Social Selling: The Internal Pitch

CMOGuess where I have been lately? I have been talking to some of our senior leadership about building a stronger social selling practice at AT&T. While this may seem natural enough to some of you, others who have tried to have these conversations realize how difficult it is to get the ear of the corner office. Seminars and entire workshops have been devoted to demystifying how to get traction in the corner offices around Social. Here are three things that I did that seemed to work.

1. Use the power of social to get their ear
Instead of sending an email to the CEO or beseeching their admin to give you a few minutes on the calendar, try a Social approach. I connected with my executives via LinkedIn and then reached out to them via that medium. A sure way to get an affirmative to your connection request is to pay attention to your profile. Make sure it screams success and professionalism.
Once I connected, I made sure I posted blogs and postings around my ideas that they might see. I then sent a direct message asking if they wanted to see some of the posts around successes I was having using Social to sell. In a college logic class I learned the word “Tautology”. It refers to something that is true in every case because it is just, well…true! By exciting my own executives using a Social plan, I was showing them exactly how I excited our customers about our products and services using the same approach.

2. Don’t say social
Once I had my foot cracked into the large oak doors, I was careful to speak about my successes in terms of what I did to succeed, not what Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube did for me. I think we often make the mistake of trying to arouse interest around Social channels based on the size of their viewership instead of concentrating on what novel ways we can position our messages with real customers using those channels. Every executive has heard of Social Media. Every executive likely has an actionable plan around it even if that plan is moving at glacial speed and is not addressing the issues. One sure way to have your plan dismissed is by having it compete with an existing plan. I couched my ideas as a new way to reach customers that happened to take advantage of Social channels.

3. Prove your case and make a direct ask
My final point is some “Executive 101” that a mentor of mine helped me with before I went in front of my executive with the big ask. There must be some empirical evidence that makes you think your plan will succeed. Bring that out first. Tell the story and fill in the details on what happened and how the success happened. Use that success to make a big ask. Do you need budget? Resources? Support? The ear of another executive? Get to that request in the first 5 minutes and directly ask for it. This is what I did and the answer was a simple, ‘yes.’

Social media is a brave new world that is on the mind of corporate executives everywhere. By demonstrating the power of Social, couching your ideas for what they are and not as simply adoption of Social channels for their own sake, and getting to your point quickly, there is a high probability you will being hearing ‘yes’ too.

Unleashing the Power of Marketing + Sales with Social Media

Recently, I was working on an innovative social media idea that our sales team thought could really drive new sales. I was directed to get in touch with our Marketing contacts to collaborate and coordinate a speedy implementation. I have to admit, marketing is light-years ahead of Sales when it comes to using social, so I was excited to talk to the marketing team to get their input. But I got confused as I began to navigate the various ways we were marketing to customers: print, digital and paid SEO.  More worrying was the fact that some of the marketing initiatives I was totally unaware of as a sales person. Furthermore, some of the campaign pieces missed what I thought the main drivers were with my customers for the services we sold.

For me this underlined a gap and the need for sales and marketing to get in better synch with one another.

To date I have posted about what the sales teams need to do to come up to speed on social and the potential advantages with clients. Instead, in this post, I would like to explore how marketing teams might bridge the gap with their sales partners.

1. Seek sales input

While marketing directives should rightly come from the strategy teams, it is important to ask the sales channels how to best reach their business clients. Sales can provide insights on which channels their customers are using to find information and thought-leadership. Also, by asking for input from sales a willing partner is made. Sales will be much more like to assist in the success of the campaign if they are included in the project development phase.

2. Make sales ambassadors of the message

Exceptional social marketing campaigns cannot escape the eyes of anyone. Unfortunately, they come along infrequently. More often, thousands of dollars are spent developing a content that sales does not use or leverage with customers. Sales teams are not avoiding using tha content, they are often just unaware. I recommend considering the sales force a key target market for any marketing message. Consider how to use social media and traditional methods to put the campaign message in front of the sales teams. By helping them internalize the message, they will help to spread it. Email blasts to the sales force are rarely successful and nothing takes the place of engaging content. Sales people are extremely prone to learning and retelling stories. If marketing helps the sales team to learn the story they want told, word of mouth will move that message to clients and prospects.

