May 6, 2011

Your Sales Team Could be a Social Media Asset

When most marketers think about social media, their minds almost immediately shift to well-known channels like Facebook or Twitter. They may also ponder concepts like branding, or think through applicable engagement metrics by which to measure success. Particularly business divisions, like public relations or customer service, which have a direct interplay with social media efforts, might also come to mind.

The last thing that most marketers would think of is the sales department, and that's a big miss [...]

While it's easy to dismiss the sales team as a viable channel for amplifying corporate marketing initiatives, there is actually a lot of overlap between these two business divisions, and social media in particular provides a great nexus. Granted, it requires that CMOs and other marketing stakeholders work closely with executives within the sales organization to foster a culture of collaboration, which is often easier said than done, but the long-term ROI potential definitely makes this effort worthwhile. Here are some examples of these points of intersection [...]

1. Create template-driven web and email assets that can be used by sales reps to help share social-media content with both existing customers and prospective customers.

Companies such as Century 21 do a good job of this, leveraging distributed email platforms that provide their field agents with simple-to-use e-mail templates that include "share-to-social" functionality that can be used to spread the word about corporate-marketing initiatives alongside more traditional sales-driven messaging.

A bonus is that these distributed email platforms and templates help ensure that sales agents in the field adhere to branding guidelines when communicating with customers and prospects.

2. Empower individual sales agents by giving them the ability to distribute and promote corporate social-media content.

A prerequisite for this is drafting a corporate social-media-engagement policy that outlines what all employees -- not just the sales team -- can and can't do in terms of engaging with the brand and sharing corporate content via social-media channels.

3. Enlist sales agents to help seed corporate ideation platforms.

An ideation platform can be any kind of platform that fosters feedback to help improve the product or service being offered by the brand. It can be anything from a simple discussion forum to a more sophisticated custom platform geared toward capturing and categorizing feedback by region or demographic profile.

Sales agents are in a unique position in that they have a direct link to customers and prospects and are therefore extremely familiar with the most common patterns of customer feedback (which usually come in the form of sales objections or questions).

If your organization employs local/regional sales reps, provide them with the tools and training that can facilitate the creation of locally targeted web content, and then work with your search team (in-house or agency) to develop a strategy for optimizing said content to rank for local and regional keyword phrases. Often, certain facets of this strategy can be automated or streamlined in a manner that allows for optimization across a wide swath of locally targeted keyword phrases.

CMOs who are interested in making this connection between marketing and sales would be wise to start by working with executives from the sales organization to identify common goals and potential intersection points. Having a two-way dialogue between the divisions and identifying win-win scenarios is a crucial part of the process. Looping in stakeholders from specific marketing departments (search, email/CRM, analytics) wouldn't hurt either, because they can help infuse specific tactical recommendations into the overall strategy.

Lastly, even if you can't find an example of a company in your business vertical that is already having success with one or more of the strategies or tactics listed above, don't be dissuaded from testing and experimenting. More often than not, it's the first brand testing the waters that ends up reaping the biggest ROI in both the short term and the long term.