Monday, April 12, 2010

Social Media Sales Integration Takes Shape

There has been a constant in every new client Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) has signed in the 15 years that I have been hawking public relations and (now) social media marketing services -- the formation of a trust-based relationship.

In any enterprise sales environment, nothing replaces the impact of an experienced, knowledgeable and articulate sales executive who is able to build rapport with a prospect. Speeds, feeds, features, support and pricing all shape the process. Yet, people buy from people and trust is what makes a deal come together.

That's not to say that productivity tools like customer relationship management (CRM), sales force automation (SFA), marketing automation and E-mail marketing software aren't valuable. On the contrary, they bring efficiency and productivity to a sales organization by helping reps answer a critical question each morning, "Who are the most important prospects for me to connect with today?"

Marketing and sales automation applications are data junkies. Every interaction with a prospect -- in-person meetings, phone calls, Emails, white paper downloads, etc. - is captured. This record serves as the guide, providing intelligence to the sales executive so decisions can be made about how to best invest their time.

What about social media? Shouldn't the interactions an organization has with its customers and prospects in online communities and networks be detailed in an automation system?

You betcha...and that appears to be the direction the sales and marketing software vendors are moving. Consider ExactTarget's recent acquisition of Twitter management tool CoTweet. Or how providers like Responsys and StrongMail have unveiled new functionality for integrating E-mail with Facebook and Twitter, as well as mobile marketing campaigns.

And then there is marketing automation leader Eloqua with its technical team dedicated to engineering integration between its software system and a myriad of social environments.

Like the very adoption of social media marketing by organizations, this alignment of sales and marketing automation packages with social media engagement is at the early adopter stage.

Yet, it's taking shape and this paints a bright future for marketers and public relations professionals committed to delivering a more measurable and sustainable return on investment.

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