3. Work with social savvy sales partners

Every organization is going to have a few social savvy sales people. Seek them out and build a team to help push messages through their social networks. We have developed this at my company. Each week the marketing team sends out a note with examples of messages and content that is pre-packaged and easily sharable. While it may be hard to quantify the impact of doing this, the cost and time required is minimal and it drives sales teams to engage with marketing messages. Furthermore, it keeps dialog and communications open between the teams which can drive future collaboration and understanding.

Have you seen this dynamic between sales and marketing at your company? What is your marketing team doing to stay aligned with sales channels in the B2B space?

B2B Social Selling as easy as 1,2,3

twitter logo map 09

Is your Brand on Twitter? (Photo credit: The Next Web)

When I tell sales teams about the multi-million dollar deal I closed thanks to social selling it gets their attention. Up to that point, I get a lot of disinterested looks when I discuss engaging personally with clients and companies through social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.  Yes, I even get some eyeball rolling.  However, salespeople are capable of intently listening when money is at stake.  But just in case, I keep it easy for them by telling them the method for engagement is as easy as 1,2,3.

Step One: Build Persona

Many salespeople have larger than life personas to begin with, but when you look at them through the lens of their social sites they often don’t stand out as someone you would want to engage with. This is because they don’t rely on social media to communicate with their audience. Of all the business functions, salespeople rely on their in-person skills the most.  They enjoy one-on-one time with people.  Talking on the phone and conversing in writing are a distant second and third for salespeople.

So, I coach our sales teams to spruce up their on-line image as a first step. In doing so I tell them to be real, be credible and be alive. The first order of business is getting a good head-shot loaded onto Linked, Twitter, etc. It may cost money to get a decent picture, but a shot of you and Mickey Mouse from last year’s Disney vacation with the kids does not help at all.

Secondly, in addition to work experience,  I tell them to make sure to share something personal in their bio section that gives people a hint that they are flesh and blood. Telling people about your love of birding or old movies brings you to life in a way that no amount of documented awards and recognition can. Finally, I tell the teams they need to be ready to be consistently active on these social sites, but more on that in step 3.

Step Two: Get Connected

A beautiful profile on social media means very little if  you do not have an audience.   My tactics are simple and genuine to build a network full of real and like-minded people who you actually enjoy interacting with.  In LinkedIn I recommend first researching people of interest at your customer, in your industry and at  your employer. Then (and here comes the shocker!) DON’T ask to connect!  Instead, see what groups they belong to and join those groups.  Now you are not only unobtrusively attached to the people you want to converse with, but also with potentially thousands of their friends and associates.   Twitter is a bit more sublime, but the general idea is the same.  I suggest following people of interest and paying close attention to their activity.  My other tip is to grow slowly in Twitter.  Sure,  you can buy thousands of followers on Twitter, but what is the point? Again, the purpose of a network is to interact with each other and share ideas. Buying a group of friends has never worked and never will.

Step Three: Take Action

Now that you have a great profile and are connected to a receptive audience it is time to mingle.  Starting out with ‘likes’ on LinkedIn group content and ‘retweets’ in Twitter is a good baby step. The next step is replying and adding to the posts with your own ideas. The final step is posting your own content or finding interesting content for the group and post it. Note, this does not mean posting headlines from the Wall Street Journal! Everyone has seen that, try posting an article from a smaller journal or an article that puts a new spin on the front page news. The best kind of content is helpful insight that praises existing works or calls the reader to action to change how they are doing things today. This idea resonates well with sales people, because these are typical starting points for sales discussions.  Once you have been part of the dialog in a group or conversed with someone on Twitter, it is ok to ask for more from the relationship.  If the sales person takes her time and proves herself to be a thought-leader, clients are much more receptive to taking a meeting or giving an introduction to the proper budget owner.

Let me know what you think?  It may seem simplistic, but do you agree that many in B2B sales are missing these steps?  Would some training in going social help your sales team modernize and become more productive?  Reach out to the great staff at Savvy with more questions and ideas.

3 Tactics for B2B Selling in the Social Media Era

The Lake Superior Whitefish made the customers smile (in 1994)

The Lake Superior Whitefish made the customers smile (in 1994)

Have you ever wondered how to use social media with your sales force in business to business selling?

