Marketing social business technology

Times have changed since 2000 when Wally remarked to Dilbert “I’m hoarding my knowledge in case I ever need it”.  The MIT Sloan Management Review just released a new study, “Social Business: What are companies really doing?” that quantifies trends in adoption of social business initiatives and expectations for their future value.

Many of Isurus’ technology clients provide social business offerings or are working to make their offerings relevant to social business, including SFA that integrates collaboration, PLM systems that enable collaboration within geographically dispersed engineering teams, and marketing automation solutions that support social marketing.

Several findings from the MIT Sloan study are instructive for technology marketers and sales teams.

Articulate a business benefit:  The adoption curve for social business initiatives is like any other new technology in that the majority market needs to see a compelling business benefit in order to adopt social business initiatives and technologies.   Unlike visionaries and early adopters, most business cultures don’t foster experimentation with new technologies in order to discover the value as they go along.  Technology marketers need to articulate a clear strategic vision and value proposition for social business and collaboration offerings in order to gain traction in the majority market.

Identify the key stakeholders. The MIT Sloan study identifies a gap between CEO and CIO support for social business.  CEOs are nearly twice as likely as CIOs to see social business as important to their organization.  This finding is in line with Isurus’ research, which shows that IT can struggle with the loss of control and security concerns associated with consumerization of IT in general and with social initiatives specifically.  Secondly, because most businesses lack a clear strategic vision for social business, it isn’t a top priority for IT.  They’re not interested in investing IT budgets in technologies with questionable value that may turn out to be short-lived fads.  The implications for technology marketers are to first identify the right primary sales target for social business technologies; it is probably an executive or line of business leader, and not IT.  Secondly, technology marketers will need to gain IT’s support in order to sell social business technologies into the business.  IT may not be the champion or main sales target, but they are typically involved in the process of identifying, evaluating, and selecting vendors.

Support the long-term success of the initiative. Adoption and measurement are also keys to the long-term success of social business initiatives, according to the MIT Sloan study. For technology providers, the sales and customer management processes needs to extend beyond implementation to support adoption and provide clear measurements that align with the customers’ business strategy.  If technology providers fail to provide this type of support after the sale, the long term viability of the project suffers.