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Changing the way we engage: why getting social is the key to understanding our clients

Evidence tells us that socially networked organisations – those that use social technologies to engage with their clients and ingrain the social mindset into their business ethos and work processes – are more likely to succeed. There’s a direct correlation between the ability to connect socially and the market share a company enjoys. We’re told that 70% of all businesses already have their toe in the water when it comes to “getting social” – but why go to all the effort?

We talk to sales and marketing strategist Bruce Rasmussen about why embracing social is so important to understanding our clients and joining them on their journey.


Why are things so different nowadays when it comes to engaging with our customers? What has changed?

We now have what we call Buyer 2.0. They’re typically time poor and risk-averse, and they prefer to do their own online research when it comes to buying products. Given they find things differently now, and have different expectations, the traditional sales process doesn’t marry up with this new reality. The customer journey is nothing like how we sell to them (find a suspect, engage with them, show them your wares), and in order to be successful we need to understand how Buyer 2.0 works.

To do that we need to understand what happens when a person experiences the compulsion to buy. People walk around in a state of calm but then something happens to shatter their status quo. Something happens that makes them feel uncomfortable; and no one likes to be uncomfortable.  Perhaps they’ve discover a problem they need to solve – or perhaps they become disappointed with a current supplier. One way to resolve the situation is to buy something to take the problem away. Once the status quo has been shattered, the first thing a person will do is go to Bing or Google and look for people experiencing similar problems (I need a new car; I can’t make payroll.). Once they’ve done this and have given their problem a label they can go about their research, reaching out to peers and experts. Buyer 2.0 is infinitely informed. And one thing’s for sure: when they’re doing their research, the last thing they’re going to do is call up a sales person. They’re going to work out exactly what they think they need, and it’s only when they’re 70% of the way down the buyer’s journey that they’ll reach out. This is a problem for buyers and sellers. What if the buyer has misdiagnosed their own problem? That’s a problem for a buyer because they end up with the wrong solution; and it’s a problem for the seller because the chances are an opportunity has been missed to find the buyer a solution that really does solve their problem.

Time and time again we don’t engage with Buyer 2.0 until it’s too late. Yet if we reach out earlier using our old techniques, the buyer often doesn’t yet feel compelled to buy – their status quo has not yet been shattered. So we need to change our marketing model. All our old marketing methods are intrusive, and people are busy and don’t want to be interrupted. Add to this the fact that people don’t trust sales people and you have a very real problem.

So we need to find a better way of getting in sync with the buyer’s way of doing things and a big part of that is about listening closely to hear when the buyer is starting out on their journey, and then walking along this journey with them. And what better way to do this than through social media?


Once you’ve identified that someone is starting out on the buyer journey, how should you use social media to engage with them?

If you want to engage early, you need to listen hard. Before the internet and social media, this was really difficult to do. Now you know exactly when a person has a problem – they’ll tweet their predicament or post a question on LinkedIn or on a community forum. This is where you need to be. Join their conversation, let them know you have a customer who had a similar problem and offer to put them in touch with them, but – whatever you do – don’t sell to them.

This is where content marketing comes in. A savvy marketer will say “I notice you have this problem” and then give them a ‘10 ways to solve your problem’ document. Buyers will tolerate being given information that could help them; they are happy to be helped to be educated but not sold to. If you can use social media to strike up a meaningful conversation and then help the buyer to make comparisons, show them the options and avoid the pitfalls, you’re on the right track. If you jump in and say “buy this” then you’ve lost them.


What makes people buy?

There are three main reasons why the status quo is shattered. The first sales trigger is that they recognise they’ve got a problem. The second is that they’re dissatisfied with their current provider (often the case with telcos). The third is that when a buyer changes their job they feel compelled to buy something, often to mark out their new territory.


What role does CRM have to play in this picture?

The technologies around social are getting better and better, but there’s a way to go yet before they allow us to behave truly socially in all aspects of our working lives. CRM is a great example of technology that’s embracing social and making it easier to make the social paradigm a native part of our workflows.

Our CRM systems will become a crucial part of us doing justice to the customer conversations that social media facilitates and capturing and using that information. Social media creates lots of data islands – think of your LinkedIn and Twitter data alone – and CRM can help us bring these together, make sense of them and manage them, finding the very specific information we are after, sensing social signals and automatically updating information based on people’s online movements. Within CRM we can be sent alerts as people’s details change, letting us know when a customer’s journey is starting out.

Another thing that needs to change – and CRM plays a part here, too – is that with the Buyer 2.0 it’s not about marketing doing their bit and then lobbing everything over the fence to sales. A lot more nurturing needs to happen, which means making sure the gap between sales and marketing is bridged. We still need to be giving people content and insights, and building their trust, giving them the right content at the right time, even when the sales people are involved.

The thing we need to remember, though, is that social media is about people, not technology. If we don’t truly appreciate why we’re embracing social, there’s no technology in the world that can help us.

Bruce Rasmussen, owner of Carpe Diem Consulting Services is engaged internationally by organisations including Microsoft to build sales and marketing strategies around social media and the new buyer’s journey.

Posted by: Katy Sweetman, Marketing Director, Empired Group | 05 October 2012

Tags: CRM, Social Media, Social, Sales

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