By now just about every product manager knows that not only has social media arrived, it has just about taken over the world. The use of social media has made its way into everyone’s product development definition. The problem that a lot of us are having is that we’re not 100% sure about how best to use this new marketing tool. Where things get even trickier is when we try to figure out how to get our sales teams to do a better job of selling our products using social media. What’s the best way to do this?
As a product manager, you need to realize that as your sales teams go out into the real world and start to use social media tools to interact with potential customers, you may be facing a real problem.
There are a lot of different things that your sales people can do that instead of helping your product to be more successful may actually end up hurting it. This list is fairly long but it can include such things as false representation of what your product can do, disclosures of unannounced features or pricing, and even copyright violations as they talk about the competition.
What’s a product manager to do? You’d like to be able to add “knows how to teach sales to use social media” to your product manager resume, but how? The healthcare and the finance industry, because of how tightly they are regulated, have always had strict requirements about how their employees can communicate with the outside world. However, confidentiality and privacy issues can pop up in these or any industry.
What is going to be needed here are some well-crafted guidelines that show your sales teams what is permitted – and what is not. The good news for product managers is that there are companies that have already got this task done correctly: Nordstrom, IBM, and the U.S. Air Force are great examples. If you’d like to be able to have a good starting point for your company’s social media guidelines then check out Chris Boudreaux’s database of organizational policies.
Just having your sales teams use social media is not going to be enough to attract more customers to your product. It turns out that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about using social media to sell a product.
There are a lot of examples of the wrong way. For example, in the world of social media your first impression carries a lot of weight and may be very hard to undo. The last thing that you want your sales teams to be doing is using social media like a modern day megaphone and shouting to the world how great your product is.
Instead, what you are going to want to teach them is to personalize their social media messages. Get them to participate in social media discussions often, not just every once in a while. Perhaps most importantly, you are going to have to teach them to provide lots and lots of value to the social media ecosystem so that when it comes time to sell your product, they have a willing and receptive audience.
What All Of This Means For You
There is no doubt that based on their popularity, social media tools are here to stay. That means that as product managers we need to figure out how to use them in order to maximize the sales of our products. If this isn’t already part of your product manager job description, it soon will be. Since we don’t actually sell our products, this means that we’ve got to find out how to teach our sales teams to use social media to sell more.
As with every new marketing tool, there are a host of dangers associated with these new social media tools. Before anyone goes crazy with them, it is you job as product manager to make sure that the company provides its sales teams with guidelines that will teach them what they can and cannot do. Once that’s taken care of, the more delicate task of teaching social media nuances needs to occur if your sales teams are to be successful.
Social media is too important to be ignored by you – it’s where your customers are living and interacting every day. Since it’s your sales teams that will be selling your product, they need to learn how to use social media to sell your product to your customers. Take the time to teach them and you’ll be able to count the new sales as they roll in.
Question For You: Which of the 9 different major social media platforms do you think would be the best one to use in order to connect with your product’s customers?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
You’ve just been put in charge of managing the best product ever. Based on the product development definition, you know that this product is going to be a run-away success: it solves a critical problem that a lot of customers are currently facing. There’s just one problem: either the product does not yet exist or it exists, but doesn’t do what it needs to do. You’re going to need some money – what’s it going to take to get your company to fund your product?