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February 05, 2012


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While you are right in that most people are online, this by itself does not really address the actual concern of most people who make the original argument about their buyers not being online.

A more specific version of "My buyers are not on the Web" would be "My buyers are not using the Web to look for information on the types of products I sell."

This is the concern that needs to be addressed in most cases, and simply pointing out the number of users is just victory against a straw man.

In many B2B settings, the argument is more difficult to address. Many popular sites, such as Facebook, are heavily consumer-oriented. Where should marketing efforts be focused?

For example, there are less than 4000 people who have "CNC machining" as an interest in Facebook. The most popular CNC machining group in LinkedIn has a bit over 8000 members. To be honest, neither of these figures is particularly impressive compared to the number of CNC machine tool users in the world or even practicalmachinist.com forum's 74,000 members.

The "Not on the Web" argument is really about ways to use the Web, not just about being online.

Tony Faustino

@VilleKllku: First, I'm not really sure I understand your contrarian position against what David saying. I think David is making the same argument you are. The reason why smartphone purchases have exploded is this is because a smartphone is the only vehicle for the majority of consumers to use the Web and search for information on the types of products and services any organization sells. They are using smartphones for an important primary purpose beyond phone services.

Second, the issue you point out in the CNC machining example is a perfect example of how the majority of organizations are currently equipped for the wrong battle. And, that's the battle to address growth in the "outlier markets" with a company infrastructure that's historically based on serving a "mass market."

4,000 to 8,000 customers isn't as large as a customer market of 74,000. But, that doesn't mean that smaller markets don't hold opportunity for other companies who are building leaner infrastructures to specifically target these markets. These smaller companies don't have the same historical baggage of large mass market organizations like a "P&G-type" organization. And, that smaller, leaner company will capture a significant mkt share of these types of smaller markets because they're not interested in focusing on mass markets.

And, because that's their focus, those emerging companies will be perfectly happy to build direct relationships on LinkedIn with the 4,000 to 8,000 you cited.

David Meerman Scott

Ville - I'm not arguing for specific social tools like Facebook and I'm not saying everyone is on Facebook. Rather I am saying that the majority of people in the world are indeed online and that means that the old arguments that "my market is different" don't hold true anymore.

Thanks Tony. I certainly agree that many B2B products can be marketed successfully on the web.

Account Deleted

Thanks for the article! I live in Russia (Siberia, Kemerovo) and in our country Steen Internet distribution is extremely high! Now it comes from other regions (not Moscow and St. Petersburg), namely the area. So for many people the Internet is that social networks. We are not talking about the fact that these media help or harm the business, in my opinion now gnovoiit about this sooner, but it is for the older generation of online social networks =. Many people do not know how to use search engine, but Classmates (this is a network, which is the second most popular in Russia) and is equal to the Internet. They go there for different reasons, but mainly in order to be in contact with relatives who are younger. Everyone needs time to get comfortable there, and then may be interested in not only communication but also a shop I'm sorry to not comment on the subject, but in Russia there is a kind of prejudice, "The older generation in the network there." (sorry for bad english.)

David Meerman Scott

Facebook User - Many thanks for telling us of the experience in Siberia, Kemerovo. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.


@VilleKlikku, it's ironic that you use the size of an online machinist forum to indicate how small the Facebook and LinkedIn groups about CNC are, from which you then conclude that CNC aficionados are not online searching for info about their field. Sounds to me they are, not so much on LinkedIn or Facebook but at www.practicalmachinist.com.

That's still online, isn't it, they don't connect to that forum via their toothbrush. And it sounds to me that if I was selling anything in the CNC field, I ought to be active on that forum to answer questions (general and related to my product) to get to know those 74,000 potential customers.

And yes, the people in Kuna Yala probably won't buy a CNC machine anytime soon, but having seen it first-hand with David last week, I have to say that people in the "developed" world better buckle up if they think these 4.8 billion people with connectivity can be ignored.


David, Gerardvroomen - My point is precisely that simply saying that almost everyone is online is not useful information in most cases where the argument is presented.

You also need to know what your customers do online and how to reach them there, whether it is through a company website, Facebook, LinkedIn or a profession-specific site or forum. Or if you can reach them at all online even though they are there!

