Social Selling is the coordination of Social Reps and Sales Reps to manage the qualification and hand-off of social media prospects in a way that doesn’t undermine your brand experience. Sales Reps convert water flowing over the dam into revenue. Social Reps focus on making sure there’s always a steady supply of water behind the dam.
I had the good fortune this week to spend several days talking shop with a group of high-tech business owners and principals. The event was a summit among the top partners of a large IT manufacturer, looking ahead and developing plans for 2015. My role was to talk about social media tools and techniques that might help these business leaders grow their markets.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been interviewing channel marketing executives and managers about the challenges they face growing partner revenue. The interviews are the first step in an industry benchmarking survey we’re working on at SocialRep, in an effort to understand challenges and best practices in partner enablement, sales acceleration and performance management.
For businesses that rely on partners to promote and sell their products, marketing is rapidly becoming a critical strategic risk. The more technology migrates to the cloud, the more it disrupts old partner business models. Reliable partners who generated sales yesterday may not be the partners driving sales tomorrow, putting millions of dollars in channel revenue at risk.
If you’ve ever managed a big project you know many little things can go wrong on the way to that moment of truth when you hope, ultimately, everything goes right. If you’ve managed a lot of big projects, you know how painful it can be when that ultimate moment of truth blows up in your face. In business, big projects are a part of daily life. We make products, we launch campaigns, we engineer production processes. Big money is at stake, as well as careers and companies. So how do you avoid falling flat on your face?
There’s been a stream of negative posts about social media in B2B circles lately—a marketer’s lament that social isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It sucks your time. It doesn’t deliver results. Everyone is so fake. In fact, social media is anti-social, replacing real friendships with artificial ones. Let’s all cancel our Facebook accounts and stop this life-sucking abomination, as if the loom might be broken.
Have you ever stopped to consider the terminology of marketing, and how it both reflects and affects the way we think about our relationship with customers? Marketing activities are organized as campaigns (often launched with advertising air cover) which focus on targets for the sales force to acquire. These terms are not only militaristic, they betray an attitude of control over customer and channel relationships that is an artifact of a bygone era. Businesses no longer control relationships the way they once did, and channel managers and marketers needs to adapt.
The new world of channel marketing is inbound over outbound—instead of putting a target on the backs of customers for partner sales team to hunt, you help partners attract customers with relevant content that addresses their interests and needs. You do that by enabling partners to engage with the market, cultivating peer connections, collaborating with influencers and driving dialog with customers.
Over the past several years, inbound marketing has grown to be one of the most influential approaches to modern marketing. Inbound marketing addresses a number of key challenges in marketing today, most notably the need to engage with customers in a more productive and sustainable way. Although inbound marketing has been growing by leaps ands bounds among both B2B and B2C businesses, it hasn’t yet taken hold in the channel, largely due to the challenges of scaling quality content for a distributed network of partners. Bits and pieces of inbound marketing have been adapted for the channel, such as social media syndication and content curation, but it’s high time for a true Inbound Channel Marketing solution.
Twenty years ago when I was a couple of years out of college and dreaming up my first startup, the commercial Internet was just getting off the ground. I worked as a news editor and journalist at a mid-size daily newspaper and had access to the Internet through a Mosaic browser, where I could read the first online newspaper called The Nando Times. All of the market analysis at the time focused on content business models for the web, which is when I first heard the old saw “Content is King”. Twenty years of mind-bending evolution later, we’re still saying the same thing as if learning it for the first time. It’s time to move on.
One of the most common refrains I hear among marketing solution providers in the channel is that any kind of partner marketing initiative must be blindingly simple for partners to execute. If you require partners to do so much as press a button from time to time, that may be too much to ask. God forbid you ask your partners to put some effort into their campaigns. The ideal scenario is for your partner to just open their mouth so your automated message can tumble out.