Engaging Your Customers with Social Business Software
Rare is the company in 2014 that does not utilize social media to engage its customers and peers. Recent research from Oxford reported by Examiner.com suggests that 40 percent of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) expect social media campaigns to drive revenue growth over the next three years. Even rarer is the company whose employees are not utilizing social networks and leveraging the interoperability offered by social business software and the infrastructure of service providers at low or no cost in their personal lives. These two data points sing opportunity for SMBs to connect directly with businesses or individual consumers and to do it with an adroit and fully connected workforce. That is, of course, if the IT infrastructure is in place to make it happen.
Customer relationships are not made overnight; they require an investment of both time and resources. This includes input from not only the individual account manager or full-on engagement teams but also the marketing and social media engagement teams. In all instances, the advantage will lie with the team that is the most adroit. Adroitness requires thorough and complete knowledge of the customers' needs and wants.This center of knowledge is best achieved through the use of appropriate customer relationship management (CRM) tools that allow the engagement team to communicate with customers in the same way in which they are already communicating with one another, using the tools available at little or no cost. When the IT infrastructure at midsize firms provides familiar capabilities to the workforce, the ability to engage as one in the customer interaction is enhanced.
In a recent piece from VentureBeat that reports data from Forrester Research, great emphasis was placed on the need to utilize social business software that allows firms to provide a more relevant user experience. Similarly, the ability to unite the brand across all the various social network channels through which the company wishes to engage customers provides unity of message and, perhaps more importantly, a "holistic view on the customer." The piece highlights the reality of the connected consumer, undeniably producing more complex paths to purchase for every company. There is no avoiding this engagement, with more than half of "U.S. adults [expecting] some sort of social marketing experience online." Those firms that do engage enhance their opportunity to increase customer loyalty.
IT Is the Partner
Midsize firms must choose whether to build or buy the social business software to support these engagements, and this is where the IT team shows up at the table as a full partner. The ability to engage customers requires technology concordance such that the engagement team has the potential to manufacture a user experience that leverages existing data sets. Similarly, the ability to harvest the data on user behavior from the IT infrastructure will go a long way toward the successful implementation of analytics-driven solutions.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.