Digital tools offer distributors the potential to improve productivity and sales, offer a better value proposition for customers, and strengthen relationships with suppliers, but success isn’t possible without a smart strategy and some trial and error.

That was the conclusion of Mark Dancer and two industry experts on Wednesday at the NAW 2015 Executive Summit. Those experts — Ellen Holladay of Motion Industries and Brian Nichol of Performance Food Group — offered their experiences in planning, testing, deploying and refining digital tools to drive e-commerce sales at their respective companies.

Digital tools, in this context, include the Web/e-commerce, social media, CRM, marketing automation and more. Dancer surveyed wholesaler-distributors on a number of questions, including:

  • Overall experience with specific digital tools, in terms of “experienced user,” “implementer or shopper,” and “person with understanding of features and benefits.”
  • Leading priorities for improving business results, in terms of distributors and manufacturers.
  • The leading benefits of digital tools for wholesaler-distributors.
  • (read more…)

A social media presence isn’t just nice for a wealth management firm to have, it is now vital to the business, Clara Shih, founder and CEO of Hearsay Social, a social media marketing software maker, told the audience at SIFMA’s Private Client Conference last week in New York City.

“The world has gone social and mobile,” Shih said. Ninety-eight percent of U.S. Internet users belong to a social network, with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn being the most important social networks for advisers, she said.

These tools help advisers to stay in touch with clients and keep their business top of mind. Ultimately, online signals can lead to offline conversations and a striking social media presence is as important as being listed in the Yellow Pages used to be, Shih said.

But social media is more than a marketing tool. It allows advisers to see the life events of clients that trigger financial decisions, such as getting married, having a baby or buying a home. (read more…)

A packed house at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival came together for tips on how to use social media to further business-to-business marketing, with experts Jamie Grenney, vice president social media and online video at Salesforce; Jason Bartlett, vice president of global social marketing for Xerox; and Jeanette Gibson, senior director social and digital marketing at Cisco Systems, all moderated by Melissa Chanslor, director at Text100. This informative panel gave participants a lot to think about, but four themes seemed to predominate.

  1. The entire company has a role in social marketing. Gibson says every company needs to leverage the people who want to help customers connect with your business and give them the tools to do that. “The entire company has a role in social.” At Cisco — and all forward-thinking companies — all employees are expected to engage with customers. Bartlett says not to “underestimate your employees’ own social networks,” Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
  2. (read more…)

By now you have probably heard of Twitter’s new video-sharing application called Vine. If not, here is a quick snapshot.

Users can record motion and sound clips from their iOS phones and upload the newly created video via the app to share on Twitter or the Vine environment itself. Each video can be tagged with keywords and hashtags, and users can like and comment your post, similar to other video-sharing sites.

What makes Vine different? It’s all about the length restriction. Each video is limited to six seconds in length and will loop continuously after it is published.

While the coverage of the Vine app lately has been largely negative, due to privacy bugs and controversial adult content, there are incredible opportunities out there for businesses willing to experiment with the app.

10 video ideas for B2B companies just getting started with Vine:

  1. Showcase the building and grounds of your company’s headquarters.
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On Friday, I discussed the value of customer knowledge. But how do you put that knowledge to work? What role does community play?

Let’s move on to the issue of customer service, or literally serving the customer. That term covers a lot of terrain, so I’ll start with a few examples from my own experience. I’ve been having trouble with my phone line recently, so I decided to try and find out what the problem is. When my own attempts at troubleshooting failed, I called the Telekom hotline. I don’t even want to get started on the voice-activated menu, which made me want to tear my hair out. After the computer had finally come to terms with my accent, I got a real human being on the other end. The service representative identified the problem with some input from me (it seems my ancient Eumex 404 ISDN unit has given up the ghost) and suggested a solution. (read more…)