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The Connected Web

Phil Wainewright

Bringing the Service Ethos to Sales and Marketing

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Listen to the second part of my conversation with Bob Warfield, CEO of HelpStream. In part I, we talked about Social CRM, and the impact that it's had on the way people use computing and how they interact with businesses, evolving From Soviet-Era CRM to the Social Fabric of the Web.

In this podcast, we talk about how the social Web can extend the service ethos into your sales and marketing relationships with customers and prospects.

Listen to or download the 9:02 minute podcast below:

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PW: We're going to continue the conversation now and talk about how we can extend that social relationship — that has been used a lot in customer service — into the marketing part of the relationship that companies have with customers and prospects. Bob, I think with Helpstream, you've started off on the customer service side, but you've now just released a new release of your software, which actually links into marketing automation and adds the marketing dimension to that.

BW: Absolutely right, Phil. The way we like to talk about it is, we view customer service as your on-ramp for Social CRM because, just like the real world, if you want to be social, if you want to go visit the club and make a lot of new friends: bring your old friends with you, bring your customers. So we start there. But there's a tremendous opportunity as well to move beyond customer service and do a little social marketing and sales.

Yeah, we were talking earlier about Soviet-era computing — and I think in the past few years, this kind of command-and-control ethos has got into customer relationships as well. Companies have really tried to acquire customers, rather than trying to hold onto the customers that they've already got. And in a sense, we're going back to that more traditional ethos now — because, I guess, the Web enables us to do it — of nurturing those relationships and using customers as advocates to help us get new customers.

Absolutely true. I think — I love the Soviet-era analogies, because to me the old school of marketing was, you climbed on top of the biggest possible soapbox, and you got out your loudest megaphone, and you shouted your message at your customers over and over again until they would accept it. Right? How many impressions can I get? It was all a one-way monologue.

Yeah, it's like someone with a megaphone, isn't it? — trying to grab people's attention.

Yeah, and you get the impression of the television movie, you know, the indoctrination camp.


You get no sleep, it's droning on continually. But we have a new world, and yet not so new. I mean, ask any salesperson whether they would rather have a meeting with a prospect where it's a one-way monologue or rather they'd engage in a two-way conversation. And I would venture to say, 100% of sales people would say, 'Well, I want to have a conversation, that's much more compelling.'

So how does this, how do you — I mean, that's all very well, but how do you get these conversations started? That's the tricky bit isn't it?

Well, it is, it is. But the good news is, we live in a world where there has never been so much information available about our customers and prospects — because they're out there talking. So our mission with social marketing is to identify the people who are likely going to be interested in the story we have to tell. We can do that in a couple of ways. We can use what we at Helpstream call social search engine optimization. We create community content and let the search engines find it, so that people who are interested in your story express that by virtue of what they search for. Or —

So this is articles in the knowledge base, or threads in the customer community, that can put the company in a good light and are the kind of things that people will be looking for, if they're on search engines.

Precisely. And I would venture to say it isn't just putting the company in a good light, it's really more about being less directly sales-y and putting the space in a good light.


Right. So we talk about social marketing in a broad sense —
the way we're doing on this podcast, more so than we talk specifically Helpstream.

Your second approach is to go find people who are already having a conversation that's related to what you'd like to talk to them about. And that's called social monitoring. And there's so many places on the Web to go find these conversations. Whether it's Twitter or Facebook, LinkedIn groups, blogs — they're happening all around us and we can find them and invite those people to come back to our community to talk to us as well.

And what I found interesting is the way that you're using some of the marketing automation products to help you do that. Because you can get people interested by contacting them in relation to something they posted on Twitter and saying, 'Have you seen this?' And that inspires them to perhaps register for your community site. And then, after they've registered, you can track their activity, and only then go back and re-contact them when you see that they've got to a point of activity where they may be ready to be contacted.

Exactly. Very, very important point. So, traditional marketing, as soon as they get hold of your e-mail address, it's spam, spam, spam. They're pushing stuff at you. Social marketing is all about creating a self-service opportunity for the customers to educate. And the role of the marketing automation tools — and we partner with a number of them, Eloqua, Marketo, LoopFuse, Infusionsoft and others — their role is to help monitor what's going on inside that community, so that you can watch the process of self-education. And the practitioners will tell you that it takes twenty to twenty-five different content touches before a person is really ready to be helped. And so — Phil, you and I have both been to, I don't know, fine restaurants, fine retail establishments, fine hotels — places that are famous for their service. And the service is never really in your face and demanding, it's at your behest.

Now Bob, Helpstream provides its software as a service — as indeed do many of your partners like Eloqua and Marketo. Do you think that business model is something that is going to have to become more prevalent in other industries as well? You said that customers are looking for the kind of service that they get in fine retail establishments when they're browsing websites. Are we going to see other ways in which people are going to have to get into more of a service relationship, even if they're product companies?

I think we will. I think the whole world has become a service, as we've seen these shifts in the market place. But service is a mindset. I mean often people get hung up on the idea of, 'I don't sell a service though, I sell something physical, I sell goods.' But a service is a mindset. It's a relationship you have with your customers.

And so, for example, a hardcore product company often thinks of service as optional. They think, 'Well, we build a great product, customers buy it, and they won't even need the service because it's such a good product so we won't hear from them and that's a good thing. We've got their money; we're on our way to the next customer.' But that's just not how the world wants to interact these days. I buy a product and I do want the ongoing relationship, if not with the company because I'm having a problem, then because I want to extract more value from the product than I get on my own. I want — if I have my digital camera — I want to talk to other people with digital cameras and learn how to take better photographs.

Yeah, I think it's almost magical the way that this is evolving — that people in their relationships with companies — I mean, when someone buys a product, they actually do it because they want a result. They don't want to own a digital camera, they want to be able to take pictures that they can treasure and so there is a whole process there. And what the Web is actually enabling us to do is make that process come alive in a much more — in a much richer way than has been possible before.

And it's good fun. It's good fun. You'll meet new people both inside the company that sold you the product as well as your peers, the buyers of the product. And you learn so much more, you have good relationships, it's just a happy experience for all.

Well, that's a great future to look forward to, isn't it?

Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

Phil Wainewright specializes in on-demand services View more

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