Having viewed the development of social networking in the past year from the sidelines I think it’s time I had my say. The main question needing an answer is, does Social Networking as a lead generation medium, work?
Networking has always been an obvious way to develop business and business opportunities. What’s more it’s very effective. However, the fact is that this activity is rapidly moving from the club or the golf course, or the local business network to the WEB. This provides you with the opportunity to expand your contacts substantially, unhampered by geography or company size.
Networking for lead generation reminds me of the insurance sales rep who’s just out of training. He’s all gung ho and motivated to make it happen. Yet where does he first turn? To no one’s surprise he turns to his natural environment - his personal network. First to the family, then to friends and acquaintances. Then to the prospects they recommend.
However, there’s no doubt that as he ventures farther afield to include strangers, his network will yield fewer genuine opportunities. Though he swims manfully against the stream, absent good luck the new recruit may not survive. His only hope for the future is to engage in an effective lead generation effort before his money runs out. Or to hope the company he works for will slip him a few sales ready leads to help him stay afloat.
I’ve subscribed to a number of groups on LinkedIn these past few years. Frankly it’s been a big disappointment. There are large numbers of participants out there trying to sell whatever it is they sell. They contribute nothing or very little to the dialogue. Others are there to recruit. These groups do seem to constitute fertile ground to find staff - much as happens in regular social networks.� From time to time I also notice people posting topics for discussion that are on point. But for the most part it’s fairly obvious that the questions posed are self serving - designed more than anything else to promote the reputation of the poster.
Twitter is another phenomenon I have struggled with. I suppose if you admire and respect someone and want to know what he/she is thinking or doing every day, then being a follower is useful. On the other hand if you’re a thought leader on a particular subject – with many followers – it’s also likely that being a twitterer could be useful.
I tend to think of myself as a thought leader. I write, I hold a goodly variety of opinions and I’m capable of communicating thoughts to my clients and prospects via a variety of channels. So I ask myself – do I want to sit and post tweets day in and day out for my followers? Fact is I don’t and being a follower or being followed 24x7 is really not my thing.
There could however, be some potential in Twitter in terms of Lead Generation. But this depends how numerous your “follower” network is and how motivated they are to become buyers or recommenders.
How is ETI embracing the new networks to improve lead generation results for its clients?
eti’s primary business is focused on B2B (complex) lead generation. Our ultimate goal is to to maximize client’s sales force productivity. Here then are some of the things we’re doing to exploit the new resources.
Firstly it needs to be appreciated that these networks are often fantastic information resources. That, technically, is the business we’re in. Because we engage with prospects in consultative dialogues for the purpose of identifying information and characteristics which indicates the prospect’s ability and need to purchase our clients’ solutions. To achieve that purpose our Business Developers actively participate in the networks to better understand the market places our clients do business in.
Secondly, we link directly to these resources from i*collaborator - eti’s CRM/PRM framework. This enables us to search dynamically within LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook, to extract third party information that could be leveraged to reveal big fish prospects. Nor are we shy to hook smaller fish which have good growth potential.
Thirdly, we make these facilities directly available to our clients via their Opportunity Dashboards so that their sales persons are motivated to leverage the new opportunities without their having to do the research themselves.
What else might we do? Well we’re always open to new ideas and would welcome and appreciate your thoughts.
As a lead generation tool for the most part the networks mentioned remain on the periphery. In their current incarnations they will probably not become mainstream lead generation tools.
However they do have enormous potential as tools to build influence and credibility. And that’s the best use of a network. Because with that credibility will come the desired recommendations and referrals that will help you maximize your lead generation efforts.