While much has been written about selling to consumers using social media, far less has been said about how to sell to businesses, particularly Fortune 500’s, using social media. One of the main reasons is that Sales departments and salespeople seem to be stuck in their familiar ways. They operate much the way they did 25 years ago with only minor differences: Now we have email and PDF’s instead of letters and the US Postal Service…we are not talking huge leaps in modus operandi here!

I still remember my first business lunch at the windowless Berghoff Restaurant in downtown Chicago. My boss, told me to invite the CFO of a manufacturing client who was on the cusp of buying a new voice mail system from us. After a nice lunch of Lake Superior Whitefish, I handed him one of my firm’s brochures on phone systems. He looked at it for a minute or so before agreeing that he should also ask my company to supply a bid for replacing their antiquated phones. I thought to myself, “I love sales!” And so it went for many years and many fine meals. But I think there is a huge change taking place in B2B selling…a change that not everyone is noticing or capitalizing on.

Has your business been wrestling with how to best use social media in B2B selling? In my role at AT&T, I have been working with our sales segments to modernize how we interact with our customers. Specifically, we are discussing how to train our sales force on how to use their personal brands. Here are a few of the ideas we are working on:

1. Social sharing is the new brochure.

Sharing content with customers via a social network is rapidly taking the place of using marketing collateral and even prospect-generating presentations. No buyer has time for all the emails and meetings anymore. They are stretched very thin and time is precious. However, they still become enamoured with the firms and individuals who help them get their jobs done. Reaching these buyers via the public social media they subscribe to is an obvious answer. But just reaching them is not enough either. Sharing useful content is equally important. Here is how it works. A saleswoman who sells Cloud Solutions shares with her network an independent survey about how similar sized companies are adopting Cloud Solutions. On his lunch break, an IT director of one of her customers reads the posting and prints it to use in a meeting with the CIO that afternoon. Once a Cloud strategy is agreed upon that salesperson will be called first. Possibly she will be contacted via the social media she posted on as the buyer associates her with the informative article she placed there.

2. Create influence.

It was said on a Hootsuite/LinkedIn webinar I attended that on average 60% of the buying cycle is completed before a salesperson is even contacted. The vendors who helped form opinions and influenced the buyers were big winners. Other vendors who waited to get on the golf links with the same buyers lost out. One big reason is that buyers have become impervious to email and phone calls. Yet, these buyers still have networks they rely on to form opinions about vendors and technologies. Furthermore, in my industry, IT purchasing is becoming more decentralized. Getting introduced to new department heads who hold budget can be tricky. In both instances the strategy is the same for the sales team: post interesting and usable content and search for, follow and interact with customers on the social sites.

3. Connect with the social media literate today.

There is still a window to very personally connect with executives and vice presidents who are embracing social media at our customers today. These opportunities will close as more and more is done via social media. Striking up an on-line conversation has become the best way to build a relationship. In fact, it is now much easier to do that than trying to create one at a lunch appointment that keeps getting postponed due to workload.

What other tactics are working for your business as you try to modernize B2B selling using social? Why do you think it is taking so long for B2B sales to embrace social media?

How to Develop a Killer Social Media Content Calendar

film script cal

Drafting a killer social media content calendar is definitely time consuming. (If you want successful results) The important part is spending time more time focusing on big picture ideas and less time on formatting. Many social media managers struggle to get started on a content calendar because they worry about how it should look off the bat.

Step 1: Brainstorming ideas

Step away from your computer and find somewhere quiet with no distractions. All you need is a pen and paper. Begin by writing down every single idea that comes to your mind so that you don’t forget anything. These ideas do not have to be in ANY order; just keep writing until your brain hits a brick wall.

Does your notepad look like a schizophrenic mess? Excellent. You’re on the right track. Now it’s time to go back to your computer. Print out a blank calendar template that you can jot down ideas into specific dates. Begin to organize your ideas. Start researching upcoming holidays (official and unofficial) and events relevant to the brand’s industry. How will you engage your community around these events? What type of content should be created to activate your audience? How will you develop viral content around an event to position brand from competition? Which social channels will you utilize?

Different brands will obviously cater to different audiences. As a result, the content calendar should be highly targeted.  See below for an example of a social media content calendar for a celebrity gossip website.

