Selling products can be done by every IT reseller. But there is a lot more to it when it comes to offering customized solutions and high-quality IT solutions. With the help of the Social Shift, we now let the market know better and better that we are the partner that can do this. In marketing terms: we are strongly positioning ourselves on the knowledge axis. And that starts with social media. "Luuk Slaats is convinced: the customer journey takes place digitally today. Maybe not complete, but the beginning of it certainly. Slaats is managing director of Centralpoint, the largest IT reseller in the Benelux. It is completely clear to him where his marketers have to be to position the company: online. Yet, until recently, that was a challenge. The current Centralpoint organization - about 500 employees in the Netherlands and Belgium - is the sum of three specialized IT companies: Scholten Awater, Infotheek and the 'old' Centralpoint.nl. Previously Slaats was commercial director of Scholten Awater, which mainly focused on the enterprise segment. At Scholten Awater, together with team manager marketing and communication Rick Lamers, he introduced the Social Shift a few years ago. In the meantime they continue to use it throughout Centralpoint.
Early in the picture
"Originally, Scholten Awater was a typical trade organization," Slaats looks back. 'But in the course of time we developed, which made our added value as an advisor at least as important as the products we sold. But we showed that insufficiently. "Although Scholten Awater had a clear marketing orientation with an excellent marketing mix, there was one - important - wish.
Slaats: 'For a knowledge-oriented company, it is extra important that you are already in the picture at an early stage with your customers and prospects. After all, your added value is bigger in the customer journey than when you step in later; then the important choices are often made and you are more executive as an IT reseller. You want to come to the table quickly, something that many consultants and service providers will recognize. The arrival of social media has made this much more possible than was previously the case. '
'We can now also position ourselves well digitally'
Initially, social media for Scholten Awater simply formed a part of the marketing mix. 'We do use them, but especially ad hoc,' says Rick Lamers. 'We were on all known channels and occasionally posted a message. There was no real strategy yet. "That changed in the marketing plan for 2016." Our role as a knowledge partner became increasingly important. Especially on LinkedIn we had experienced how valuable it is to start a dialogue with your target group on social media, without having to pay too much marketing budget. We wanted to tackle that much more structurally.'
Cold water fear and unfamiliarity
It was the beginning of a Social Shift that continues to this day. Under the leadership of the marketing and communication department, a broad project team and a stretegic plan was set up together with an external agency. 'We had already decided that we wanted to make our knowledge accessible to the outside world by making our employees ambassadors. We thought up the way we would do that with the agency.'
'We want to be top of mind structurally as a knowledge partner'
A strategic plan was drawn up, there was a content plan with content pillars, the employees were trained, there was an editor for two days a week, activation sessions took place ... But it was not immediately on fire. According to Lamers, that was mainly due to cold-water fear and unfamiliarity with the material at the participating employees. The fear of cold water was taken away by letting the participants learn from each other in knowledge sessions, the unfamiliarity by declaring a full-time editor. Then it took off. 'That is the beauty of a Social Shift process,' says Lamers. 'As an organization you prepare everything to perfection, but in the end it is still a voyage of discovery. And do not forget: every employee also makes his or her own shift. But if there is support and you know where you all want to go, it is not bad to adjust: one step back to move two forward.'
Marketing as the head
In many organizations such a process takes place from the communication department. At Centralpoint, that’s definitely not the case. 'We are a marketing-driven organization,' Slaats explains. 'Where some sales organizations have the sales department at the forefront, our marketing takes that place. We see marketing as the advanced discipline that creates the preconditions within which our sales employees can perform. Exploring the market, collecting information from the organization, analyzing data, anticipating to changing customer needs, developing a long-term strategy ... in my view, these are real marketing activities.'
Social media now play an important role in this. 'I want to express it even more,' emphasizes the managing director, 'social has really become the starting point of our marketing. It has "accelerated" our entire marketing process. We are in the picture earlier, we start the dialogue quicker, we can anticipate on new developments earlier, we develop a more up-to-date feeling at the market and we know the customer earlier, so we can respond better to his needs. "It is very possible that Centralpoint will soon have three Social Shift teams, each with its own strategy. 'With Centralpoint we serve three segments: enterprise, mid-market and small-medium business. Although the theoretical framework for these segments is the same, they each have their own dynamics and very individual needs in terms of knowledge and advice. Anticipating even better is our next step. This can be done by working with dedicated teams. "This is how the company gets closer and closer to the customer. Especially if it will also link the crm package and other software to the social software, because Slaats sees that as a real step aswell. 'Marketing automation, that's where we have to go.'
If the whole movement could not have been made without a Social Shift process, that’s the question. Lamers and Slaats agree once in their answer: no. Lamers emphasizes the organizational aspect. You have to have a clear underlying strategy with a broad-based structure, he says: "You don’t do it for a moment. You really have to anchor it in the organization and secure it in your processes. You can only do that if you have an integrated approach for that.'
Slaats points to the cultural aspect. 'The principle that "all" employees can make content and communicate on behalf of the company fits in perfectly with our company; we are a very low-threshold organization where people have a lot of freedom. Still, there was a switch that had to be flipped, in all layers of the organization. Now that everyone is accustomed to the idea of ambassadorship, everything really coincides: the participating employees are even more involved than before, we show the market better than ever what we have iand we are already very early in the customer journey top or mind. And that is only the beginning. Because believe me: it and social media are becoming increasingly determinant in society. Cool that we are involved in that. '
The main learning points of Centralpoint:
- 'There must be support in the entire organization, otherwise it will not work. Towards employees that means: not enforcing, but facilitating. And towards the management that means: in addition to time and resources, you also need "active" commitment.'
- ‘To ‘embed’ the Social Shift structurally one hundred percent focus is important. Employees must therefore be able to call in at any time of the day with their question or problem.'
- 'Do a baseline, work with KPIs and share the results. Then you can show from the beginning that it works. Nothing is as motivating as joint success.'