Let’s start the Enterprise 2.0 phase of social media with the radical stage of pulling down firewalls to allow social media in. We can then share out social media policy, and get technology set to achieve optimum marketing and information fl ow from customer to CEO and in between (assuming you’ve started social media ‘learning and listening’ before building the strategy).
Business Intelligence has now morphed from its linear inputs and outputs into requiring flexible information gathering and the reporting of semi-structured, real time conversation, and collaborative activities.
CIOs, senior executives and channel managers may now see this as a relationship and information-centric combo as part of the Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 business models. We are now closer to technology supporting the ultimate in open business collaboration, community and conversation. As social customer relationship management (CRM) promoters suggest we can achieve it, social CRM can aggregate, manage, measure it and make the results meaningful.
Technology-impassioned infl uencers now need to forge through the barriers of social media adoption in the technology sector. Barriers are identifi ed in Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ latest benchmarking research of sales and marketing activity in the technology sector, Market Measures 2010. It cites that a small sample of New Zealand technology companies are experiencing high growth through the use of social media and advertising.
The social media sales process
With social media use, your company positioning is one step ahead of the competition, as social media adoption in the market is slow.
For companies with a strong value proposition, social media softens the sales process, lessens the need for cold calling, and shortens the sales cycle. Much of what you would achieve offline can be achieved efficiently online, eg: product demonstrations, seminars, conversations, Q & As. Crucial deal-making with certain products, sectors and cultures can never be entirely substituted with online activity, but much sales activity can.
What if social media gave you the ability to identify and target prospects, suppliers and vendors strategically? Social media provides transparent profi les on your target prospects. What if information sharing from your marketing could get a rapid speed to market with great reach? Leverage from highly engaged, industry-built communities is powerful.
What if you could circumvent major help desk traffic? Social media can provide real-time updates on support issues before they become a PR nightmare.
What if you could pre-qualify all potential partners in the reseller chain, know their psychological preferences, understand them as a person and learn their partnership triggers, or buying preferences, even before you develop your sales presentation? What if your prospects could self-qualify and pre-qualify before they even get in touch with you? Social media allows you to design communication to satisfy most of your prospects’ research needs. What if you could spend more time in relationship development and at the end of the sales cycle? What if you could have a 24/7 clonelike representative serving your client needs? Video, podcasts and webinars can be repurposed as your right-hand sales person.
What if you could save a decent percentage of your time usually spent in answering key questions during the sales and distribution cycle? Your expertise and time is used at the most crucial stage of the buying cycle. The right tools allow you to communicate and leverage corporate information already available. What if you could add such effi ciency in customer services aspects that you hear about a problem as the event occurs? What if you could cut the risk of brand reputation issues before escalation in the open market? The right information at the right time allays customer anxiety.
Practical social media tools applicable to the channel manager’s role are: video marketing and hosting; webinars, web conferencing and other VoIP; professional networking (LinkedIn, Plaxo, Ecademy), micro blogging (customer focused, eg: Twitter and enterprise-level intranet micro blogging), wikis. The concept requires a highly interactive approach, through communities of like-minded contributors and conversations.
Previous technology innovations to market were focused on mobile facilitated geo-location (eg: four-square), augmented reality, a plethora of iPhone apps and social media plug-ins, small screens (iPad and mobile phone innovation). Now 2010 innovation hints at the future use of highly sensory-stimulated social media-driven interactivity. It uses indoor and outdoor, micro- and giga-sized screens, sound-driven crowd sourcing, holographic global meetings and multi-touch collaborationfocused screen technology. Add these to the practical toolbox of 2009 and you have a dynamic environment in which to engage your prospects virtually anytime, anywhere you or they are doing business – subject to budget, of course.
Let social CRM do the data digestion for you
Social media is most effective when combined with social CRM that aggregates and measures brand conversations. A raft of standalone tools is available for specifi c parts of social media brand and conversation monitoring. More sophisticated social CRM can include aggregation, automation and integration, and can even act as social inbox aggregators. Its information is like a mass opinion, where business intelligence pulls together sales intelligence, competitive intelligence, HR intelligence, market research and cultural market intelligence. At its best, social CRM can actively enhance employee collaboration and be a platform that helps the business share knowledge. This enables information to fl ow between employees and customers, employees and employees, and employees and managers.
Enterprise-level social CRM tool brands currently promoted are Crowdcast, Socialcast and Salesforce, with a major benefi t of solving collaboration challenges around data. No doubt you’ll be keen to gain more insight into the specifi c ways social media can be used in your role. Nine aspects of the sales cycle that can gain productivity benefi ts through online social media activity are:
Research and listening to sector conversation
Establishing credibility and authority
Sector research and sales prospecting
Getting your foot in the door
Navigating customer organisations
Collaborating across sales teams
Providing customer references
Building ongoing rapport
Ensuring ongoing customer success with post sales support.
Start with industry forums and professional networking sites like LinkedIn. Its design is perfect for targeting new relationships that would otherwise be too diffi cult to access. Become active in groups and discussions; explore content on interesting profiles; link your other social media in to LinkedIn.