September 2012 Social Media Calendar

Step 2: Developing Themes

When I was a social media for a celebrity gossip website, I researched anything and everything that is relevant to pop culture. For example, upcoming holidays, TV and movie premieres, celebrity birthdays, fashion and beauty trends, music, etc. From there, I developed social media franchises around each campaign. Let’s use the month of March for example.  Beginning my brainstorming list of March themes, I’ve included: Spring, rainbow, colors, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Passover, March Madness, Spring fashion, TV premieres, etc.  From there, I developed a list of topics and questions to ask around each theme.  So far, I know I will be developing Pinterest boards around Spring fashion, emerald green accessories and Easter and Passover recipes. Furthermore, for Twitter, I’ve drafted a list of questions with dedicated hash tags that will drive conversation around all of my themes. On a daily basis, I am aware of the trending topics on Twitter and make sure to utilize dedicated hash tags to categorize and extend my reach. Similarly, I am retweeting and re-pinning influencer content to develop credibility.

Step 3: Ideating Campaigns, Promotions & Giveaways

Giveaways and promotions are an excellent way to encourage user generated content, brand advocacy and expanding social communities. As such, reach out to third party agency contacts to pitch ideas for a giveaway. Why partner? Most likely, you will have little to no money for a social media budget.  After all, if you can execute a successful campaign strategy that is 100% organic, think of the results you could produce if you had a budget!  Once you’ve secured a win-win agreement and swag for my giveaway, you can start planning the promotional strategy. When the vision, copy, timing, rules and messaging are established, run the idea past legal for approval. Once approved, collaborate with the production team to develop powerful promotional images for collateral.

Live Q&As and Google + Hangouts

Two more pieces of content to consider:  A live Q&A session with an industry leader hosted on a brand’s Facebook or Twitter page is a great way to increase engagement and followers.  Furthermore, Google + Hangouts can help your brand grow by:

  • Increasing SEO
  • Driving engagement
  • Launching a new product or service
  • “How to” videos
  • Interviews
  • Internal meetings and training

Step 4: Timing and Frequency

Depending on holidays and events, some weeks will have more content than others. Likewise, it makes sense to plug a promotion or giveaway into a week that’s less busy. Similarly, if you plan to roll out a Pinterest or Instagram campaign, be mindful of how much is on your plate that week.  To avoid working around the clock, there are helpful scheduling tools. HootSuite, Bit.ly and SocialFlow are three social media analytics platforms that enable a user to schedule posts in advance on social media platforms.

Step 5: Measuring Success: Analytics Reporting

Watching the results in growth and also what is popular in content via tools such as Google Analytics will give you valuable information for future editorial ideas. In contrast, you can also measure content that was unpopular and develop a better understanding of your audience.

How to Conduct a Social Media Audit

image for blog post

Have you ever been asked to conduct a social media audit for a client or brand? It can be tough getting started. It’s important to focus on the big picture. First, take a look at the brand’s overall web presence. Take notes on the website, campaign microsites and blogs. Also, to find the number of monthly unique visitors to the site, Compete and Quantcast are helpful measuring tools.

From there, take a look at the brand’s social presence. Which platforms is the brand utilizing or under utilizing? Does it make sense to be on all platforms? For example, while a fashion brand typically receives the majority of site referral traffic from Pinterest – that might not be the same for a pharmaceutical company.  Always put yourself in the mindset of the social platform user. For example, if I logged onto Facebook and noticed a request to “like” a tile company, I would kindly decline. Also, people log on to Twitter to be informed or entertained. As a result, blogs, news and humor handles have the largest following. Moreover, always be mindful of who the brand audience is. Similarly, take the time to understand which content is appropriate per social channel.

Content is King  & Context is Queen

Next, take a look at how many followers, likes or subscribers each social channel has. If the content is high quality, people will share it. Evaluate the brand voice. Is the brand successful in engaging each community? Furthermore, is the brand nurturing its community by addressing fan’s questions and concerns?

Key Performance Indicators

Depending on the industry of the company, there should be specific key performance indicators. Key performance indicators are vital to both reporting on investments and strategic planning in social media. Key performance can be measured in a variety of ways: referral traffic, time spent on the site, fan acquisition, engagement, content sharing, purchases, email opt-ins, downloads, etc. Once KPI’s are defined, you can then define the impact on each social goal. For example, if the goal is referral traffic, evaluate the language used in Tweets and Facebook posts. Did the brand create a call to action that would make the fan click on the link?

