Last week InsideView held it’s first user conference called the Insider Summit. It was a lot of work and a bit stressful to pull it together. It all worked out and it was great to see so many customers in one place all wanting to hear the plans for InsideView and the were using Twitter to spred the news. During the conference there were about a dozen breakout sessions that fell into one of three tracks; Sales, Marketing and Social Selling.
I held a lunch time panel with some amazing leaders in the sales world, Anneke Seley, Jill Konrath and Craig Rosenburg. They answered questions about everything from what sales managers do wrong, to how social media has changed the sales landscape forever.
I ran the social selling track and held panels with customers and companies like Sprout Social, Extole, Yammer Cornerstone OnDemand and others. Besides the interest in best practices of companies leveraging InsideView for sales intelligence, I was asked questions about how InsideView is leveraging social media for lead generation, branding and support. As I mention in the post the ROI of social media, building up to the different skill levels should be the goal of any company that wants to become a social business.
I find that most companies especially InsideView customers want to become social businesses in one way or another. What I mean by that is companies understand the need to open up social channels in places like Twitter and Facebook. They understand that their prospects and customers are increasingly leveraging social networks to share information and communicate with eachother. It will eventually be fatal for a company to disregard these channels of communication.
To gain the most of these social channels companies need to realize a few things that seem like common sense to me but I’m biased.
Social media as a broadcast channel
This is what many companies still use social media for. Setup a profile on Twitter and push out feeds, leadgen content and press releases. I dont believe there is anything wrong with a company using it’s social profiles for broadcasting news and content, as long as this is NOT the only way you use it. If this is the case then you are defeating the purpose of being on social media. Since many marketing professionals don’t understand social media, this is the only way they can view it and by making social channels “Just another channel to push messaging, like email marketing”, they will lose in the long run. If your social strategy is not focused on engagement, your message will fall flat.
The broadcasting of information is the part of social media that companies should look into automating. Of course there will be human process but having an employee sitting at a desk typing in multiple updates directing followers to papers and other company links is ineffective. How many ways can you describe your latest whitepaper in 140 characters? Let technology help you with that and put your people on more important, strategic tasks.
Social media as a support channel
Some companies leverage social media as primarily a support channel. Airlines, restaurants and even car manufacturers have been the leaders in this space. Zappos for example has built an entire culture around leveraging social media for support. Regardless if your in a B2C or B2B space, social media can be leveraged for support. It scales well and gives your customers easy access to you.
Depending on your business, you have to gauge how much of an impact social media will have with your existing customers. If your customers aren’t on social media, there is little need to be using it for support. If you find that your customers are online and active in social media, even if they are doing it on more passive modes and mainly talking to friends, its an opportunity to be more connected with them.
Social media as a sales channel
This is an area that most companies in the B2B space struggle with more than the above. If I had a dollar for every online discussion that had some sales manager saying “Sales people should be selling and not wasting their time on social networks”, I could probably afford that new entertainment system I’ve been drooling over at BestBuy.
The most surprising things about people making that ridiculous statement is that they are saying it IN A SOCIAL NETWORK. Of course there is a value, there are sales opportunities to identify, new prospects to engage. They need training on social media for sales people. People are in social networks all day long asking questions that sales people should be listening for. The absolute worst deal you can lose is the one that you didn’t know of. Waiting for your phone to ring or for a person to come knocking on your company website with a “have sales contact me” flag will guarantee that you are missing out on deals. If you’re part of the 1% that doesn’t have to worry about closing more business then this doesn’t apply.
If your sales people are not actively listening to their territory for questions and conversations about their industry they are missing opportunities. The hardest part is on how to build the foundation and culture around this.
Building a social business
The social business is larger than setting up social collaboration tools into your CRM so you can post updates to a group of employees. Internal activity feeds are good but the social business should be focusing efforts on external activities. Setting up public channels where you can push messages is skill level one and really where the work begins. Understanding how your community is consuming and more importantly sharing that content is skill level two. Assigning resources to engage with these people and have conversations is skill level three. Skill level four is achieved by building a social graph of people inside your CRM and proactively engaging with them. The real fun happens when you can build a strategy around using nothing but social channels to connect with people that may have never heard of you before. This is no longer just a role for marketing people, any customer facing employee should assume some responsibility for this. That is what drives growth.
The idea of a social business has been evolving. I think that a few great companies are leading the charge and others will be following suit shortly. I believe that customers want to have interactions with brands regarding support and content. Why else would they be providing feedback [good or bad] and sharing your news across their networks? It’s the responsibility of businesses to stay transparent and available wherever their customers are. When companies embrace this new paradigm of a social business, customers are not the only ones that win.