I’m writing this post because I have something important to communicate. The information is specific to SMB B2B companies.
As I listen to my clients and prospects talk about social media, they’re all telling me one of the following basic messages:
1. “I don’t get social media. I think it’s a fad. I’m not going to waste resources on it.”
2. “I think there’s something to this social media stuff, but I’m not an early adopter. I’ll wait and see how it all shakes out.”
3. “We’ve done some social media activities. I can see how powerful they are, but I don’t have the time to make it work. How do we approach it?”
I can tell you that social media is here to stay. It’s a paradigm shift that is changing how business is conducted. The last 75 years or so (comprising the rise, reign and fall of the mass media selling model) were an aberration. Social media is allowing us to return to the natural human interactions that governed commerce for the previous six thousand years.
Social media can drastically reduce your cost of sales. You can bet your business (you ARE betting your business) that your smartest and toughest competitors are immersed in it… and are gaining every bit of knowledge that they can.
Here’s what I’ve learned in working with my clients on social media. Common mistakes include:
• Relegating social media to the most junior person on the Sales team.
• Investing 10 or 20 hours in it, and declaring it a failure.
• Treating it as a peripheral endeavor – something not core to the success of the business.
On the surface it makes sense to have a junior (i.e. young) person handle social media. After all, they understand this stuff, right? Yes… they understand the platforms and technologies. The danger is that they typically don’t have a deep understanding of your business, the industries it serves, and (HUGE) the nuances of interacting with clients and prospects. Social media are conversations. What is said, and how information is delivered, are extremely important. Sophisticated people skills are required.
Social media is relatively inexpensive. The price of admission is almost zero; but leveraging social media effectively takes a considerable investment of time. Social media reflects how we interact in the offline world. You must spend time listening and learning about the people you want to interact with; and then you must earn their trust. Plan on spending 10 to 20 hours a week for approximately three months before you see a significant payback. Too large an investment? It’s either that or compete on price. You choose.
The most important message I want to communicate is that social media should be an intrinsic part of your business. It can drastically improve the effectiveness of everything from Customer Service to Marketing (including market research and PR) to Sales. Assign or hire a fairly senior person to manage your social media activities across your organization; and give that person a seat at the table along with the rest of your executives. This person will deliver significant value (more than you can imagine) if you give them the time, resources and respect that they deserve. Expect them to deliver golden nuggets of information. Listen to what they have to tell you. Integrate them into the formulation and execution of your business development strategy.
If you want to learn more about how I’m helping my clients grow their businesses, you can download a whitepaper I just wrote. This one is on lessons learned in Evolving MSPs and VARs into High Margin Cloud Services Providers. You can sign up for this free whitepaper at http://www.acsellerant.com/cloud-offer-landing-page/
Bob Leonard is the managing consultant at acSellerant. He’s a veteran B2B marketer with stints as a marketing executive at Interleaf, GTE and EMC. Prior to that Bob worked in Sales and Sales Support at Digital Equipment Corp. Today Bob works with SMB (20 to 100 employees) B2B IT providers (ISVs, MSPs, SIs and VARs); helping them grow their businesses, navigate an evolution to Cloud Services, and maximize valuations in anticipation of a business sale.