Social Media Networks: “It’s Not What You Know

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Our discussion around word-of-mouth marketing in one of my recent classes morphed into an “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” debate. Following that line it does appear that more and more individuals (and organizations) are beginning to explore ways to take advantage of social networking in the business world. LinkedIn and Spoke Software are examples of various tools for that purpose. At any rate, the emotions were high and I felt the social networking angle was worth exploring.

Here’s what started the rub. Many of my students have noticed that some companies are taking a close look at their rosters, hoping to pick up connected players that may now be available due to changing economic conditions. The following sound-bites were tossed around … perhaps you have also noticed some of these statements in various job postings:

• “Must bring a rolodex of contacts and prospects …”
• “The candidate should possess high level, current relationships and contacts within …”



You don’t have to read between the lines to understand the thought process here … Rolodex equals Rainmaker. When asked which is more important; paring a knowledgeable process-driven sales person with marketing data (relevant customer information) or picking a player who presents a strong rolodex, many hiring managers will say “both.” Yes, they are both desired. And it would make stockholders cheer, to recruit a great sales person who has a network filled with qualified prospects from your targeted industry that are ready to purchase this quarter. But if you had to favor one over the other, which one would you choose if you were serious about maximizing the impact of your team? It’s a very interesting question if you don’t have a great deal of confidence in your marketing data … or sales process.

As you might expect, the social networking points-of-view presented in class came from several different angles and shades of gray. At one extreme it was believed that uncertainty reigns in today’s business environment and that the rolodex can become outdated before the new player finishes reading their new employee manual. In addition, even if their contacts remain current there is no guarantee the new player will close a quick order from one of their loyal fans. After all, their credibility was established under another team’s banner, and as sometimes happens, loyalties have now shifted to the service or support groups who now keep the solution they originally sold up and running. For this group the rolodex statement came across as a desperate plea for a quick bluebird sale. Of course, anyone who has carried a quota knows the bluebird is indeed a rare bird, especially when it comes to complex solution sales.

In competitively challenging times, all companies want to enjoy the value of having new members of the F-500 (or your desired target market) as their newest clients. And most human beings still make buying decisions by doing business with other human beings they know, like, and most importantly, trust. So, the trend toward social networks does make sense.

What’s your take? How do you view (or use?) social networking as a part of your company’s sales process and/or marketing strategy?

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2 COMMENTS

  1. In this day and age of high technology soical networking is sometimes lost on the use of modern equipments like the mobile phones and the PDAs
    and laptops. For social networking to really work the presence of a sincere desire to know the person in the flesh should be present. Nothing will replace a handshake- the touch, the smell of one’s perfume or cologne, the sound of a voice and laughter, the pleasant sight of a smile. These are the basis for a more effective networking that will help the individual and the organization he represents as well to move in on these contacts at the time it is needed. Without knowing it alumni homecomings are the most effective form of social networking as it goes back to days where they have spent time together without the pressure of the business world. The sincerity of friendship is very evident in this relationships.

    I think that companies should encourage their employees to be active in trade show attendance, homecoming reunions and other trade related functions. This will give the employees the confidence meeting with their competitors, suppliers and co workers in the field.

  2. Victor,
    Yes, there is nothing like face-to-face networking. While at SAS they paid for my American Marketing Association dues in order to encourage networking at local AMA events. Since I attend the Cincinnati chapter with local companies such as P&G, etc you can image the benefits. I’m also impressed with how some companies are reaching out to former employees (alumni!) in order to build networks. Cap Gemini (Cap Gemini Ernst & Young) has an alumni networking site for the purpose of staying in touch with former employees. Great idea … when your former employees land inside companies you would like to build business with it helps to have some “friendly folks” inside. I’ve also noticed how sites like LinkedIn.com, Doostang.com, etc are making it easier for University/College alumni to reconnect.

    Alan See
    Blog: Welcome to Marketing 101

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