviews are well written, that the restaurant’s clientele are educated, well-heeled, with discriminating taste and likely to eat at only the best restaurants. So regardless of any online reviewer’s advice, positive or negative, the restaurant is likely to be a “safe bet” in terms of food, service and ambiance.

More importantly, let’s assume this “Snob Effect” on online customer reviews has implications in other businesses, where socio-economics and personal status are factors in the selection of a product or service, and where online customer reviews for those businesses are readily available. For example, those product categories might include automobiles and computers & electronics; service categories might include hotels, resorts and health & beauty spas.

So here’s the ethical question posed to marketers:

Knowing that editorial quality of online reviews has a beneficial impact on sales, and if online consumer reviews are housed on your website, is it unethical to “clean up” those reviews by correcting spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax errors…if online reviewers are notified in advance that their comments are subject to this treatment?

Before you rush to condemn the proposal, consider this: traditional media sources (newspapers, magazines, TV and radio) have applied this editorial practice for decades. Whether it’s a Letter-to-the-Editor, an OpEd opinion piece or a bylined article, outsiders wishing to express an opinion are notified that “Submissions may be edited for length, style and editorial quality.”  And most old media sources take full advantage of that disclaimer.

So why should online opinion – expressed in customer reviews – not be subject to the same type of editorial scrutiny? And why should marketers be prevented from taking full advantage of the Snob Effect on consumer behavior?

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