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Love those elephants

It is all go on the social marketing front and most of us marketers are working to build our online reputations while boosting inbound marketing.

That way, potential specifiers, clients and customers will contact us, rather than us having to identify who they are, track them down and then subject them to as hard a sell as we think we can get away with and still be successful.

Society seems to be moving away from personal contact.

We use Facebook to keep up with friends rather than calling them; online gaming is less personal than sitting round a table with a board game; people say things online that they would never dream of saying to someone’s face; and flying drones controlled thousands of miles away from the battlefield are used to kill people without the need to ever see them.

It is in this context that the attractions of Twitter, optimising your website, forming Facebook groups and writing a blog, etc, are easier to carry through then sitting down face-to-face with a possible specifier or purchaser.

Doing things at a distance, not directly engaging with people and seemingly avoiding rejection by inbound marketing means that in terms of social marketing a traditional sales force might seem to be old fashioned, expensive and unnecessary.

But is a sales team the elephant in the room as far as social marketing is concerned? Ignored as old fashioned and out of touch with modern methods but in actuality a large and very real presence?

Undoubtedly reputation marketing and other ‘showing’ methods such as blogs, social networking, case studies and testimonials, speaking at events and press editorial will become the greater part of marketing in the future.

However, in many cases they will be the prelude to someone sitting down with and talking to someone else.

According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the elements that make up the ‘promotion’ bit of the 4 Ps are: advertising; sales promotions; public relations; direct marketing and personal selling.

Of these four areas, personal selling is the one that requires the most skill and the greatest personal effort.

It is a well worn cliché that ‘people buy people’, but the fact of the matter is that clichés are true, which is why they become clichés. It’s people who buy things, not companies, and they buy from other people.

This is why traditional sales people and their skills will always be needed. Once contact is initiated then personal contact becomes the means to obtain sales and nurture long-term relationships.

Sharing a message through blogs for example will only achieve so much, as at some stage it will be necessary to share specific, valuable information with a prospect, and to talk to them, referring to past conversations and providing valuable new information that will be of help to them.

Whether that conversation takes place across a lunch table, through emails, on the phone, on a forum or at an event, it is an essential part of marketing and it has to be personal.

So be wary of abandoning the special skills of experienced sales people – being at a horse race is a very different and more exciting experience than betting online, and seeing the elephants at a circus is more impressive than watching them on YouTube.

Social marketers should not ignore the elephant in the room that is an established sales team; you can only do so much from a distance.

Rick Osman is a partner in Highwire Design, a design and marketing agency that specialises in the construction industry, and one of the team that created, as well as being a CIMCIG committee member and a judge for the Construction Marketing Awards. You can find out about upcoming construction marketing events at


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