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Incorporating social media into a sales and marketing plan continues to be a high priority for businesses of all sizes. But few have thought very hard about managing these initiatives.
As Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported, “In a classic case of ‘ready, fire, aim,’ companies are committing resources to social media efforts with very little process behind them. The result? A hodgepodge of unrelated initiatives, wheels reinvented and resources wasted.”
Thank goodness for strategic thinkers like Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, analysts at Forrester Research. The two analysts summarize an efficient and cost-effective means of putting social media tools to work in their latest book, “Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers and Transform Your Business.”
“Empowered” is proving to be the word of year in sales and marketing -- and will continue to be for years to come. Whether you make a living in the consumer goods and services world or in the business-to-business arena, your customers are more empowered than ever with technology that enables them to compare prices, share opinions and more.
The same technologies that empower your customers are available to your employees. And from Bernoff’s and Schadler’s experience, almost every company has workers who are skilled at building solutions, applications and systems that will transform a business. The question, they say, is will you let them?
You must, the authors argue. To succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve customer problems.
Bernoff and Schadler contend that every company has highly motivated workers who are eager to take technologies into their own hands and create solutions to customer problems. The authors call these workers Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives -- or HEROes.
“The job of a HERO is to find ways to boost the business by connecting with empowered customers,” the authors say. They summarize three ways HEROes can maximize their impact:
- Focus on customers. The closer you get to making customers more empowered and happier, the easier it will be to justify your project. When calculating the impact of your project, it’s customer value that will keep you profiting.
- Let information flow. Consider new forms of communication or better ways to put customers in touch with helpful information. If you improve information to empower customers or customer-facing staff, you’re probably on the right track.
- Determine the real ROI. Assess both your level of effort and the value you’ll be producing. This will help clarify the ways you can prove that your project is worth it.
“It’s harder than you think,” the authors warn. “HEROes learn about groundswell technologies and want to harness them, but rarely realize just how disruptive they may be to organizations. What looks easy turns out to be hard. We tell you this, not to scare you, but to encourage you to prepare for adversity -- political, technical and personal -- because that’s what completing a HERO project nearly always means.”
The authors created a HERO Project Effort-Value Evaluation tool that can help you determine if the value of a project falls in line with the effort required.
Want more on empowering your employees? Check these out:
What does a HERO project look like?
In “Empowered,” Bernoff and Schadler recount the story of Rob Sharpe, head of sales training at Black & Decker. Sharpe was charged with educating the internal sales team that would sell complex Black & Decker products to retailers as big as Home Depot and as small as local mom-and-pop hardware stores.
Sharpe had always relied on creating Microsoft PowerPoint slides and assembling the sales team in a 17,000-square-foot workshop outside of Baltimore to run them through new product demonstrations. However, he had a hunch there was a better way to accomplish this task.
Inspired by the incredible popularity of YouTube, Sharpe persuaded the company’s IT group to set up a video server for uploading videos. Then he armed the sales staff with low-priced equipment to make their own product videos.
An amazing thing happened. Sales team members began creating their own training materials documenting their challenges, product features, and solutions that worked in sales situations. One team member submitted videos of competitors’ products, highlighting their weaknesses in a highly visual way that other salespeople could really relate to.
Since then, videos on the Black & Decker server have attracted hundreds of views from Black & Decker workers, including more than half of the sales force. New staffers watch the videos before even coming to the training center. Training that used to take two weeks now takes one.
Paul Nolan is editor of SalesForceXP magazine, a bimonthly publication that provides sales managers with insights for getting “Xtra Performance” from their sales teams.
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