Additionally, if the goal of the brand is to maximize engagement on Facebook, take a look at the type of content the brand is posting. Is the brand simply sharing links – or is there a variety of content? To increase “Virality” and “People Talking About This” stats within Facebook Insights, take a look at which posts are getting the most action. You will most likely find that pictures, more than links, receive more shares and likes. Why? Because pictures play on emotions. According to Facebook, posts that include a picture generate about 120% more engagement. Other posts that drive engagement include appeals to nostalgia, humor, sex, quotes and major events. The key is to mix it up. Variety is the spice of life!

Timing, Quality and Quantity of Posts

No one ever wants to be the Facebook user who posts a million times per day. You know, the girl who thinks we all care about her dead hamster, The Bachelor finale, her bad breakup and third paper cut this week? According to EdgeRank, a post is considered dead when the growth in engagement is less than 10% of the largest growth of engagement between hourly snapshots. Furthermore, posting too frequently can be off putting. Don’t be that girl. Moral of the story: Quality > quantity. Pay attention to which times throughout the day your audience is most engaged. Every brand is different. Once you have it figured out, capitalize on it. You’ll come to notice that it’s more about “what time” than “how often.”

Conclusion

The purpose of a social media audit is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a brand’s digital presence. From there, you can address the needs and provide solutions for each social channel. With over 300 networks, it is worth focusing efforts on only the major players relevant to the brand. Finally, through analytics tools such as Google Analytics, HootSuite, Bit.ly, SocialFlow and Facebook Insights, you can measure the performance of each social campaign.

Two Ways to Structure Social Media Teams

Social Media Week 2012 SP

Social Media Strategists at Work

As social media gets broader with more platforms (not just Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instgram) the role of social media become more specialized.  Some media companies have developed separate marketing or audience development groups with others have opted to have editors and writers promote their own content.  Here are two ways to structure the team.

One VP/Head who is responsible for overall traffic growth across title(s) and multiple channels (email, partnerships, search, mobile and social).

Two social media strategists who cover all the platforms and evaluate the most effective approach to driving traffic for your titles.  The most popular platforms include Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.  Their responsibilities include collaborating with editorial to ensure that stories get out in a high quality, timely manner.  This usually involves creating and following monthly editorial calendars for social media based on the overall editorial calendar.  Social media strategists will adjust the story according to platform.  Like being more visual on Tumblr vs Twitter for example.  There are many tools that make distributing content very efficient, Hootsuite is very common.

One metrics/reporting person who tracks traffic based on source, page views, number of stories per session.  This person produces weekly/monthly and should be capable of coming up with a few actionable insights. For example, 85% of our retweets come from 10 followers.

Here is an example of editorial leading social media.

One General Manager who is responsible for all aspects of the title, from website functionality to traffic growth and page views.

One Digital editor who determines the content strategy across the title’s website (or .com) and all the content on tablet/mobile plus relevant social media platforms.  There may/may not be a print element to the content strategy, but that’s a different story

Three or four assistant editors who are responsible for creating and distributing content on the website and across social media.  I’ve seen editors who prefer to develop expertise in select platform, there’s often a divide between Pinterest or Twitter for example.  Assistant editors are responsible for tracking and measuring the results.

Which media companies have excellent communities?

My communities

Communities (Photo credit: steven w)

The key factors to consider include title and brand, type of editorial content, audience and what role you want the community to play for your readers.  Typically, media groups use communities to encourage engagement as measured by time on site and page views.  Communities could also be used to acquire new readers if you add social sharing buttons.  Additionally, communities can be great for advertisers open to different types of sponsorship.

Here are two examples that will help to illustrate how two very different titles approached the idea of community.

The Economist has created an online community based on debates between users on a given topic.  One of their brand values is encouraging “intelligent debates” as a way of advancing ideas, expanding knowledge and combating ignorance.  The format is to have readers discuss a given topic with metrics about which was the audience is going and a guest speaker.  These debates are often sponsored, so a great source of revenue.

Economist Debates: Business and change

Runner’s World has a created several forums that focus on specific issues such as training, gear, tips for beginners.  Their brand is very straightforward, all about running at various levels.   The format is more basic and looks like something from 1995.  That said, the reader participation is not trivial, the beginners’ forum has more than 9m views.  Pretty impressive for a very targeted type of content.

Runner’s World Forum – Home

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