The leaf peepers are out. New England, as happens this time of year, is awash in color and the tourists are here in droves. It drives some to Burlington and it lures some to North Conway. The Duckboats in Boston are jammed. Mystic is still attracting visitors even if they have to wear a light jacket while dockside. Cruise ships are lining up in Portland to discharge passengers into the Old Port. Portland, Maine we are talking about here, not Charlotte Amalie or Nassau.
Fall foliage time brings folks to New England and the tourism dollar pours in. In some of our states here it is the # 1 industry. But, a misconception surrounding this is that tourism is a consumer industry only. The New England economy swells this time of year, but the benefits are very broad. When those 17 story floating cities cruise into the Portland Harbor, many businesses kick into high gear, not just the trinket shops and restaurants. Business to Business activity also thrives as a result of the loss of chlorophyll in our leaves.
I am finding a similar misconception coming into play with the emergence of Social Business. Many within the CRM industry believe that the growing Social CRM scene is limited to B2C, but that is a myopic perspective. The power of Social Technology spans both universes and is ready for serious B2B exploitation.
Part of the problem with the misconception is that virtually all business folks’ experience with Social Platforms is from the perspective of a consumer. They have interactions primarily with B2C selling – they have not yet had a chance to receive an offer as a business person or get help as a business product user while within a Social Platform. That will be changing.
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Another problem with the misconception that Social Business is limited to B2C is from those cloud vendors who are trying to sell their Social Technology. One key sales tool is the case study. Unfortunately the preponderance of Social Business examples is limited to consumer buying. It is perpetuating the myth and limiting the market. We need more stories about how and why the social B2B thing works.
Social Business Technology provides companies with the ability to reach their customers using a new and growing channel, the Social Platforms where so many prospective buyers and users are engaging. Social Business does not replace the marketing function, the sales force, or the customer service center. Rather, it gives each of those functions more reach – it helps them engage with customers and prospective customers where they are being active. There are current successes today and even greater potential for the future. For example:
Customer Service Experience – today in cyberspace users of business products are engaging with their peers on the use and adoption of those products. Physicians are discussing procedure difficulties regarding stents and titanium hip sockets. Engineers are discussing the use of reflective windows in skyscrapers and issues with solar gain. Human Resource Managers are discussing their challenges with insurance claims and benefits management. Customer service contact centers have the ability to monitor those discussions and offer point-of-discussion insight to help with resolution. Some contact centers are already employing these tools for improving the customer experience.
New Business Prospecting – likewise, there are business shoppers out there on the Social Sites performing inquiries and getting advice from their business peers. New technology enables sales professionals to monitor those activities of folks within their patch and reach out when the time is right with an offer to help answer some of their product related questions. Those discussions at the point of inquiry are bringing new business into the sales pipeline for companies utilizing these new tools.
Brand Management – going one step further, there is more ability today to both advance the brand and protect it from social erosion. It is common today for companies and trademarks to be named specifically when inquiring or ranting. Marketing functions now have the tools to monitor these social conversations as they take place. Depending on the situation, offers can be made when the conversation is focused on inquiry, or defense can be the action when the conversation becomes destructive. Companies that have started using these tools are attracting new prospects and helping to protect brand value.
What we need now is for more success stories involving these new capabilities to come out. As examples of effective B2B Social Technology wins become more mainstream, the misconceptions will fade and even more focus will be given to the real power of Social Business.