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Building Internal Champions: Why Digital Marketing Needs Human Beings More Than Ever

I was lucky enough to recently attend the Digital Pharma Europe conference at Bayer in Berlin – a great event with many digital marketing thought leaders on hand.  Be sure to check out #DigPharm to get a nice overview of the conference content and insights.

The key theme that emerged from the conference was that getting management support for digital initiatives is the biggest barrier to implementing new programs.  It turns out that the main roadblock to “digital nirvana” isn’t platforms, operating systems, mobile penetration, or social networks; digital marketing faces an internal sales issue that is entirely human to human!

So, how do we solve this challenge?  Certainly, the old adage of “having the right people in the right seats on the bus” applies here. Some people are naturally more skilled at “selling up” their ideas, concepts, and projects.  They present well, and they are skilled at aligning various corporate stakeholders.  It would make sense, then, to staff your team with individuals that not only understand digital marketing, but who can also garner organizational support for digital initiatives.

However, getting the right team in place is just “table stakes.”  We are marketers, after all, not accountants! So to really take your digital marketing to the next level and gain enthusiastic internal support, you need to take a lead from the evolution of selling itself as explained wonderfully by Mark Fidelman and Jay Keenan here.  The crux of their hypothesis is the following:

social_selling

“Selling through social channels (social selling) is the closestthing to being a fly on the wall in your customers, prospects and competitor’s world. Using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media – supplies information that is almost impossible to obtain through traditional means.”

While selling has always been fundamentally social, the old sales model relied on cold calls and product demonstrations to identify and qualify prospects and, ultimately, close a sale. The new model relies on leveraging social networks to educate and engage prospects in order to pull them through the sales funnel.  Note that a product demo is nowhere to be found. Takeaway: if you are leading your pitch to management with the new shiny platform, digital tool, or channel, you are setting yourself up to fail.

Fidelman and Keenan note that “… replacing the decline in cold calling is the warmth of social engagement. Buyers are far more responsive to social media messages around relevant topics initiated by the sales person or the buyer. Remember, the definition of a lead has changed. When a potential customer complains they are frustrated, they are far more likely to engage with a sales person who responds to their frustration than a cold call pitching a product.”

So, how can the New Sales Model help to drive internal management support for digital initiatives?  It’s time to “eat our own cooking.” If you believe, as I do, that digital can have meaningful impact on our marketing programs, it’s time to evolve and get social about selling your ideas and projects.  Remember, social is not a channel, it’s a behavior.  Don’t get hung up worrying about whether to use your internal SharePoint or Yammer or other communication/collaboration platforms.  Instead, as you work to build lasting support for your digital marketing initiatives, employ these Five Essential Social Media Principles for building digital marketing into the DNA of your organization:

  1.  Develop Internal Opinion Leaders
    Begin by focusing on those in the organization who have already embraced digital and social marketing. Work with them to help increase their visibility and stature within the overall conversation around strategy and content. Also, identify others who hold key positions of influence and determine ways in which they can achieve a stronger digital presence.

  2. Build and Connect Internal Networks
    As you identify individual opinion leaders, also pay attention to how their networks overlap. There are likely many points of intersection across the organization where you can begin to develop broad alliances and support for your digital marketing efforts.

  3. Educate Through Participation
    New Media training is an excellent way to help build support for digital marketing. However, the most powerful step is to encourage individual participation across the company. Demonstrate to the entire organization how platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, SlideShare, and even Pinterest can be powerful tools for personal communication, skills enhancement, and marketing impact.

  4. Embrace Short & Timely Content Updates
    Persistence is the key to any successful campaign, and building internal support is no exception. Be sure to distribute a steady stream of highly relevant and targeted content. The more often you can deliver internal business value via digital channels, the more compelling a case you will have for moving forward.

  5. Craft Success Stories
    Oftentimes, when logic and data fail to win the argument,  a well-crafted case study will help to drive home the point. Better yet, share examples of competitors who are succeeding in digital and explain how to improve upon their campaigns.

Conclusion
While it is certainly easy to get caught up in the all nuances and hype surrounding digital and social marketing – it is critical to always remember that human beings are the key point of leverage for all of your digital initiatives. Social selling is not about channels, tools, or click-thru rates – it is about creating and delivering human to human customer service with entirely new levels of personalization and engagement.

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Nigel Downer

Nigel Downer

As “Client Advocate,” Nigel works with his clients on a day to day basis to ensure that the Cadient team has a deep understanding of the client’s long and short term goals. As part of that process he meets with clients to share best practices, emerging technologies, and relevant success stories, with the goal of identifying new opportunities for growth and matching those opportunities to potential solutions. Nigel is a graduate of Boston University and earned his MBA in Strategic Leadership from Pennsylvania State University. He currently serves as member of the Advisory Board for the Pan Asian Clinical Research Association.

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