I heard this somewhere: “People like to interact with brands. But more importantly, they like to interact with the people behind those brands”.
Ford is a perfect example here. During 2008 and early 2009, the automobile industry faced unprecedented challenges: demand plummeted and credit became unavailable forcing GM and Chrysler to go on government life support and ultimately file for bankruptcy. During all of this, Ford not only survived without the taxpayer’s money but gained market share from its competitors. So while all companies were aggressively cutting down on costs and working with dealers to increase sales, Ford adopted a slightly different sales strategy. Ford Motors used Social Media to turn their thought leaders into sales people.
And these are some reactions to the video
Scott, you are great. You are an inspiration for me as a marketer. I am even more proud to drive a Ford now! I am really happy that we share similar interests. I followed this conversation on Twitter and I really like the authenticity. Best!
Great post. It is awesome to see big companies like this actively listening to their customers. Very impressed! -Jordan
What a nice video. Alan came across as such a nice person. And…I drive a Ford too (here in the UK). It’s a Ford Focus, and I love it. It’s 8 years old and still going strong – and even manages to sparkle after it’s been cleaned.
From Facebook pages, to blogging, Twittering, YouTubing, Fiesta campaign and Flickring, Ford has been very active with Social Media. And it is showing some results too.
But wait. I didn’t see “sales” in Scott or Alan’s titles. Scott’s title reads the Global “Digital and Multimedia Communications Manager”. Scott’s thinking and approach has been innovative, helping turn critics into believers. In a world where products and services are becoming commodity, Social Media has allowed executives at different levels to interact directly with the customer, building a relationship of trust and drive sales.
Sun Microsystems’ Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz pioneered use of the corporate blog as a tool to reach customers, employees, and others. In Sun’s effort to recover some of the glory and profitability it had in the first Internet bubble, the company has embraced open-source software, adopted servers based on Intel and AMD’s x86 processors. But that posed some challenges. According to Jonathan,
Sun makes money by selling the innovations in data centers, but that’s a hard market to reach. Free software and free ideas are the best way to reach the marketplace. Blogs and open-source software are complementary.
Despite the success of companies like Ford Motor and Sun Microsystems, it is frustrating to see that most companies don’t get it. Firms need to complement the traditional channels (sales team, partners, affiliates, dealer networks etc) with their internal thought leaders to drive sales.
If you are a consulting, agency or professional services firm, your success is defined by the type of people you have. Before a sales meeting or agreeing to sign the contract, your customers are very likely to Google your top executives or practice leads. And what comes up can be the determining factor for your firm landing the million dollar contract.
Here is a 5 step guide to turn your knowledge horsepower into individual brands.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the largest professional network today with close to 50M members. I view LinkedIn as a professional branding page. When you do a Google search on someone’s name, many a times the top result is their LinkedIn profile page. As an organization, you need to make sure that the top 100 executives have their LinkedIn profile updated with their professional experience.In the summary section, it is important to highlight the kind of challenges the particular executive has worked on and how she typically brings value to clients.
- Blogs: With blogs, one of the challenges to keep churning out fresh and relevant content to keep your audiences engaged.My suggestion is to organize and divide the workload. For each practice area within the organization, identify 5 people who are well versed with industry trends and can clearly articulate how those trends will affect your target market. Start with a weekly post with each person responsible for writing one blog post every month.The 5th person comes into use when one person cannot meet the deadlines due to pressing client issues. The post author has responsibility for responding to comments.With fresh content coming via the blogs, your rankings in organic search will improve as well, reducing the need for paid search.
- Twitter: Twitter is a great developing new relationships and keeping existing ones. Look for current and target customers on Twitter and follow them. Follow other thought leaders in your area of expertise to keep current with industry insights.Be Patient and Genuine. Authenticity and willingness to help others goes a long way in building relationships. Don’t just promote your own products and services.Use Angela Maiers’ 70-20-10 Twitter Engagement Formula. Be purposeful and intentional as you enter the Twittersphere. As you “Twiv to Twet” (give to get) and move away from self-promotional tweets, consider this tweeting engagement formula.a. 70% of your tweets should share resources- sharing others’ voices, opinions, quotes, blog posts, articles, content and resources. But that doesn’t mean you should rwtweet everything because you “need to communicate”. Be fresh, be thoughtful.
b. 20% of your tweets should engage in conversations with others, responding, connecting, collaborating and connecting with others.
c. 10% of your tweets can be chirping, chitchat as Angela calls it, on trivial details or self-promotion.
You can use Twitter to keep your audience engaged and direct them (10% self promotion) to your website or blog.
According to Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace:
Twitter has been a fantastic vehicle for getting information about Communispace into the marketplace fast. Most recently, for instance, when Communispace launched its new blog, Verbatim, I sent a tweet out about it, and more than 1,000 people came to our blog as a result.
- Communities: Once you have a steady stream of followers on your blog and Twitter pages, it is useful to turn those interactions into an ongoing relationship. At this point, you should think about developing communities on different topics of interest. To maintain strong ties with the community members, it is a good idea to limit the size of the community.For some more reading on developing communities, please read
a. Size does matter: the secret sauce to building online communities
b. Online banking: communities help meet psychological needs (though this is for the banking industry, some of the insights are relevant)
- Develop a 3rd Party Sales Team: As you start connecting with other thought leaders within your subject area on Twitter/Your Blog/Your Community, start developing a relationship with them by subscribing/commenting on their blog.Give the relationship time to mature. When the time is right, in a subtle way, engage the influencers by offering them demos and opportunities to review products and services.
Last but not the least, there is no substitute to human interaction. Take some of these online relationships into the offline world. Whenever you are traveling, try and meet someone from your online world for a beer or lunch.
So go out, turn your thought leaders into sales people.