Laura Ramos [Posted by Laura Ramos]

Moments ago, Josh Bernoff posted this year’s winners of the 2009 Forrester Groundswell awards on the Groundswell blog. If you scroll down to the middle of the post (be forewarned; it’s a long one) you will see the winners and finalists in the B2B category winners. The images are great to look at as well.

In my research, I see marketers approach social media with a mix of
enthusiasm and skepticism. Most want to know which firms execute social
pursuits well and what tangible outcomes occur. Take a look and I think
you will agree that these winners show how B2B firms can lead the way
in achieving real business results.

As social activity expands – and business people seek out peers
online to exchange ideas and validate their purchase decisions – these
award winners and finalists demonstrate 6 types of objectives B2B marketers can use to connect
and ultimately change their relationship – with customers. Briefly,
here’s what those 6 objectives are and why our winners took home the

1) Listen to what customers talk about.  Listening
to prospects and buyers may seem boring, so B2B markers tend to
overlook this objective as an important start to setting social
strategy. Yet, researching and analyzing what customers talk about pays
off in deeper insight that leads to measurable benefits. CDW teamed with Communispace to
listen to customers who participate in its community and apply those
lessons to their sales interactions. As a result CDW increased the
average of their total customer purchase revenue by 17% when comparing
June 2009 to June 2008.

2) Talk with your customers (not at them): Successful marketers turn online activity and content into rich conversations. Eloqua’s self-guided sales tool, called the Conversation,
treats users to an interactive discussion that hones in on their most
pressing marketing problems using a combination of tongue-in-cheek
humor and straight talk. Between 18 and 20% of buyers who engaged with
an integrated campaign featuring this tool became prospects for
Eloqua’s solutions.

3) Energize your best customers to talk about you.
In B2B, using social media to energize customers around user meetings
and conferences is a great example of making social media produce
results. Depite restrictions on travel due to the economy, Sonic Foundry boosted Unleash 2009 attendance by 15%, and created a healthy pipeline of opportunity riding in on the coattails of this event.

4) Help your customers support each other. Social
tools will accelerate the transformation of support forums from simple
question/answer tools to communities where business-minded individuals
network, share best practices, and seek business-oriented advice. In
EDR’s case, commonground — a communityfor environmental professionals – resulted in over 90% of its customers giving EDR’s service a big thumbs up.

5) Encourage your customers spread success. In B2B,
community succeeds when participation gets customers in a market — or
users within buying organizations — to help others to adopt a product
or service. ComplianceOnline, which I have written about previously, demonstrates this very well by attracting 500,000 subscribers, allowing members to share/purchase each other’s services, and generating approximately 30% of MetricStream’s leads.

6) Embrace customer ideas and suggestions. Ask
customers for their opinions and ideas, and you will likely be
overwhelmed with a huge number of responses. This was a hard category
to judge because most of the submissions seemed to prove this
conventional wisdom. Archer Technologies stood
apart because, in their entry, they talked about how 2400 members
contributed 1529 ideas resulting in new mobile and continuity products.
That’s how to use the social power of your customers to drive business.

Will you join me in congratulating our new, B2B Groundswell Award
winners?  And thank all of those who participated, especially after I badgered — uh, “reminded” you to do so . . .

And let me know about other B2B examples you find winning in the groundswell; I’d love to hear — and share — more.

[Crossposted from B2B Marketing POSTs]