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ebizQ's Business Agility Watch

Kaitlin Brunsden

Setting up a B2B Social Community: Talking with Partnerpedia

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What follows is my podcast with Mark Sochan, CEO of Partnerpedia. We talk about the hidden costs and benefits in setting up a B2B Social Community. Mark will offer insight on what a company should do in order to ensure success.

Listen to the 6:58 podcast below:

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KB: Hello ebizQ listeners, this is Kaitlin Brunsden, Associate Editor at ebizQ. Today, I am speaking with Mark Sochan, CEO of Partnerpedia. Mark thank you for joining me today.

MS: Hi Kaitlin, it's a pleasure to speak with you today.

KB: Can you please provide us with a brief overview of your company?

MS: Yes. Partnerpedia is a company that enables companies to grow their channel sales revenue while allowing them to better leverage and sales enable their sales channel partners. What we do specifically is we allow companies to create communities that level the playing field and transform the speed with which companies can get information up to their partners as well as speed up the process with which companies can find new partnerships, generate new sales leads, and to grow their sales pipeline.

KB: Today's topic is the Hidden Cost and Benefits in Setting up a B2B Social Community. So Mark, what is the benefit of social media for the B2B community?

MS: Well, the benefit of setting up a community is that it's the new and a much more effective way of communicating with your partner ecosystem. Whether the channel sales partners, or ISVs, or VARs, strategic partners, there's always a challenge of how do you get relevant information out to those partners in a way of fields collateral, or technical information, and also how you get feedback from those partners about what they're experiencing in the field. What kind of feedback they have for you on the products and services. What kind of challenges they're encountering in the field.

And the traditional way of doing that was setting up a website sometimes referred to as a partner portal where those partners would be given access to secure and private space to information relevant to those partners. The problem is that it's a very kind of static way of doing things. And today, with the advent of social media that's been very well accepted, and lots of people are very comfortable and familiar with using social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, and LinkedIn in their personal lives. There's a lot of those same benefits that can be translated over into the enterprise world and specifically by being able to leverage and create communities that allow much easier, much more transparent, much faster communication between all the parties involved.

KB: How does it benefit sales?

MS: Well, the way that it benefit sales is that creating a community speeds up the process by which you can get information exchange and the collaboration necessary for the companies that you rely upon in your channel, or partner ecosystem to be able to communicate both with you as a company as well as how they can communicate with each other as well as with customers. So the ability to find a new partner, to be able to generate new sales leads, or the ability to collaborate on deals are all things now that can be enabled by having communities that integrate social media as part of that community. And a lot of this is driven by the customer's demand for faster more innovative solutions. And it's rare these days where you have an opportunity that doesn't rely upon some sort of partnering with another company. And so for a company to be successful in today's competitive day and age, they need to be able to be agile in a way that they partner up and collaborate with other companies to be able to bring innovative solutions to their customers.

KB: Is using Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook enough to create a B2B community?

MS: Well, I often see companies using Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook without any real clue as to what business goals they're trying to achieve. For example, how is having a Facebook fan page going to drive new sales, or who would you use a LinkedIn group to find new leads. So the real goal is to create a community where the business goals are clear and they are supportive and enabling the business processes that you already have in your company to be able to grow sales, which typically start with finding new leads. And how you collaborate with other companies to put together a proposal and ultimately how you work with other companies to be able to implement and deliver a solution to a customer that satisfies customer problems.

KB: What does it take to set up a B2B community?

MS: Well, the great news is that in this age of cloud based computing, setting up a community is pretty straightforward. You supply a list of company names and e-mails to our company, to Partnerpedia, and we take care of generating the messages that go out and start up that community. But the real challenge is how do you get the party started, how do you get people to start collaborating and contributing, and how do you make the party come alive.

And so to facilitate this, one of the key differentiators that Partnerpedia provides is we offer community manager services that act on our client's behalf to help both onboard to partners to make it easier for them to get into the community and figure out their user names and passwords, and kind of help them get started and get oriented. But also, to help them get started with collaborations, and starting up topics of discussion interests, and ensuring that the business messages that the company wants to promote out to its community as well as the business goals that they have are being fulfilled.

KB: What are the costs of the budgets, the resources, etc.?

MS: Well again, one of the big benefits of cloud based computing is that unlike days in the past where you had to make a pretty big upfront investment of buying software, and buying hardware, and having some smart IT guys put it all together. With cloud based computing, you don't have to worry about any of that, any of those kinds of things. We take care of setting up the system and maintaining the servers so all you have to do is provide us with the names of the people and the e-mail addresses that you want to invite into your community, and some of the key messages that you want to promote, and some of the key benefits of people coming into your community; what they're going to get and we take care of getting that party started. We make sure that the community is vibrant and productive and you pay-as-you-go. It's based on the number of partners in your community.

KB: What does a company need to do to ensure its success?

MS: Well, I think the biggest key to success is to be clear in your business goals. What do you want to achieve with this community? And some of the examples of we see from our customers is they're trying to help partners in their ecosystem find more leads. Sometimes the business goal is they're trying to get better two-way conversation and dialog going with their partners to be able to get better feedback on new products or programs. Sometimes they're just trying to upscale their partners and help them be more productive in the sales process with better sales lead management tools, and better sales pipeline management tools, and better ability to distribute leads and manage leads. The great news is that the tools are here and they work. They're cost effective and they can drive immediate business benefit for companies.

ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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