People we know in midmarket companies tend to do what works – until it doesn’t work so well any more. Most companies are not proactive to research what is on the horizon – they simply don’t have time or resources to do so.
When it comes to integrating online and social activities into their marketing and sales strategies it seems like there are two camps – those that "get it” and those who will wait till there is more “proof” that social selling actually works. Black and white. Right or wrong.
Is it possible that there is a mid-point where one can employ a few business tactics that happen to work on the social web into place, without having to declare that you’ve “gone social?”
Here are three ideas whose time has come and are widely used by your competitors – so why not take a look at just these strategies for sales growth:
1. Spreading a meme: I first learned about memes from a brilliant man named Thomas Leonard, now affectionately known as the “Father of Coaching”. He talked about memes back in 2000 and how fast a meme, or cultural item transmitted by repetition could travel. More about memes here courtesy of Bryan Kramer on the Smarter Commerce blog.
This leads me to Pinterest. You can write it off as a picture party for the female population on the web, or you can see ways to grow your name, your cause, and what you stand for online. Here are a few examples.
I spoke at a conference and grabbed photos of all the other speakers, creating a page (called a board) with a link to each person’s own website. I get credit as curator, but they get visibility so they want to share with others.
On another board, we listed all those mentioned on a list of Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencers. There is no down side to creating these types of boards, because as curator, people recognize the value you are sharing, and those mentioned – in this case business colleagues, can share with others because it directly helps build their visibility. You can use this idea internally (showcase your sales team, for example) or outside of your organization (showcase your industry or next trade event)
2. Research: Learn more about your competition and your customers’ market sectors by setting up a regular process of quick research on Twitter, LinkedIn Answers, Focus, Quora, SalesGurus and other places your buyers are, and tie that in with either Google alerts or a strong Inbound program to learn about customer segments. You can also find your competitors here – learn about them. I take just 30 minutes going through 5 social tools every morning.
Inbound marketing and good intelligence products will bring knowledge your way – your job is to interpret it.
3. Understanding: Think of research, above, for industry and competitive information. Next, think about focusing on your prospective customers finding you and the context you can gain on critical issues and events that affect what and when they buy. Even better, learn and assimilate what their challenges are as a whole, so that you can proactively reach out to them before they start searching for answers online. Use the social channels that you are comfortable with and that you know your buyers and customers flock to. For many in B2B this means LinkedIn first and foremost. Without spreading yourself too thin, make sure you are open to other ways – including an updated, interesting company blog.
When you ARE able to be proactive, you can still identify those buyers who are a great fit for what you provide, and you have the opportunity to work with them to craft their solution. In the old days, we did this by helping our buyers craft proposals. In the social web we can still do this – just with different vehicles. Don't think you can only be reactive now. It just isn't always true.
Does that make sense?
You can’t do anything though, if you don’t understand what it is that could be of the most benefit to your prospective customer, and most of that knowledge is available to you online. What isn’t is proprietary and is able to be shared through trusted connections and industry insiders - another reason to be online and visible.
Are you utilizing these basic ideas with your sales and marketing teams? How has it worked? We’d love to showcase more B2B social success stories – drop a note in the comments of any you can tell us more about.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.
Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.