The explosion of social media, open source technology, smart phones, tablet computing and the pace at which we must be able to deliver information to our customers and stakeholders, demands that we recognize our Information Technology staff as more than just a tool; they are a vital partner of our marketing and sales efforts. Gone are the days of just looking to IT for a new laptop or implementation of an ERP system. They should play a fundamental role in the development of our customer outreach.
Engagement models with both our customers and salespeople need to be rethought in the light of new inexpensive, but highly productive technology. Changes and improvements to existing resource planning systems or the addition of a CRM platform should be thought of as a way to deliver content and to control the conversation in the market place. Technology decisions made in a vacuum of a single department’s needs could result in limiting the data that can be leveraged by sales, marketing, production and customers. As Marketing becomes more involved in electronic information exchange with customers, our I.T. partners can deliver the foundation from which we can capture and manage an ever growing percentage of market share.
Tablet computing is the most rapidly adopted technology in history with over 100 million in use in the U.S. today. Our friends at Apple, for instance, realized that the game was as much about adoption as product development, and they landed on the side of “open source” coding. Anyone who wishes can build an application that will function on their smart phone or tablet. This move to cloud based computing and open source coding has also created the opportunity for a business, of any size, to leverage new technology in ways that were in the past, reserved for large corporations with huge marketing budgets and fully staffed IT departments.
Large in house development staffs, over priced consultants and hard coded proprietary web development have been replaced by a project based, nimble, programmers and Content Management System (CMS) platforms. Seamless integration of social media, mobile platforms and data from internal enterprise systems, are possible at staggeringly low costs. Most businesses function with “siloed” systems and processes and are slow to adopt emerging technologies. Marketing teams struggle to explain the return on investment of social media and work to detail conversion rates on advertising and web initiatives. Sales teams are forced to react to market pressures, manage relationships and deliver ever more detailed pricing on product and service offerings.
Viewing customer engagement as an information system, gives businesses an opportunity to set themselves up as the experts in the customer relationship. Consumers are spending more time every year researching online before making purchases and studies have shown that between 65 and 75% of B2B purchasers first turn to search engines to start their research. Overwhelmingly purchasers and researchers were looking for clear information, which is downloadable, portable and can be easily transferred within the buying agency. Think of how many ways that content can be delivered today… if the right technology is deployed.