Innovative IBM Group Listens for Leads via Social Media
Mary Hall 0600011C92 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  partnerworld media business partner sales succes partnerworld_communities social ibm communities
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Last year, an group of IBM'ers instituted a new program called "Listening for Leads." The program uses Social Media to help identify opportunities with our sales channels. Recently, Ed Linde II, whose team is responsible for building Web assets to support the IBM.com sales channel and organic Web visitors, spoke with eMarketer magazine about IBM’s social media efforts and successes. Here’s an excerpt from the full interview available on eMarketer Total Access.
Q. eMarketer: How does social media marketing differ for B2B companies from B2C?
A. Ed Linde : In B2C you’re looking for a lot of interaction and collaboration between the individuals who tend to be a youthful audience and from time to time there’s a celebrity element. In the B2B space, you want subject-matter experts who are known authorities on particular topics. They’re credible experts on a particular area that people are trying to learn more about and make educated decisions on.
Q. eMarketer: How are you deploying social media marketing?
A. Mr. Linde: Within IBM we have a number of people in the brand areas who are blogging and doing things in the social media space relative to topics like cloud computing. In B2B we have a number of Websites that we built for our sales reps where we’ve enabled the reps to have a blog with RSS feeds that are connected to LinkedIn and Twitter. Their customers can follow them where they have an individual relationship.
Some of our reps have Facebook pages also. We also have a program called Listening for Leads, where we have people we call “seekers” who on a voluntary basis go to particular social media sites where they listen to conversations and determine whether there’s a potential sales opportunity.
Q. eMarketer: What kinds of sites do the “seekers” go to?
A. Mr. Linde The “seekers” go on a voluntary basis to sites in the public sector. For example, government agency sites where RFPs [request for proposals] are posted, and there are discussions about proposals. In the tech space, there might be blogs or discussion boards about the new Intel chip for servers. We’ll monitor those conversations.
Seekers listen to and look at conversations. For example, if someone says, “I’m looking to replace my old server” or “Does anyone have any recommendations on what kind of storage device will work in this in type of situation?” or “I’m about to issue a RFP; does anyone have a sample RFP I could work from?” Those are all pretty good clues that someone’s about to buy something or start the buying process.
We try to identify those leads, get them to a lead development rep who is a telephone sales rep who has been trained to have a conversation with the lead to qualify and validate the opportunity. They’ll qualify and validate it and then pass it to the appropriate sales resource to follow up.
Q. eMarketer: How is IBM using Twitter?
A. Mr. Linde: We promote our customer events on Twitter. When I say customer events, they could be Webinars, podcasts, virtual trade shows or physical trade shows. We advertise some of our promotions via Twitter. And our individual reps use Twitter to keep their customers updated about interesting news, events and things of that nature. Each rep has their own Twitter account. We also have the handle @IBMpcs because we sell refurbished PCs . (For IBM Partners, there are Twitter handles like @ibmpartnerplan and @ibmpartners.)
Q. eMarketer: What successes have you had with social media?
A. Mr. Linde: I would say Listening for Leads has been our best initiative so far. We have uncovered millions of dollars worth of sales leads through our intelligent listening program and we’ve closed a lot of business and we expect to do more. That’s going to be a big growth area. The thing you have to be careful with in social media is you can’t take your expert, for example, the guru of cloud computing, and expect him or her to also try to be a salesperson. Most people go to these sites and want the expert to be like a professor and to be as unbiased and antiseptic as possible. They don’t want to be sold to on those sites. Smart marketers use the expert to establish credibility, to get the conversation going and so forth. And then maybe you can have the expert point people back to the Website where you can do the promotional stuff and the selling activity. By the same token, you listen for activity and if it looks like there are opportunities, you pursue them.
Q. eMarketer: Can you offer an example?
A. Mr. Linde : Let’s say there’s a big industry for used tires. You would go out to the places where people talk about used tires and listen for conversations where someone’s looking to buy used tires. You would contact that person, interact with them and suggest that you might be able to help. You sort of qualify them and then hand them off to the lead development rep.
Q. eMarketer: Is there some secret sauce that makes this type of program successful, or is it more that you’ve been able to identify the key places where people are talking about the IBM products and services?
A. Mr. Linde: The key thing to making this successful is knowing what the right keywords are so that you can sort of search the various blogs and other venues where people are talking about your products. You need to use tools with Google that filter the conversations that are happening within blogs or on Twitter.
Typically, on the seeking side, we get people from the business unit to spend a couple of hours a week doing it. So if you have enough people doing that you can uncover enough opportunities for the lead development reps to follow up on. I can’t divulge the number of people doing the seeking; it’s a decent number, but it’s not their full-time job.
Q. eMarketer: How are you tracking and measuring your social initiatives? You mentioned that you’ve identified millions of sales leads.
A. Mr. Linde: We measure against number of sales leads identified. And we rate the lead value from those leads. Then the win revenue and win rate. So there are four key metrics—number of leads created, lead value, win revenue and win rate.
If you're an IBM Business Partner looking to get started with Social Media, be sure to visit IBM Partnerworld ,and download our Social Media guides.