Social Media Should Not Supplant Real Relationship Management

The key to getting old-school relationship guys to seeing the value of social media is to show how it can help. Shocking, right?

One of the major barriers to social media marketing in service-oriented B2B companies, I’ve heard and seen, is that it doesn’t compete with genuine relationship development. Why would I want to talk to one of my best clients on Twitter, for example, when I can talk to him in real life? After all, I just need to pick up the phone or buy him a cup of coffee.

In the B2B space, many of the old-school sales guys – who are good at what they do and have proven it for years, sometimes decades – fret that social media is being positioned as an alternative to the development and management of real relationships. Frankly, they don’t think social media can do as good a job.

On this last point, at least, they’re correct: social media sucks as an alternative to real relationship management. What they don’t always realize, however, is that a carefully and intelligently planned and executed social media marketing program should enhance relationship management rather than replace it.

When it comes to existing clients – or even high-value, qualified leads who aren’t clients yet – social media can be a great tool for reminding and helping.

You can’t talk to your clients every day (unless you are in a unique business). Even if you want to, they probably don’t have the time or inclination to allow it. After all, your clients have jobs, too! A Facebook page, corporate blog or Twitter account can keep you in front of your clients in short bursts, which ensures that you and your company stay top of mind between meetings or conversations. These tools can deliver information from your company in manageable increments, making the meetings you do have more productive, since you’ll be able to focus on the implications of that information … which is the stuff deals are made of.

And, social media can lend a helping hand

Especially for net-new clients, information on your corporate blog or Facebook page, for example, can explain your company’s value proposition and help shorten the sales cycle. You can spend less time explaining your company and more time focusing on your prospect’s pain points.

With both approaches – reminding and helping – social media enhances the relationship management process. It doesn’t replace the business development craft that is crucial to attracting new business and generating ROI.

Ultimately, social media should help fill the pipeline in B2B markets. Use it to qualify leads, understand their needs better and help them understand your company. Then, turn over to your sales force an opportunity that is more likely to lead to a successful sale.

Relationship management and social media should work together – one is never a substitute for the other. When you are planning and implementing your social media marketing program, work with your sales force to understand what they need, and what you can deliver. Invest some time in showing them what you plan to do, and getting their advice on how to move forward. The results will speak for themselves.