Have You Given Your Employees Permission to Use Social Media?
By Chris Koch, ITSMA
Social media is moving up the demographic ladder, zeroing in on the sweet spot for B2B marketers: the 35-49 age group. A report from Nielsen confirms it. That new friend of yours on Facebook may control a multimillion-dollar IT budget.
The demographic change is driving a new wave of newbies inside corporations to look at social media. Because this second wave is likely to be more influential inside the company and with customers than the first, twentysomething-based one was, it’s worth looking at the way B2B marketers should position themselves with employees—since, in our research, social media policy falls to marketing and PR.
There are some important prerequisites that need to be in place if marketing is going to be able to serve as a source of information about social media to employees—and be thought of as a competent manager of the organization’s social media presence. I see two big prerequisites:
Know what your employees are doing with social media. Responsibility for what employees are saying about the company will eventually make its way to marketing, so marketing needs to find out what employees are doing with social media. Think of yourself as a venture capitalist rather than a cop (though every company should have a social media policy). Seeing how social media happens organically among employees can give you important insight into potential new thought leaders, as well as a handy test population for gauging which tools employees are most comfortable with and, therefore, which ones might be best for integrating into conversations with customers.
Create permission. Having a set of social media guidelines is important, but those guidelines should be simple and shouldn’t patronize employees with a lot of detail. The policy should demonstrate trust in employees rather than trying to CYA. Rather than saying, “Don’t lie,” say, “We ask that employees conduct themselves as they would in any business situation—with honesty, integrity, discretion, and respect for their audience.” That’s about all you need. Companies should also ask employees to post a disclaimer on their blogs and offer suggested language for it, but they should not punish those who fail to do so.
IBM created its social media policy through social media—a wiki. It could be much more concise, but it offers a model for all the issues you need to consider and is written in a clear, nonthreatening tone. If you have employees who are already blogging, bringing them into the policy creation process will add credibility; just make sure legal doesn’t rewrite it after you’re done.
However, permission isn’t just about setting rules. It’s also important to demonstrate permission through action. The CEO should blog to employees, and a few top thought leaders and subject matter experts should start their own personal blogs to set the tone and demonstrate that the corporate culture is ready to give up the iron grip of control over the conversation, both internally and with customers. A few showcase social media examples from important individuals inside the organization will energize others and help demonstrate the kind of dialogue that matches the culture of the organization. Customers buy from you because of who you are as an organization as well as because of the products and services you offer. So, the tone of your social media communications should match your organizational personality.
You also need to get permission from IT. Again, we don’t mean permission in the literal sense—there are plenty of ways to get around IT with social media. But social media is not very secure. So, involve IT in planning your social media strategy. Don’t let IT dictate what employees can and can’t do with social media (they may want to ban it altogether), but collaborate with the IT leader on policy and keep him or her informed about what employees are doing. Remember that many of these tools start within the IT community, so IT can be a great source of advice and a bellwether for new trends.
To comment on this piece and to check out more content on social media strategy for marketers, go to my blog.
Use Marketing to Reduce the Cost Per Order Dollar
By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA
When companies face economic hardship, they rightly obsess on reducing costs and finding new sources of revenue. The knee-jerk reaction of cutting marketing and putting more “feet on the street” to increase sales would seem to make sense.
However, those who understand the power of marketing know that marketing creates sales leverage. Although marketing will never replace sales, it can replace certain steps in the sales process, thus freeing sales to be more productive.
The sales process is labor intensive. The sales relationship is one to one, and therefore the coverage model is thin. Sales resources are expensive. Marketing, on the other hand, is more highly leveraged. Even with the newer, more effective targeted marketing strategies, marketing is one to many or one to few.
What’s more, the sales role has changed significantly in recent years. Previously, salespeople were lead generators, information providers, and order takers. Today the best salespeople need to be trusted partners and consultants. This is where marketing comes in.
Marketing can increase sales efficiency by reducing the cost per “order dollar.” For example, if it costs sales $10,000 to book $50,000 in revenue, the cost per order dollar (CPOD) is $0.20, or $0.20 in sales costs for every dollar of revenue. Now imagine that marketing is able to fill the pipeline with higher-quality leads and shorten the sales cycle by helping to move prospects more quickly from one stage to the next. With marketing’s help, sales costs to book that same $50,000 in revenue could be reduced by perhaps 50%. At a sales cost of $5000, the CPOD is reduced to $0.10. Better yet, with a shorter sales cycle, salespeople will spend less time pursuing each prospect and will be able to increase their coverage.
In an economic downturn, when management is worried about hitting revenue targets and saving jobs, this ratio is the key to unequivocally demonstrating the power of marketing to improve the efficiency of sales. What senior management has to understand is that spending money on marketing has the potential to both improve revenue generation and reduce the cost of sales as a percentage of revenue.
