Boosting Web Sales and Marketing with Social Networking

With the economy struggling like a foal to stay upright, and many predicting darker days ahead, companies can add powerful tools and social networking to their Web 1.0 sites to interact with buyers and sell products and services. Today’s Channel Partners Conference & Expo panel, “Sales and Marketing: Leveraging Web and Web 2.0,” will focus on how to go beyond the online status quo.

While the phrase social networking conjures up images of teens and college students connecting on Facebook and people posting personal profiles on MySpace, savvy sellers are harnessing the core capabilities as a means to build a more effective relationship with evolving customers.

“While we were sleeping, customers went from the hunted to the hunters,” states Janet Schijns, president of The JS Group. “The customers are in command and that means many are stuck in quicksand because their business models need to change.” The Web provides buyers a means to research and locate what they seek, regardless of whether they are contacted offline by traditional means such as direct mail and cold calls, she adds.

Panelist Robert Weiss’ company, StructuredWeb Inc., saw the change coming years ago and has amassed a number of services that help businesses do more than just operate a first-generation e-commerce Web site.

The company, which was founded before and survived the dot-com bomb, offers what it terms “an integrated program that includes technology, services and education, to help customers manage their Web site, e-commerce, CRM and marketing.”

StructuredWeb’s success and product portfolio are further evidence that companies need to evolve beyond Web1.0, an era best characterized by companies building an online presence, which they made visually appealing and optimized for heavy traffic. But simply creating a location from which to sell largely failed to change the customer relationship significantly, says Schijns.

“Companies are now embracing Web 1.0, but that means providing Webinars and case studies,” said Schijns. “But, that’s not a conversation. They can use social media to collaborate and learn.”

Though many customers have embraced communications and community features available on the Web, those with products and services to market and sell haven’t kept up, reports Schijns. “We did a survey in which 84 percent of channels had an ineffective prospecting tactic last year that they still kept this year.”

Perhaps the biggest distinction with Web marketing and sales is that between getting traffic to your site and getting leads, says Schijns. “People have seen an increase in online sales, but they don’t have a strategy and are looking at this means tactically.”

Schijns and Weiss will focus their presentation on identifying and detailing the offerings that can help customers layer the latest Web capabilities onto their sites. In addition, social networking elements, such as community features and heightened interactivity will be focused on as a core means of engaging and interacting with potential customers.

Channel partners can learn from the likes of huge non-technology consumer products firms who have embraced social media to market, sell and gain valuable feedback on their wares.

Even technology titans such as Microsoft Corp. have taken a keen interest in the area, having spent well over $1 billion last October for a small piece of social networking pioneer Facebook.

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