How to Align Social Selling with Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

The long-standing tension between marketing and sales has bled over into social. Nearly 80% of companies have not aligned their social selling strategies with their marketing’s social strategies. And that’s having negative repercussions on social selling programs.

In today’s complex buying environment, where large buying committees struggle to arrive at a consensus, building deeper relationships with customers is necessary. That’s why it’s more important than ever for sales and marketing teams to work together. In this post, we’ll discuss how the two departments can align their strategies along three poles: the customer, content, and messaging.

Let’s start with the customer…

1. The Customer

For any social program to work, it needs to be aligned to the customer. Which means that marketing needs to provide guidance on who the target customer is, and sales needs to provide feedback from the field. Depending on your organization chart, aligning around the customer might look like this:

1. Product marketing defines the problem that your company’s product or service solves. The product marketers articulate the primary messages, analyze who the target audience is, and figure out how to position the product in relationship to your competitors.

2. Product marketing communicates the problem, the target audience, and the positioning to both the demand generation and sales teams.

3. Product marketing, in conjunction with demand generation and sales leaders, researches where your customers hang out. Hint: If you have social media marketing and social selling programs, chances are good that your buyers are on social.

4. Sales and demand generation teams continuously give the product marketing team feedback on what’s working and what’s not working. Is the positioning resonating with buyers? Is your target customer interested in what you’re offering? Do you think that you need to change the profile of your ideal customer?

5. Similarly, customer success teams should continuously provide feedback, as well. For example, you might have an ideal customer profile in mind, but with time, you find that 89% of your customers who fit that profile churn out. That’s feedback that both marketing and sales teams need to know.

For more information on this topic, see Irene Sandler’s excellent post on LinkedIn.

2. Content

Successful social media marketing and social selling start with solid content marketing processes. Without content, brands and sales reps won’t be effective on social. They won’t be able to attract, educate, nurture, and persuade buyers. Here’s how you can go about aligning your social teams around content:

1. The content marketing team (or corporate communications team in some cases) meets with key stakeholders to assess the company’s content needs. The stakeholders might include product marketing, sales enablement, sales leaders, demand generation, and social media marketing managers.

2. Using the input from the different teams, the content marketing team creates a content calendar and a content strategy, which blends together thought leadership, product-related content, and third-party curated content.

3. Once the content calendar has been established, the social media marketing and social selling leaders discuss how they can promote the content on social. For example, they might brainstorm ways to break up a longer video into a shorter videos. Or, they might agree upon topics that would be good for third-party content curation.

4. The sales enablement leaders train the sales team on using content to engage buyers. Which social networks to use? How and when to use private messages like Twitter direct messages? What’s the right mix of company-created and third-party content?

Most importantly, the sales enablement team needs to persuade sales of the value of content. They need to help move the sales reps away from product-focused pitching to adding value through content.

5. Instead of simply waiting for leads to come to them, the sales teams go out and act as their own marketing teams. They share content on social and use it as a conversation starter.

6. The sales teams report back to the marketing teams about how the content performed in the wild. Which types of content (e.g. videos) worked well? Which types of content didn’t work well? How does the social selling team’s feedback align with the social media marketing team’s feedback? The marketing leaders listen, take notes, and then adjust the content marketing plan accordingly.

3. Messaging

When it comes to messaging, every company has different modalities. Some companies adhere to a “command and control” policy, where all wording must be pre-approved by marketing. If you’re in financial services or any other highly regulated industry, that might sound familiar.

Other companies might adhere to a suggestive modality, in which marketing suggests messaging and sales teams can personalize it.

Finally, there are some companies that are democratic, in which each individual crafts their own message.

As we look at the question of messaging alignment in this section, let’s focus on the suggestive modality because it’s the direction in which many companies are heading.

1. As we discussed in the “Customer” section at the top, the product marketing team is responsible for identifying the problem, the target audience, and the product’s position in relationship to the competitors. From there, the product team should work with the corporate communications team to establish some high-level messaging and branding.

2. Document the messaging and branding. Place the document in a central location so that sales, marketing, and customer service can easily find and refer back to.

3. Marketing and sales enablement leaders must teach the sales team the core values of your company’s brand. Give them examples of tweets and LinkedIn updates that would be “on brand,” and show them examples of what would be “off brand.” Consider having your sales reps practice writing tweets and LinkedIn updates, and review their work.

4. In your social selling platform, marketing can write sample tweets and LinkedIn updates for your sales team. This will be helpful especially for the beginner social sellers and time-strapped executives. But don’t limit your teams to your pre-written text. Make sure that your sales reps understand that they can make those messages their own. In so doing, they will sound less like a corporate robot, and they will sound more like themselves. Their authenticity will resonate with their buyers.

Get Going!

You might be thinking, What a bunch of hogwash. We don’t need to align our teams. Suit yourself. Until you align your social selling and social media marketing initiatives, your social selling program will never be effective. Your sales team will never fully understand how to use social to build deeper relationships with customers. And ultimately, that’s what social selling is all about.

For more tips on alignment, check out these posts from my colleague Kim Babcock:

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