The last two posts, an “Open Letter to CMOs” and an “Open Letter to Buyers” have triggered a large number of pretty intense conversations about the frustrations that you’re feeling today around the disruptive impact social media is having on your markets. It’s disruptive, not because of the technology, but because of the impact it’s having on your relationships with your buyers, their perceptions of your organization and their desire to want to begin or continue to do business with you. The fear and the uncertainty that you’ve shared with me is not knowing what impact this disruption will ultimately have on your company’s reputation, revenue, market share, the quantity and quality of the relationships with your buyers, if you were to just continue down the same path you’re on today.
At the same time, even at the point where you commit to taking a buyer-enabled approach to your market, going into 2012 strategic planning, you don’t have a good feel for how to operationalize this, how to integrate this into your organization, how to justify the investments, how to determine what % of your budgets should be allocated to buyer-enabled vs. seller-centric programs, since you simply don’t have any historical data to fall back on.
If we look back on the first “Open Letter to CEOs” at that point we we were trying to address the applications of social within the business. We are now moving into a “buyer-centric” social engagement world, embracing social within a broader context, by orienting and aligning our organization to identify, understand and intimately serve the needs of our buyers, from their perspective, not ours. Evolving into a buyer-centric organization is easy to say, but extremely complex to become. Our teams, our processes, our systems today are seller-centric in orientation. The magnitude of this shift will be felt by our organizations for the next 3-5 years to come.
To begin, let’s look at some of the questions the CEO of a buyer-enabled organization would ask:
- How do we help our buyers decide what the best solution is for them? How do we make sure we are the easiest company to do business with?
- How do we make our buyers’ lives better? Do we help them make the best “fit” decision for them? Do we listen to their needs? Are we transparent in our engagement? Do we meet and exceed their expectations in before, during, and after the sale?
- How do we rationalize our spend from the buyers’ perspective? Are we spending money to market to them or help them realize the best solution for their needs? Do we have confidence in our ability to satisfy the customer if they had an honest comparison?
- Do we understand not only the demographics of who bought from us, but the context of the purchase around what specific problem do we solve for them. In a complex sale, do you understand the motivational differences between the different stakeholders?
- How do we balance our need to reach potential buyers with a message that catches their attention around our solution with the ability to satisfy those who self-identify with the problem, but aren’t yet sufficiently educated to determine what solution options are available to them? How do we leverage our existing market relationships to strengthen are ability to connect with those potential buyers?
To be buyer-enabled, we can no longer silo our engagement with our buyers, as they no longer segment their relationship with us. We are seeing a fusion of marketing, sales, business development, customer care, product management, information technology, etc. through this transformation. The “shiny penny” days of investing in social are over. Without tangible proof of a hard ROI, it will become increasingly difficult for us to secure the funding that we need to support our buyers. But if you focus on them, the revenue they will reward you with will justify this new means to that end.