Sales 2.0 – Social Media – Support is the New Marketing

Guest Post: Andy Ridinger of Mural Consulting. In this post Andy Ridinger talks about how the sales process is impacted by Web 2.0 and search – aka Sales 2.0

Remember that chapter in your business textbook about the sales model? It probably looked something like this:


For the most part, this model is still valid. All of these things still happen. The small, yet important difference between then and now is the result of social media, especially with web-centric and Software-as-a-service products. Before, a sales rep would handle just about every step of the process. He would discover new customers, then work with them as they asked questions and evaluated the product, and eventually convince them to purchase the product. As long as you had a good sales team that could connect with customers, you did well. And as long as you kept them supported well enough, they would stay.

Google is the new Account Rep
Fast forward to today. Like I said, these areas are still the same, but now instead of a skilled sales rep interacting with your current and potential customers, you have a computer screen. What do I mean? Well, what did you do the last time you were interested in a particular item or service? You probably looked it up on Google. After you found the company’s website, you probably also looked at the other links your Google search returned, including blog and feedback posts by others who had already used the product. Assuming you were still interested, you downloaded the trial version, installed it, and started playing around with it. You may have even checked out more blogs and message boards to ask specific questions about the product of other users. Finally, you decide you like the product, so you click the activate link, enter your payment info into the site, and purchase the full product.

Sound familiar? Did you notice that you went through the first 3 areas without ever interacting with an employee of the company who makes the product? As many people know, my customer telling you I’m great is much better than me telling you I’m great. The opposite is also true. A company may have a feedback section of their own, but as Bruce Temkin points out in his Bank of America example, you should still look in more than 1 place before drawing your own conclusions.

So customers are more empowered than ever with information about not just your product, but your company and the way you have treated others. Kinda scary. What does it mean?

“I bought it because I use it”
For starters, we’ve moved to a new level of buying. A customer will buy your product because they’re using it and it does what they want, rather than using a product because they bought it. Also, notice the immense impact these changes have on how important the Support area has become. It was always a good idea to keep your customers happy, but now it’s required. You want your customers to become raving fans. Raving fans tell their friends and post blogs and feedback to share with anyone who will listen. They do your marketing for you for free. When a potential customer does that initial Google search, you want them to see the blog posts from your raving fans. If you have angry customers instead of raving fans, guess what that initial search will bring back.

Customer Service is the new marketing.
Companies need to start treating customer service as an investment rather than an expense. The necessary “White Glove” level of service required to create raving fans is more expensive in the short-term, but in the long term you not only spend less supporting current customers, but their free word-of-mouth marketing will help you add more customers.

Without taking away from the importance of Support, let me say that all is not lost with Discover, Evaluate, and Purchase. You still have a chance to make an impact.

Discover: Online marketing is more important than offline marketing. Youtube, Facebook, and Wikipedia have moved into the top 10 most visited sites. If your marketing efforts can’t be found with a search engine, a lot of customers are missing you.

Evaluate: Your micro-site must deliver. The web has kind of given us all ADD. We spend an average of less than a minute on a page, reading fewer than 12 words or so before we decide to click on to something else. Your site and pages need to be focused and do the job they were intended to do. This sometimes means breaking corporate branding guidelines.

Purchase: If someone can buy your product without ever interacting with a human, then they can certainly not buy it that way too. The great blog postings and feedback may have convinced a potential customer to download the trial, but now your product has to sell itself. You must have the best product on the market, and for reasons other than price.

The New Sales Model

When you take into account the changes resulting from Social Media in the world today, the Sales Model looks more like this:

Things have changed, but the new rules allow for many new and exciting ways to grow and enhance your business and marketing strategies. It also means that companies who can’t keep their customers happy aren’t going to do as well as their competitors with raving fans.

Bottom line, customer support is the new marketing. Social media has moved much of the control you used to have from your sales rep to the web. My suggestion is to start with an experience audit. See what it’s like for your customers to deal with you. If it’s not a stellar experience, get some help to make it that way. The best part about the new world of selling is that it runs on happiness. And who doesn’t like to be happy?

Thanks to Andy Ridinger for the post. Andy Ridinger is the Marketing Coordinator for Mural Consulting (www.muralconsulting.com), a specialized team of Software-as-a-Service experts. Prior to working with Mural, Andy was a Marketing Specialist for Microsoft, responsible for the Mid Atlantic Area.

Update: