Working as a sales manager at Advanta Leasing, I got a call from an irate first time vendor. He was livid because his customer received the initial lease invoice with three large fees. Nobody communicated that fees would be included and the lessee wanted to cancel the deal. The lessee ended up paying cash and the vendor never used us again. The vendor was mad enough to put his complaint in writing and that was the end of the matter.Oh how things have changed! If that were to happen today the vendor could reach in his pants and tell hundreds people what happened. Instead of just our company reading his complaint, now his 130 friends on Facebook and 300 followers on Twitter (these are the average numbers according to The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk) are immediately aware of the problem.Change is not coming, it's here. Next time you're in a mall, or an airport look around, at least half of the people you see are walking around with their heads down and their fingers taping on their phones. Smart phones have changed they way we do business. The customer has a voice and he's talking with his friends, family and other business owners in on-line discussion groups.With the advent of social media every customer is a potential reporter, and leasing companies need to stay current. Most businesses I speak with are afraid of social media. They think that it's just for consumers not for business to business transactions.
They say things like:??? "Social media? Twitter isn't appropriate for our market."
??? "Facebook is for kids, not businesses"
??? "We don't have time to maintain a blog."
??? "We use it, several of our people are on LinkedIn."Whether you like it or not, social media is becoming a key way to connect with customers. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have shown that they have staying power. Think it's not for business to business transactions? Avaya sold a $250,000 phone system using social media. (Read about Avaya's success with social media here: (Casey Hibbard's article, "It Pays to Listen.") Getting involved in social media is necessary, makes sense and allows you to truly connect with customers.Many leasing companies come off as non-caring corporate entities. Their web sites are so nondescript and boring that the customer has no idea what they company is really like. If you have a Facebook page you can show the human side of your company. You address in a public forum the questions and concerns your customers have about your products and services-which are being asked anyway without your participation. You participate in the conversations taking place that relate to equipment leasing, and you build a customer community.If you want to proceed slowly you can just observe industry discussions with social media monitoring tools.
The web site Social Mention is like Google Alerts for social media. Once you're ready to dip your toes in the water, recruit employees who are involved and excited about social media to come up with a policy that can guide employee usage. Every employee can then become a marketer for your company.You don't have to start from scratch. There are dozens of social media policies from major companies available online. Then start engaging with current vendors. Sharing information shouldn't be viewed as broadcasting to the market but rather as seeking to start conversations. The point is to draw in interested vendors, key influencers, and sales prospects by engaging them in discussions and building business relationships.Also, remember to ask questions. Make it a habit to end your status updates, blog posts or other content with a question asking followers what they think. Vendors enjoy talking about themselves and their experiences; let them do it on your page, and learn from what they tell you.Engaging with your vendors on the social media sites creates loyalty, increases orders, and humanizes your company. It's really simple. If your customers use social media, you need to be there, too. Just think of it as part of your marketing mix and who knows, you might get a 250K deal like Ayaya.