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Social sales is the CMO’s new job

Today consumers find you. Are you and sales force ready?

The age of the outbound message to the passive customer is over, says social media expert and guest blogger Clara Shih of Hearsay Social. Now the bank chief marketing officer must master a swirl of techniques and channels The age of the outbound message to the passive customer is over, says social media expert and guest blogger Clara Shih of Hearsay Social. Now the bank chief marketing officer must master a swirl of techniques and channels

Few senior leadership roles have changed more over the past few decades than that of the Chief Marketing Officer.

Gone are the days when a CMO could be successful with a high-profile TV commercial, direct mail campaign, or sports-team sponsorship only. Technologies such as email, digital advertising, and big data tools have significantly expanded the scope and complexity of marketing’s job-description and banking executives need to keep up.

Now, as the internet has made consumers more connected and aware, more of the burden falls on marketing to build customer relationships and manage their expectations.

Perhaps the biggest change in the CMO’s world is not the new technology available to marketers but the technology available to customers.

Digital and social media have forever changed the way that people research and buy. An April 2013 Experian report found that consumers spend almost a third of their time online on social networks, and research from Corporate Executive Board said that B2B buyers are almost 60% of the way through their decision process before they even engage with a sales rep.   

Balancing techniques new and old

While big marketing campaigns still have a place in financial services, banking CMOs need to do two things.

1. Because marketers must connect with prospective customers where those customers are spending their time, marketers must place much more emphasis on social media.

2. Marketers must work much more closely with sales and distribution organizations.

The CMO must take ownership of a larger part of the sales funnel and must provide marketing content that reps can use to enhance their status as experts and to connect with prospects earlier in the sales process.

And, while doing this bank marketers must of course consider and manage compliance requirements. These emerging types of advertising and customer communication are subject to review and recordkeeping requirements.

Connecting with customers where they are

Customers used to be passive recipients, waiting for a salesperson to call them or new products to be delivered to them in a catalog. Today, they don’t wait. Nowadays, customers have become active participants in the buying process, leading their own research and choosing how they want to engage with companies.

Financial advisors have always relied on referrals to generate business, but these days those referrals are happening online. Instead of asking a friend or family member who they work with, consumers are now likely to go to Facebook and post something like, “Does anybody have a good financial advisor that they can recommend?”

Marketing leaders need to address this change in behavior head on by not only providing an understanding of who the customers is but by completely tapping into the sales process and, at times, building and maintaining relationships that might have previously been owned by sales.

Consider this: If a customer tweets about a product he’s interested in, whose responsibility is it to follow up?

In a store, the salesperson would be responsible for closing the sale.

But, on Twitter, it seems natural that the “brand” (Marketing) would reach out.

At the same time, if the person who tweeted was a friend of a sales rep, the sales rep should reach out directly to the buyer through Facebook or other social platform.

All these new arrangements need to be worked out to maximize effectiveness.

Now everyone is a marketer

Marketing no longer holds a monopoly on customer conversations.

Social media’s accessibility, transparency, and reach have transformed all company employees into brand ambassadors.

For the first time in history, people are easily findable as representatives of their employer, and what they say is permanently recorded. If buyers want to research a product or service, they can easily do it through anyone who works at the company.

So, any employee can be affecting brand image and the customer sales process--for better or for worse. This has been all too evident for companies like Microsoft, Dominos, and StubHub, each of which experienced negative PR, brought on by employees who were not traditional “marketers.” Not only do these employees present a risk to brand perception, their online actions are also subject to regulatory scrutiny.

Regulators are paying attention. Firms regulated by FINRA (Financial Institution Regulatory Authority) and FFIEC (Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council) must keep in mind regulations, guidelines, and more on social media usage for all employees, not just the traditional outward-facing marketers.

Don’t get stuck on the downside

While social media presents a risk, it also provides a huge opportunity for CMOs to extend the reach and success of marketing campaigns by empowering field representatives with appropriate brand content.

Connecting more traditional marketing efforts with a social sales force can amplify marketing success. For example, instead of just publishing a video to a brand’s Facebook page, CMOs should consider pushing that content to 1,000 field reps, who can then share the video with each of their respective 1,000 contacts on their individual Facebook pages.

It’s a no-brainer: The reach and impressions for a campaign grow exponentially when it is distributed by the field organization. CMOs must take advantage of this opportunity by including “social sales” in their job description.

In a recent Hearsay Social webinar, Cathy Price, vice-president of Digital Marketing of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, mentioned, “We’ve never been so close to giving sales what they want.”

There has always been a push-and-pull between marketing and sales, but in the social media era, marketing has to take ownership and enable social sales.

Clara Shih

Clara Shih is CEO and Founder of Hearsay Social and a pioneer in the social media industry. She wrote The New York Times-featured bestseller, The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell and Innovate.  She is a member of the Starbucks board and previously served in a variety of technical, product, and marketing roles at Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce.com.

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