Unless that question can be answered, simply taking your marketing "online" won't do any good.

Tony - Good point on targeting specific audiences. Even a smaller audience can indeed be a worthwhile target.


I've been really impressed with the growth of internet usage around the globe. As an example, according to Internet World Stats, Africa has seen 2,545% growth in online access since 2000.

Sure, you could argue that when you start from square one, 2,545% growth isn't that big a deal, but the main point is this -- the advent of wireless internet access throughout the third world is opening up a new era the likes of which haven't been seen since the introduction of moveable type in the 1400s.

These are very exciting times, indeed. Thanks for sharing, David.

Carolyn Winter

Recently had a dinner party where I put on the Leonard Cohen "Live in London" dvd as background music during dinner. Thought for sure the guys would ask me to turn it off and pass the remote for the game. No. Everyone was mesmerized and started discussing/ analyzing the songs. Then before my eyes, my "i am not on the net that much" friends are initially using pocket devises of various kinds to look up songs, related artists, and the possibility of a local concert we all might attend BEFORE finally asking if my computer is turned on. I laugh.

Slightly off topic but I have to mention regarding the importance of content leading to sales... I bought the Leonard Cohen DVD because I kept seeing tracks of cohen's london concert online. Hadn't heard about it before or paid much attention. But since G+ had a YouTube thingy on my page I decided to play music while I worked and LC came up. Got hooked on these LC snippets so much that I finally noticed it was a DVD recorded concert (not something people in attendance uploaded... I am a little dim! :) ) . I bought it for myself and when my friends liked it so much, bought 6 more copies for upcoming gifts.

As little as 2 years ago, it would have been highly unlikely for me to find this artist and make this purchase.

Everyone is online most of the time whether they know it or not. Getting found for what they need and what you have to offer is still the thing and I struggle with that too.

Maybe if I started a band and invited Leonard Cohen to sing...

David Meerman Scott

Carolyn -- a great story that illustrates what I'm talking about. Thanks so much for adding to the discussion.

Jamie - the growth is amazing. Our buyers are everywhere.

Anne Sorensen

Love this story David. Thanks for sharing. Will be a very useful example for presentations and when talking with clients! :) (sounds like another fantastic trip too .. maybe your next book should be a travel one! :) )

Steve Garth

I had to smile at this post. I'm in the business of delivering online tools for small business and you'll be surprised at how many I have to drag kicking and screaming into the online world. The business owner may not be online but their customer most definitely is.

A recent study from the Pew Internet Research Center showed that 52% of all US adult cell phone users used their phones while holiday shopping to call their friends for advice on what to purchase, look up reviews of a product or search for a better price.

If you're a business owner your customer is definitely online. Unless of course you are in Cuba. (Are there business owners in Cuba?)

Doug Cohen

Old school mentality business owners don't get this. We know many of them and they don't want to listen. I feel like many standard business practices stayed relatively static for decades, and then social media happened and everything changed completely. Seismic shift of power to the individual consumer/end user - it happened a couple years ago and many business owners have no idea it happened.

Joseph Ratliff

I think part of the reason business owners are still using the "my buyer's aren't on the web" excuse has to do with fear.

-- Fear of having to maintain an online presence.

-- Fear of losing "control" of their image (they never had that control in the first place but...).

-- Fear that it "might not work" to use the web, and might distract them from what is working marketing-wise (even though what "is" working might not be working that well).

-- And other fears like David pointed out, having to create and share content etc...

They will have to face and get over these fears, while I believe the web will never replace an entire marketing process (as in all parts of that process)...it is an integral part of the marketing process IMO.

Katie Martin

It is pretty astonishing to me how many people around the world, no matter how advanced their country/area is, have access to the internet and cell phones. Just another way we can say the world is getting smaller. But I do think that just because most people have access to the web does not in fact mean they can afford to buy anything on it! I myself love to browse store websites, but I VERY rarely ever purchase anything online. I do very much agree that people with businesses should have an online resource because it is the most logical involvement in the mainstream business model, but I don't think that will necessarily mean a huge influx of patrons. Obviously I can see both sides of the argument...
What do you personally think would be the best method of integrating a new business online to get the most traffic?

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