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XChange SLED Keynote: Channel Must Embrace Social Media To Engage Next Generation Of Buyers

Michael Novinson

Solution providers looking to attract millennials need to be active on LinkedIn and create content that demonstrates thought leadership, according to an IT marketing expert.

"With social media, everyone has it, it's in their pocket, and they're looking at it all the time," said Holly Davis, CEO of Los Angeles-based HiDef360. "Think about who's going to be buying in the future because that's what they use."

Solution providers need to have a high-quality, mobile-friendly website that demonstrates their expertise and helps potential customers understand what they're thinking about purchasing, Davis said during an XChange SLED 2017 keynote, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company.

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"I know how to go and find them [new customers]. But how do they find us?" Davis asked. "They're not just going to rely on websites anymore."

That's where social media platforms come in. Davis said she uses LinkedIn to promote customers and can attract 4,000 views to a post if it includes a really cool image. That's typically a larger audience than most companies can attract to a webinar, Davis said Tuesday.

Many state and local government employees have the LinkedIn mobile app on their phone, and Davis said she often opts to connect with prospective customers on LinkedIn after meeting them at a conference rather than exchanging business cards that can easily get lost.

"They [government employees] are absolutely allowed to be on LinkedIn, and it's a great way to talk to them," Davis said. "And from a salesperson perspective, before I go ahead and call anyone, I definitely looked at their LinkedIn first."

Solution providers will enjoy more success by leading with the customers' interests or hobbies – or things the customer and salesperson have in common – rather than a piece of technology, Davis said. It takes three seconds for a salesperson to catch someone's attention, Davis said, and eight seconds before the prospective customer is fully engaged.

The average person engages with his or her smartphone a nearly inconceivable number of times each day, according to recent research.

"If you don't understand social media, just hire a millennial," Davis said. "This is not going away. It is something we have to figure out how to embrace."

But simply creating insightful content or eye-catching collateral isn't enough, Davis said. Solution providers need to be sure they've engaged with their key prospects before posting a blog or hosting a webinar, she said, or else their labor won't yield much fruit.

That can either be done directly by the solution provider, Davis said, or farmed out to a third party that's laser-focused on delivering information and getting prospective customers engaged.

"The easier you make it for your sales team, the more success you'll see with them," Davis said.

Solution provider Zealyx attracts most of its new customers through referrals and isn't doing enough to reach prospects on social media, according to Program Manager Kevin Dang.

The Los Angeles-based solution provider's 16-person workforce is comprised of a large number of developers and a smaller number of consultants, Dang said.

Going forward, Dang said Zealyx needs to decide whether it wants to give its consultants more of a salesperson function with the requisite social media responsibilities. Alternatively, he said the company could bring in someone from the outside to assist with the social media piece.

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