Gerry Moran understands buzz. So much so that any discussion about social media influencers would be remiss to exclude him. The Philadelphia-based Moran, whose first job in marketing was in the pre-email days of HBO, has been adding clarity to the discussion of how social selling “triggers” can help enable the B2B sales process.
After all, he spent three years leveraging social media to build out a demand generation machine for SAP. It worked well enough to prompt IT consulting company Cognizant to knock on his door in late 2014 to build the social media team there—a mammoth undertaking, given that the New Jersey-based firm employs nearly 200,000 people.
Content: You’ve said that B2B buyers find the greatest benefit of social media is gaining greater confidence and comfort with their decision.
Gerry Moran: Essentially, as far as what B2B buyers do, all the research tells us they use content to feel more comfortable with the buying decision. And social is sort of like the transit rails, and content’s the stuff you deliver on it. You have all these different B2B buyers who are on these different stops along these rails. Typically for B2B that’s Twitter and LinkedIn.
Are you saying buyers need social proof?
If I’m a smart CFO or a smart CIO, or anyone on the buying team, I don’t know what I don’t know unless I try to find it out. What people really are trying to find out is “What’s the industry doing? What are other people in my position doing?” So when they finally meet with the board or their partners they can say what they all should be doing.
How important is social to B2B buyers as a pre-discovery tool?
If I’m a CFO or CIO, I pay a bit more attention to social channels and I start to become smart and, before I pick up the phone and I call a vendor, I’ve done my due diligence. To do that, buyers get on Google and then they use a lot of their social channels to expand that search. And that’s a problem for a lot of B2B buyers: the buying committees are so big and no one wants to make a decision until they’ve checked every source possible. Since social is a big part of that, as marketers we have to be there.
Are these the “social buyers” you often talk about?
They’re not necessarily making that million dollar purchase by responding to that call to action in their tweet [laughs], but they’re using social to find a sales contact. They are setting up Twitter feeds to figure out who the thought leaders are about a specific subject; they belong to LinkedIn communities to engage back and forth with sales organizations. They’re the opposite of the buyer who says “let’s just go to the trade show and see the product demonstration there and let’s make a decision.”
What do you say to brand managers and CMOs who face the challenge of a new social media tool emerging every 6 months?
I see many CMOs in corporate organizations have a tough time establishing an ROI for anything they do in social. There are also challenges related to having a strategy, actually sitting down and writing something down to understand if it’s going to work. If you don’t have a goal, don’t know how to measure with the goal, and don’t know how to write a plan—those are challenges. So I think it will multiply as the years progress and it’s just going to be scary fast; and you can take that scariness away by having a plan: What is it you want the customer or prospect to do? How do we measure against that? We made it work when I was at SAP; we make it work at Cognizant. We just take that simple approach and when a new social channel emerges we have to ask “OK, what is the value prop? What is this thing actually going to deliver?” We’re very clear on what our goals are because we write our stuff down.
Your task at Cognizant is to get 200,000 employees up to speed on social media. That sounds herculean.
We’re just taking it to the next level. Before I got on board, we were doing a great job with thought leadership coming from a lot of smart people. It’s still early stages, but we’re looking at accelerating social media to B2B marketing, putting the pedal to the metal, as it were.
You’ve been involved in social media for quite some time. Where do you see social media in 5 years?
Gone are the days of “here’s our social media campaign” and “here’s our digital campaign” and “here’s our email campaign.” I think for a lot of B2B marketers, it has to be “here’s our campaign. Here’s our message. Here’s our target. This is what we want our customer to do. How do we support that with social? How do we support that with digital?” Analytics will be able to tell us what’s the right mix and that’ll be interesting. I think there’s a lot of evolution that has to happen with data driven organizations and data driven marketing plans.