I’ve attended the Enterprise 2.0 conference every year for the last three years. I’ve met good friends there for the first time, put faces to old friends I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting IRL and I always look forward to catching up with many of the brilliant people I am lucky enough to be acquainted with. Ultimately, however, it’s not the sessions and speakers that really get me going intellectually. It’s the hallway convos and debates over drinks. This year was no different. In fact, I heard from many attendees that it is now official: the sessions are not the draw at E20 – the lobby is.

So what did I take away this year? A number of things, but one thought in particular I have been chewing on for some time, especially because it aligns with our Enterprise Services practice, which is all about change management. I shared it Andy McAfee just before the social media panel I participated in on the second day (and which was very sparsely attended – social media being the red-headed stepchild of E20), and it goes a little something like this:

1. There is a dramatic proliferation of touchpoints between the enterprise and the market. Two-way conversations used to happen via your 1-800 number, your reception desk and your sales and PR teams. Now hundreds, even thousands of employees across the company can be communicating with the entire market via dozens of social channels in real time (no surprise here).

2. Consumers perceive brands/companies/institutions as speaking with one big voice. They don’t care if it’s CRM, sales or marcom. These artificial divisions may mean a lot inside the org, but outside, no one cares. You’re Company X. End of story.

3. Internal integration across these silos is critical to avoid missed opportunity and potentially generate solid ROI – the communications person will be encountering CRM issues, the CRM person bumping up against sales opportunities, etc.

4. It’s within that last point that I find a most compelling question. How does the sales function integrate with a company’s social media activities? How does it become nimble and horizontally integrated in order to take full advantage of the opportunities presented at all of these different touchpoints? How and when does it engage effectively?

5. What if your sales org could become something that lives in “the cloud” (please see below for a great video that answers the question, “What is Cloud Computing?”), meaning it is accessible from any point within the organization and any time in the sales cycle, rather than being a linear process that starts with a suspect at the top of the funnel and ends in a sale at the bottom? (Colin Douma, a brilliant guy who is now the VP of social at an agency in Toronto, had some interesting thoughts about what the sales funnel actually looks like in the age of social media, and Joe Jaffe recently wrote a booked called Flip the Funnel, so I’m not alone in thinking about this).

The end state? If sales is now horizontally integrated across the org, living in a kind of “process cloud”, when someone in customer service or communications or research identifies a prospect with an itch their product can scratch, they can feed that lead right into the appropriate node in the sales pipeline. Opportunity seized.

This is of course both a technology and a workflow challenge, but one I suspect will increasingly become an issue as engagement matures and a return on all of our socializing must be demonstrated. A spurned prospect is also more that just a lost opportunity – it’s someone who’s likely pissed off, since no one enjoys being ignored.

[full disclosure: I attended E20 2010 on a complimentary press pass]

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2 Comments

  1. Maggie,

    This is a great post for many reasons, one of them being that validates my work through the last few years :) . I have been working with these concepts for some time, and I agree with everything you say in here.

    The concept you are describing, how the company must change its internal operations to become better at dealing with customers, it is in an article I wrote for MyCustomer.com not that long ago (I am linking it here for the benefit of those reading and to extend the conversation, I usually don’t link from comments to blogs – promise!) and it is here. I also wrote tons more about this in my site.

    However, the thing that is more exciting about this it that I am sensing people from Social Media starting to realize the magnitude of the capabilities of it for the organization. This is something that we totally need, to work all together in building a better social business that caters to customers’ needs better, and to organizational strategic goals.

    Thanks for writing this, it just about made my day (and thanks to Sameer for pointing it out).

    Esteban

    • maggiefox Author

      Hey Esteban, thanks so much for your comment – and I think one of the next interesting questions we’re going to have to ask is “what do you call the intersection of social media and enterprise 2.0?” because intersect they surely will…

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