Socializing Solutions: Four Priorities for Solutions Marketing and Sales

There's little doubt any more that social media can play an important role in marketing B2B solutions. But exactly how that should happen is less clear. Although some solutions firms have engaged with social media for years now, many more are just beginning to take it seriously and explore what might work.

According to a recent ITSMA study of large technology and consulting firms:
  • Only half of large B2B tech firms have an established program to monitor online conversations about their company.
  • Only one third of the companies have identified internal subject matter experts and assigned them to engage with customers and others in online social conversations.
  • Only half of the companies have a well organized process for disseminating content through social media channels.

Further, in all three of these areas, most of the companies with such a program in place have implemented it only within the past year.

Not surprisingly, many solutions marketers are wondering what types of initiatives make sense, how they should organize, and how best to measure the impact of their efforts. The pace of change with social media is overwhelming, and the array of options seemingly endless.

From our perspective here at Solutions Insights, the proper starting point is your solutions strategy. Focusing on core priorities for solutions can provide essential guidance for what types of social media initiatives might be appropriate.

For many solutions companies, those priorities include: identifying new opportunities, creating compelling offers, strengthening customer connections, and accelerating the sales cycle. If these are your priorities, a social media strategy for solutions might look something like this:

Using social tools and processes such as crowdsourcing and innovation jams to identify customer challenges and potential solutions faster and across a broader range of constituents
Using collaboration tools and online communities to maximize customer involvement throughout the offer development process to ensure alignment with customer needs
Using listening tools, blogs, Twitter, communities and other social tools and channels to build trusted relationships by providing ongoing customer education and support
Using internal communities and collaboration tools to assist the sales force with faster and easier access to essential resources and subject matter experts

The point, of course, is that social media is a means, not an end. It can be awfully tempting to just jump into the social media waters. But "let's set up a YouTube channel and get a bunch of people on Twitter" is hardly a recipe for solutions success. Social media can indeed play an important part as companies look for new ways to generate growth and maximize results with limited resources, but only if strategy comes first.

For more on tapping the power of social media for solutions marketing and sales, including our four-phase approach to building an integrated, sustainable program, check out our new Point of View report, Socializing Solutions: Tapping Social Media for Solutions Success.

From our perspective here at Solutions Insights, the proper starting point is your solutions strategy. Focusing on core priorities for solutions can provide essential guidance for what types of social media initiatives might be appropriate.

Socializing Solutions: Four Priorities for Solutions Marketing and Sales

Comments (3)

by
Jorge Armida

I agree with the author, I got to accept that social media is developing a new way to increase sales in a digitalized world. The only aversion in this critical strategy is that now customers can start talking and grading the product that they just bought giving an instant insight. This could be beneficial for our sales or critical for us if our customer is unhappy with what they just acquired. Customers insights through social media will be the next way to develop thoughts about a product or a service. This is something that companies should have in mind.

by
Robert Bailey

Social media has proven to be a great boon for those that have figured out how to maximize its potential. Because of this, it would be very difficult to say that it is not a strategy that B2B companies should be trying, but in regards to selling solutions, I am struggling to see the connection. As the author said, you can't just set up a Youtube or Twitter and instantly start getting business out of them. With that being said, I can't imagine a scenario where a Twitter or a Facebook could EVER be of service for a solutions company. Solutions are far too complex to try and make strong selling points with the 140 characters of a Twitter account. The only option would be for something like a Youtube where you could have a video that would be able to explain it. But how would a company be able to effectively target a market with something like that? Solutions aren't products and thus should not be sold or advertised like them. There are not a lot of benefits in my mind to using social media as a tool for high level solutions marketing. Are there any examples that can prove otherwise? I would really like to check them out.

by
Jeremias Koch

Whereas the role of social media in B2C is becoming more and more clear and a lot of experiences are already made, B2B companies still seem to struggle with the use of it. Maybe companies still don´t know where, how and what social media platforms can be used. But also the potential benefits don´t seem to be clear. In my opinion, three big cases can be made for using social media in a B2B and especially a solutions world. 1. Start client conversations through pull marketing and thought leadership Today’s procurement managers and executives become more sophisticated and educate themselves about what is out there in the market. They use all kinds of online media increasingly and often make decisions about which suppliers to consider for a possible solution (equally service/ products) based on online available material long before they actually contact potential providers. Therefore, in order to be even considered, you have to be out there and be found. Social media can be a great tool for your pull marketing strategy. It can be used to show thought leadership in a particular area, to give confidence, support your brand awareness, and just to engage in conversations with potential clients. YouTube videos, but also spreading new insights, case studies, white papers, or engaging questions via relevant LinkedIn or Twitter channels can increase awareness and interest in your solutions as well as generate actual leads. 2. Listen to the voice of your customers People love sharing their experiences, and that's especially true for negative ones. Social media (again especially LinkedIn Groups, Twitter, but also individual specific blogs, forums) is used to articulate these experiences. Therefore, companies who have systems in place to actively listen to these voices can generate more customer insights, analyse where potential needs/ problems lie and see what needs to be improved in existing offerings. Social media as a tool for market research will become increasingly important. 3. Internal communications Internal alignment and collaboration across business units and individual functions is especially important in the world of solutions. Social media can support this. It is able to engage people across an organization in conversations; they can share ideas, and learn from each other’s experiences. Also, it can simply provide a platform to share news/ developments within an organization. Within Siemens there is for example the saying “If Siemens knew what Siemens knew” - and it doesn´t come from somewhere. Redundancies and unutilized knowledge are the logical implication of this. Internal communications becomes more and more challenging. Solutions companies can use social media to share knowledge and simple news across the whole organization and break down the traditional silos.