This, then, is marketing’s value proposition:
Effective marketing reduces the sales cost per order dollar.
A word often associated with a downturn is correction. A down economy affords the opportunity to fine-tune marketing initiatives by reallocating the budget to invest in high-potential programs and eliminate those that deliver subpar results. It is all about making trade-offs. Marketers, faced with moderate to severe budget constraints, need to examine whether they are spending their limited dollars in the right places and on the right things. They need to spend on the strategies, programs, and tactics that will have the greatest impact on reducing the CPOD ratio.
ITSMA believes that this is the way that marketing can amplify its impact on the business during these challenging times.
Want to know the best ways to reduce CPOD? Read the full report here.
Julie Schwartz is ITSMA’s senior vice president of research and thought leadership.
Case Study: How CSC Integrated Strategic Marketing into the Portfolio Management Process
By Chris Koch, ITSMA
When marketers complain about poor alignment with the business or being treated like a support function, their frustration is often that they are excluded from discussions about the future strategic direction of the company—and from the planning process that determines the portfolio of products and services designed to fulfill that strategic vision.
It seems a simple truth but one that many businesses still haven’t learned: Portfolio management and strategic marketing groups can provide great business value—but only when they are intimately linked to the selection of the products and services that receive investment dollars.
Professional services company CSC understands the importance of these linkages. Strategic marketing is integrated into CSC’s portfolio management process from the beginning. Indeed, CSC’s Corporate Portfolio Management Group, known as Global Service Offerings (GSO), which orchestrates the strategic marketing activity across the organization, plays a role in shaping and selecting investment ideas, from inception all the way to rollout.
“Many times, companies put together their portfolios and then, at the end of the process, they throw it over the wall to marketing and say, ‘Here, make a silk purse out of this,’” says Brigid Quinn, the GSO global portfolio director for CSC. “But now we get involved at the front end, and we are working with a matrixed team from across the organization doing strategic marketing—market analysis, client analysis—to put more rational thought and strategic intent into how we will develop our portfolio. Of course, we’re still creating sales collateral and all the things that marketing traditionally does. But it’s no longer our starting position. We are involved at the front end, in the strategic thought and logic, so we can start shaping the messages earlier and we can figure out how the portfolio all fits together. So by the time we get to doing the collateral, we can do it more effectively and easily.”
And with more credibility. Part of businesses’ reluctance about “inviting marketing to the table” is that it’s not clear what they will receive in return for giving up the elbowroom. In CSC’s case, it’s clear: They can evaluate their solutions from a portfolio perspective and have someone to manage the long and difficult process of developing the overall product and service portfolio.
Though GSO doesn’t have the final say in the portfolio choices, it plays an important role. “When we’re determining what to pursue, portfolio management provides marketing input into that decision,” says Lem Lasher, president of Global Business Solutions and the Office of Innovation for CSC. “GSO is involved right up through making the business case. Then they kind of back off as it goes into development, and then when it comes out of development, they take it and run with it in terms of positioning and publicizing it.”
Sounds simple, but the execution is anything but. Building a successful portfolio management process is difficult enough, but building support for and participation in the process in a company as large and diverse as CSC takes years. As CSC has discovered, for the portfolio management function to provide strategic marketing input and take a key role in planning and portfolio management, it needs to establish the senior executive relationships necessary to gain entry into the process, get funding for finding and investing in new ideas, and become change management experts to get skeptical businesspeople to support it.
Learn how CSC created its integrated portfolio management process here.
Ask ITSMA: How Do You Establish Credibility With Sales Prospects?
By Julie Schwartz, Senior Vice President, Research and Thought Leadership, ITSMA
Each month, ITSMA receives a number of queries through Ask ITSMA, a resource designed to give program clients a quick and easy way to get insight on important services and solutions marketing questions they face. In this column, we will publish some of our favorite questions along with excerpts from our replies.
What do you suggest I do to establish credibility with sales prospects?
Let’s start with establishing your company’s credibility at the personal level. Prospects are looking for account managers who are sincere, avoid hyperbole, and make a genuine effort to understand the prospect's business and creatively apply technology and solutions to resolve business problems. In addition, account managers need to plan and structure their interactions so that each one adds value for the prospect. The guiding principle here is to make the goal of each interaction mutual discovery, not a hard sale.
In terms of establishing credibility for your company via marketing, prospects still value case studies above all else. One of the vehicles that CIOs say most catches their attention is when a vendor and customer present together at a seminar/conference (and are willing to stay and answer questions together after the presentation). Hearing the customer live is very powerful, as is the fact that he or she is willing to be seen together on stage with a provider. That implies a strong bond and a trusting relationship between the customer and the provider.
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