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Solution providers that don't embrace social media as part of their broader marketing and sales efforts risk losing business to competitors that do, according to Edison Peres, senior vice president of worldwide channels at Cisco.
"I'm still a little scared personally of social media," Peres joked during his welcome address at Cisco's Marketing Velocity event, taking place this week in Cannes, France. "But if you're not in the digital world, positioned properly, you are not going to be seen as a forward-looking company."
The importance of partners integrating social media into their marketing initiatives was one of several key themes presented by the Cisco channel team during this week's Velocity event, which is aimed at helping Cisco partners build out more effective marketing organizations.
Karen Walker, senior vice president of marketing at Cisco, also took to the stage at Velocity to stress how important social media has become in the business-to-business space. Citing a Google study, Walker said a massive 80 percent of customers today prefer to connect with a brand through Facebook before ultimately making a purchase, while only 42 percent of marketers recognize Facebook as being an integral piece to their marketing campaigns.
"There might be a little bit of disconnect there," Walker told the crowd.
In the business-to-business space, specifically, Walker noted that in 2007, 65 percent of technology or solution buyers looked at a company's online presence -- either through the company's own website, its social media presence or a combination of the two -- before deciding to make a purchase. Today, that number has shot up to 93 percent.
"So what that means is you have to really rethink how your sales and marketing partnerships are changing, and what we have to do to encourage our teams along this journey," Walker said.
Abby Favali, director of marketing at Network Dynamics, an Oldsmar, Fla.-based solution provider, said this year's Velocity event really underscores how crucial it is for her company to build up a social media presence.
"Social media is huge for me," Favali said. "I joined this company in November and they never had a marketing department. They created the role for me, and they had done virtually nothing with social media. We are invisible [without social media] and I know that."
Favali said the first step for her will be fine-tuning Network Dynamics' branding and defining a concrete message to send to its customers, before taking the full social media plunge.
"I want to make sure before we get out there that we are making the right impression," Favali said. "I feel really strongly about that. So now, the question is what is our brand's promise, and to make sure I'm redefining what our message is. I know we ultimately have a great message; it's just making sure we're all on the same page."