Vendors need to incorporate social proof evidence in their digital marketing mix to win work.
Social media, and its seemingly unstoppable rise to increasing levels of importance and use in our personal lives and business dealings, has meant that a new and multifaceted consideration is now in play in business-to-business (B2B) interactions. Many organisations need to adopt digital channels to engage in social proving activities, that is, addressing and resolving widespread social concerns about the vendor that arise from third- party comments, statements, and even accusations.
Vendors already manage complex information flows about themselves to their clients. This flow aims to facilitate successful transactions and be a persuasive foundation in the other’s purchase decision-making that may involve multiple internal and external stakeholders, time and budget considerations, and alignment to short- and long-term strategic goals.
Careful social media planning is essential in this process because in today’s competitive market, buyers can seek and obtain a large volume of information about the vendor. Some information produced outside of the vendor’s control or direct input will not necessarily support the vendor’s desired market positioning, and even can be deliberate Fake News designed to harm their prospects. Google searches can produce reviews, surveys, and polls about vendors. There is no quality control or vetting on this information; meaning that often it can be done without credible statistical data or legitimate business research techniques.
Today, the Internet provides easy access to vast amounts of information obtained from a range of sources. Vendors successfully use social media to curate their image and reputation content which, used in conjunction with other sales techniques, can create a compelling picture. But, social media itself has also developed rapidly, with some uses creating serious challenges to businesses. Cancel Culture, using social media to mount a sustained attack on a business’s reputation or practices is one such example. Vendors now need to be equally good at proactively and reactively using social media to monitor, address, and resolve social media-based attacks in a process of constantly proving that they are making a positive and ethical contribution to society.
Business can use social media as a call to their staff to constantly develop and promote social proof points. Although not a new concept, the use of social proof to credential the vendor is now easily done digitally and needs to reflect the values and market positioning across all channels. Authenticity is the key. The backlash that can arise from poor execution or response to social media messaging can be detrimental to any future business relationships and reputation.
Social media also offers ready comparison with other providers both locally and globally. Vendors require sales messages to reinforce their key attributes and benefits across all channels. The sales cycle for services or IT purchases can be a long one; business development seeks to develop and build relationships and showcase credentials with a client, before projects are opened up to the market. Social media provides direct, targeted ongoing messaging, and supports market positioning which can provide foundations for prospective sales.
Social proof, done well, can counteract the impact of Fake News because by reinforcing at key touch points the credibility of the vendor in its capacity to deliver to clients. Social proving can involve case studies of successful business interactions, client testimonials, demonstration of thought leadership, and expert commentary providing solutions to issues faced by clients. Sustained practice over time can proactively assist to address any arising Fake News concerning a vendor’s lack of capabilities or professionalism. Encouraging and productively managing staff contributions to a vendor’s social proving activities can generate large volumes of content designed to clearly demonstrate why that vendor should be first choice in any business transactions.
Some examples of digital messaging across channels include:
- Reputation: The number of satisfied clients or years in delivering a specialised service leads to a sound reputation in the market. Adding evidence of awards and public accolades to the bottom of E-mail signatures, linked to the awarding body and promoted via other digital channels is an easy means to promote the vendor’s achievements.
- Commitment: Service delivery is designed to offer a high level of client access to a professional team, committed to the success of the client. Use of digital media enables vendors to display via simple clips access to specialised client platforms that offer various resources for use.
- Expertise: A demonstrated technical, industry, or client type (market segment or size) skill reflects the vendor’s commitment to the client; the client will not be paying for time spent learning. A digital mock-up of a platform that will manage the project, suggested management tracking systems, strengthens the approach being proposed. This will also add to the underlying consistency of the solution; long-term and part of a sustainable platform of services that may include training, manuals, and upgrades as well as dedicated consultants who remain as liaison points with the client.
To assist in the sales process, it is essential that vendors develop an approach for sales enablement that leverages the opportunities offered by social media and digital platforms. This tactic can provide information to a range of stakeholders and opinion-influencers. Use of consistent, sustainable public social proof can help address short term Fake News attacks and offers opportunities to vendors to build upon their market reputations.
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