TALKING SALES 148: "Business strategy before social media strategy"

John Smibert

social-strategy-bigstock-businessman-pressing-modern-so-25560365               "Let's try social media - we'll worry about strategy later!!!!" - Interview with John Smibert

It drives me mad to see so called social media gurus teaching people how to implement social media solutions, but never ask; "What is your business goals and strategy?"

There are many questions that should be asked first.  "What is your vision - your objectives?" "What are you trying to achieve?" What problems are you trying to solve?" "What's your unique promise of value?" "What are your target audiences?" - and so on.

My view is that it is essential to have a understanding of the answers to all these questions, and more, before planning and engaging on social media and attempting 'social selling'. Otherwise at best you will fail - at worst you will damage your brand.

Adam FraserWith this in mind I asked Adam Fraser to provide his view on what a good enterprise social media strategy entails.

Firstly he affirmed that it needs to reflect the broader business objectives and strategy.  Too often companies implement a social media program without aligning it to these.

Adam then went on to describe the various components of an enterprise social media plan and the sort of things that need to be considered to ensure it's success.

He also outlines what sort of technology and media channel decisions that need to be made and what that entails. We finish with an interesting discussion on personal branding and social selling.

If you are working on, or struggling with,  a social media and/or social selling plan for your organisation - or for you individually - I encourage you to read or view the interview below to learn more.


Adam Fraser is the founder of Echo Junction who help organisations and businesses leverage value from marketing and social media technology.


John: Hello, I've got Adam Fraser with me again - welcome back, Adam!

Adam: Thanks a lot, John!

John: Adam, I know you, like me, are very much in favour of making sure we have good strategy in place when it comes to social media, when it comes to personal branding, whatever it is, but making sure that we think through our strategy first.

Adam: Absolutely. Too often, John, I hear people say, "I need a Facebook page," or "I should be on LinkedIn," and they're not thinking about what are you trying to achieve from a business point of view first.

John: It drives me mad to see all those LinkedIn gurus out there teaching people how to build a profile on LinkedIn, and they never ask them once, "What is your strategy?" or "What is your vision? Who are you? What is your authentic self? What's your unique promise of value?" All those things you really have to have a good understanding of, before you ever go out on social media and start talking to your wider target audience.

Adam: I think that's right. I mean, John, in an earlier conversation we were talking about don't buy technology for the sake of technology, think about what your business objectives are. It's the same with social media; don't just launch into social media for the sake of it because you've heard other people doing it. What are your business objectives, what are your marketing and sales objectives? Then your strategy will come from that.

social-strategy-4-cartoon-700x504John: Now, you I know talk about, at an enterprise level, having a social media strategy. What do you mean at the enterprise level? Then I'd like to come back to talk about sales and salespeople and what they need to do to leverage that and build their own.

Adam: Yes. John, again, I even go one step removed from a social media strategy. It's really important to understand the broader business objectives. Is it acquiring new customers? Is it the lead funnel? Is it retaining customers for longer? Is it attracting employees? Is it just general authority and thought leadership? Is it just customer service? There's a whole range of reasons a business may want to be on social media. It's very important to find your business objectives, your broader corporate strategy, and then think about how social media can help you achieve those goals.

John: Now, if any enterprise is doing a good job, they've got an enterprise strategy anyway. But what you're saying is, assuming they've got that, that when you're going to look at social media, let that corporate strategy then influence and drive your social media strategy.

Adam: Correct. The different social media platforms have very different psychologies and different types of behaviour that are typically on them, so the message someone wants to receive on a LinkedIn is very different to their mindset when they're on Facebook, similarly Twitter has a different use case and so forth and so forth.

social-strategy-business-iceberg-shopfront-and-strategyJohn: Okay, so you build the strategy. What sort of things would a social media strategy entail?

Adam: Oh, again, which platforms you're on, what type of services you're offering there. I think we talked earlier that hard sales messages typically go down very badly on social media. Is it customer service? If it's customer service, there's a whole range of business processes that will be impacted, as well as the type of tools you use and the type of platform you'll be on. So, again, John, it really will depend on what your objectives are.

John: Right. But I'm assuming you don't just go out and say, "Well, we're going to run a strategy around Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever." You think about your strategy and your target audience and how you want to get to those, the process and so on, then you think about which platforms are best put this on after you've thought that strategy through.

Adam: Correct, there's a number of channels. You'll still be doing other sales and marketing activities more broadly across the corporation, so it's important that your social media strategy dovetails with that. As you rightly say, where is your audience? There's no point being on Pinterest if you're a B2B sales organisation focused on IT.

John: Now, of course my interest is in B2B sales, so I'm talking to sales directors, sales leaders, managers and professional salespeople. All of those, in my mind, right down to each individual, should have a social media strategy, and obviously they need to all align all the way up through the chain. Do you see it that way?

Adam: Look, I think the area of personal branding and broader enterprise marketing strategies is a very interesting one, particularly in the area I think, John, that you focus on in terms of B2B salespeople. We all know, and you've talked ad nausea about the first thing people will do is google you and look at your LinkedIn page. A telco may think they have a corporate branding strategy, but their 35 enterprise sales guys have pictures on the beach on LinkedIn, or no profile, or very amateur looking profiles...

John: Or if it's a profile "I'm looking for a job..."

Adam: It reflects on the brand. So yes, the individual personal branding strategy absolutely in certain sectors can have a key impact on the broader brand strategy.

John: Now, I also promote that salespeople should create content, which is write, publish. We get enormous pushback from marketing, we get enormous pushback from the executive in a lot of organisations; they don't want to empower their salespeople, they see a lot of risk in it. I argue a lot that if they've got a strategy in place and they can communicate that strategy down to all their salespeople and consultants, all their customer-facing people, then they're able to help them build a profile and then help them produce content of value to their customers that is still unique to that individual but aligned with the enterprise. And surely we've got to be able to empower our people; they're out talking to our customers every day, so we are empowering them in one way or another.

social-strategy-linkedinAdam: Yes. I think, again, there's different approaches, but clear communication and consistency is so important. So yes, there's some brands... some enterprises will have a sort of crack team producing content and then the sales guys just share it, and there's merit in that. But equally, I think salespeople need to be empowered to put their own voice, build their own credibility.

John: As I mentioned in an earlier discussion, Tony Hughes makes a statement that if you can't write, you can't sell, and I think he puts a very strong argument for that, that salespeople should write their own content. Sure, they may take content from others and accumulate and tailor and edit, but they produce their own content. In doing so they demonstrate that they have expertise, they have credibility, they have insight that the customer will get value from.

Adam: Absolutely. And ultimately they are at the coal face, they are the face of the brand day to day, and that's who people are buying from.

John: Okay. So, bottom line is you need an enterprise social media strategy that leverages off the enterprise strategy, and that strategy should be broken down for not just marketing but for sales, and then how do all our customer-facing people work within that strategy and even have their own strategy that is aligned to the corporate strategy that gets all those messages out there that draws customers to them.

Adam: Yes. I think that's a good summary, John.

John: [laughs] Thanks very much, Adam - great to talk with you!

Adam: Thanks a lot!

Go to @adamf2014 or to see and hear more of Adam.


More TALKING SALES discussions with Adam Fraser:



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