So much of the work we now do marketing and selling our IT services is completely ignored by prospects.
Moving into 2011, potential customers:
- Have sourced all the information they need about our products and services themselves;
- Ignore our marketing messages, invitations, cold calls and direct mail as they are bombarded with electronic information;
- Turn to people they know to get advice as to what to purchase, and from whom.
Why wouldn't they? We no longer receive "trust at face value". What's the percentage of IT projects that fail? Customers have finally got the tool they need to take control of the conversation - and that tool is social media.
Just as the cloud is fundamentally transforming how we sell and deliver IT services, so to is social media transforming sales and marketing. And, as with cloud services, if we don't transform our sales and marketing models we will become dinosaurs.
One of the Godfather's of marketing, Philip Kotler, defined the purpose of marketing as "matching the processes of the organisation to the needs and wants of customers and to reach a mutually beneficial outcome". We must change our sales and marketing practices to better align with the information that customers want.
They want information about our capability to do the job, they want information on who we've done the job for, they want to test our level of empathy and expertise and see us demonstrate it, and they want to hear about it from people they trust.
What to do?
Marketing should know who the target prospects are. Now they need to find the online communities and tweet streams that these people dwell in. Ideally, marketing should create new communities - for example through Linkedin groups - establishing members of their organisations within these groups not to try and sell, but to demonstrate empathy and expertise.
They must also monitor feedback with tools like HootSuite on what the key issues are for these communities. This could lead to changes in branding, product development etc.
This listening function is crucial. It can provide feedback on our organisations and our services but it also alerts us to new pain points that we can build solutions around.
The sales people need to be on the lookout for "sales triggers", or events that alert them to an opportunity.
For a minimal fee Linkedin will automatically send a summary of all individuals of a certain profile who change company, title etc. This might signal an opportunity to build a contact base in a former client's new firm - or might raise a red flag if someone close to a competitor moves into one of our accounts.
Following prospects' tweets can also reveal useful information, and monitoring and searching tweets from within an industry can reveal much about what is happening.
Tasked with making an appointment with someone they've never met before, a salesperson will have a higher success rate if they can be referred in, potentially using Linkedin, to find "someone who knows someone". And if their marketing group has been able to position them in a community there is a higher chance that these referral paths will exist.
Bruce Rasmussen is owner of Carpe Diem Consulting, which is running seminars in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in November on the impact of social media on sales and marketing.
To book go to either: