The usual starting point for social media analysis—whether you're more interested in the monitoring or measurement variants—is to ask, "what are people saying about us?" That's a reasonable starting point, but if we take a few steps around to other parts of the elephant, we discover other applicatons. Today, for example, I talked with a marketing exec at a capital equipment supplier who was interested in consumer intelligence as a major account sales tool. I can think of quite a few companies who could do what he described, but I couldn't think of any who have.
The idea is simple. Use a common snapshot report to generate insights about a major customer account, based on what their customers have to say about them. Package the results for your major account team. You could also use a more general view of your customers' industry for your entire sales force.
What are my customer's customers saying?
Start with a typical reputation snapshot report—volume, sentiment, leading topics, trends. Instead of focusing on your own company, focus on your customer (bonus points for finding trends that mention both your customer and you or a competitor). It's a simple keyword substitution away from the traditional question: "what are people saying about them?"
When you get the report, the first benefit will be in growing your understanding of your customer's business. But the eye-openers will probably be in a leading dissatisfiers list (top issues filtered by negative sentiment). How would your sales team like to know about your customer's issues with:
- Problems associated with your products
- Problems associated with competitors' products (bonus!)
- Problems your products can help solve
- Emerging opportunities for your customer supported by your products
I did a lot of this kind of demand-chain analysis in my previous career—looking at consumer trends and their impact on customer demand for my products. This is valuable intelligence for any company whose customers use their products to deliver their own products or services. If you do this for sales, just remember to share the results with your marketing and product groups.
(Update: It may be more accurate to describe this as industrial marketing, as opposed to B2B.)
Nice theory, but who's doing it?
I suspect I could dig through my files and find examples of vendors who offer this type of report, but off the top of my head... nothing. The usual, $10–15K report is overkill, but a package of basic customer snapshots focused on identifying sales opportunities might have potential. Is anyone doing this with clients now?
I'm also curious what this topic does to your comfort meter. Does the thought of running analytics on your customer's market make you uncomfortable?
For those of you in the business, this came out of a casual conversation, but if it were a live request from a client, it's the kind of question I would send out on my new mailing list for vendors. If you don't have your invitation, drop me a note and I'll add you. And yes, I do plan to follow up on today's conversation with what I learn.