Positive cash flow is the name of the game in today's uncertain market. The lack thereof is spurring companies to explore innovative ways to build revenue streams and improve business processes.
Some 70 percent of a company's business comes from 30 percent of its customers. Given that fact, investing in new ways to connect and collaborate with existing customers just makes good fiscal sense. This philosophy of taking care of one's own is the essence of CRM…not to mention, the lifeblood of all successful businesses.
It was in this vein Innotas, an on-demand portfolio management provider, sought closer ties with its customers. The San Francisco-based firm provides Web-based tools to companies like Forbes and Crayola, allowing them to communicate among team members and manage their IT resources for maximum ROI.
Collaboration is the core tenet of Innotas' business. With its intrinsic power to connect, Innotas realized the enormous potential of social media to understand its customer base and create product and service offerings to meet and exceed those expectations.
Starting in 2007, Innotas founder Demian Entrekin observed more and more products moving to a community-based architecture. "People want to collaborate and communicate 24/7," says Entrekin. "This realization triggered our decision to begin exploring social media as a company, from a sales, marketing, and service perspective.
"It's the way of the world," he adds. "If you're not at least thinking about creating a community-based social media strategy, you're living under a rock."
Entrekin attended several workshops in 2008 led by Cerado, a provider of business- and customer-focused software solutions. Discussion points included:
•. What exactly is social media, and how does it work?
• What does community mean to your business?
• How do selling and community interact?
Favorably influenced by the experience, Entrekin hired Cerado to facilitate a structured meeting with representatives from a wide cross-section of Innotas, including marketing, sales, support, and development. The goal: determining how to inject community into the company's customer base.
Cerado recommended Innotas do the following:
• Identify exactly who comprises Innotas' community.
• Start meaningful conversations by creating public-facing efforts via LinkedIn and Twitter.
• Educate portfolio managers on why it's important to be part of the Innotas community.
• Create reasons and means for community members to connect and cross-link with each other.
• Saas (software as a service) is a serious topic. Encourage participation by humanizing the community, making it lightweight and fun.
• Find in-person opportunities for community members to connect offline.
Many people erroneously believe community-building involves bolting on a threaded discussion and nothing more. But in actuality, building a sustainable community requires a holistic approach, one involving the entire organization. A community offers a sense of place and belonging. It gives a company opportunities to connect with its public, both internal and external, and includes employees, customers, prospects, and partners.
"My biggest 'a-ha!' moment was that our community is really everybody in our company," says Entrekin. "We've embraced a holistic company approach into our social media efforts. It's not a one-off marketing campaign—like the central nervous system, everything is integrated."
Innotas' customer success manager, George Shaheen, handles the company's LinkedIn and Twitter efforts. "Community members tend to join one group or the other, based on their desired level of involvement," he says. "LinkedIn is more time-intensive and participatory, whereas Twitter is more passive."
Shaeen sends out regular tweets, often including news article links on industry topics. "It's free, easy, and a great way to connect with our customers and partners," he notes. "By providing value, we are building a vibrant community of followers that can be cultivated to improve our customers' experience."
Simplicity Breeds Success
"Cerado's expert guidance along on our social media journey has kept Innotas from spinning in circles," Entrekin says. "They literally saved our company three months of time. Cerado provided Innotas with a strategic, actionable plan to build and engage our community.
"We now have a clear blueprint to achieve our goals. We know exactly what we need to do to, and are moving in the right direction."
Note: To learn more about Innotas, visit www.innotas.com. For Cerado, go to www.cerado.com.