By Matthew Allen, Project Coordinator
There is no question that expanding both relationships and networks is an important activity for any sales leader. However, as businesses attempt to deal with the forces of today’s economic climate, these two like-minded initiatives quickly jump from important to imperative.
Countless studies implicitly connect these two actions (relationship building and network building) to customer retention and customer expansion. Forum’s extensive research tells us that out of the hundreds of things sales organizations deal with regularly, finding and winning new customers along with keeping profitable customers are two of only 14 actions that have a statistically positive correlation with performance—in other words, these 14 actions differentiate top-performing sales organizations from moderate and low performers.
So while it is clear that businesses must continue to invest in specific sales initiatives, the current economic crisis has siphoned business cash flows, leading to cuts in travel budgets and an increasingly watchful eye kept on “client expenses.” As a result, traditional methods of expanding networks and relationships (attending trade shows, conferences, and face-to-face meetings) are quickly being replaced by webinars, podcasts, social networking … and even Twitter.
Yes, that’s right: the micro-messaging revolution has recently hit the corporate stage, where the immediacy of the connection and communication created by this free service lends itself to cost-efficient large-scale networking. With the advancement of technology, building (and sustaining) a large professional network suggests that you are not only “LinkedIn,” but that you “tweet” every now and again as well. For those of you who have yet to tap into this social media tool, a “tweet” is a short message that keeps your followers up to speed on what you are thinking or doing at any given moment.
A growing number of companies, the likes of Dell, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos (the online shoe seller whose CEO’s Twitter followers have increased from 1,300 to 373,000 over the past year), use Twitter to foster communication among customers and employees alike. (Dell recently reported that its Twitter account has led to more than $1 million in revenue.) These three companies epitomize what it means to be customer focused, and they have begun to tap into social networking to increase visibility and strengthen both customer relationships and experience.
A tech-savvy and nervous flyer friend of mine took his initiatory Southwest Airlines flight about 3 months ago and then received the following “tweet” from the airline: “Hope you enjoyed your first-ever Southwest flight! We can’t wait to see you onboard again.” Using social networking as an additional tool to enhance the customer experience, these companies are building customer loyalty and providing customers with yet another reason to suggest their services to peers.
A step beyond text-messaging, which requires you to address people individually, updates via Twitter are broadcasted to a person’s entire group of followers. While I may be getting a bit ahead of myself, I believe that this dynamic interaction may very well be on its way to replacing e-mail for certain types of communication, such as client correspondence and general customer relations.
Twitter is not all business, however. Many “tweets” are not only personal, but downright trivial—what someone had as an afternoon snack or what songs make up her latest iPod playlist. Being able to focus your efforts in the world of social networking is key to successful navigation. Luckily, the ability to focus is an asset that you control, and it is the vital link between your social networking strategy and your end results.
Twitter is just one example of a plethora of valuable social networking tools that not only drive traffic, but also have the potential to enhance relationships and expand networks. Twitter, in particular, is taking off because it mirrors how people work and think … which is apparently 140 characters at a time!