Social media marketing is a serious business and "social media marketing manager" is a role that's starting to appear in quite a few organisations in the public sector and in the private sector.If a social media marketing manager started work in your organisation next Monday, and showed an immediate interest in employer engagement, how might you handle the briefing meeting in which your new manager asked the following questions?How do you use the different social media platforms?It's a fair question and a good starting point for your discussions with your new staff member.Are you building a vibrant and responsive employer community on Twitter? Can you explain your policy about who your social media manager should follow and who to connect with? Will you be able to explain your objectives for your Twitter accounts and contrast them with your goals for your Facebook Fan Pages?If you replied to the question in terms of a commitment to gain more followers and fans, you could expect to be pushed to supply additional detail about the online persona you're trying to create. Would you be ready with your explanation?What are you trying to achieve using social media?Providers who are on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and have taken up blogging because every one says you need to be doing these things, will start to feel the embarrassment as soon as they are asked the above question.Yet, this is the most fundamental social media marketing question of all.Your new social media manager will be right to ask this question and to keep on asking it.Are you using social media to build awareness of your organisation's approach to working with employers? Are you using social media applications in conjunction with your sales activities? If you're using the social web to build your reputation with employers, what exactly do you want employers to remember about you?If you found you weren't in a position to brief your social media manager about these issues, then he or she would struggle to do a good job. Therefore, don't ignore the question, even if no one is waiting for your answer at the moment. You need to know what you're trying to do on the social web as soon as possible.What's the contribution of social networking to employer engagement?There's another way of asking this question.How are you using social networking to engage in dialogue and discussions with employers?How many LinkedIn groups have you created to support different groups of employers, for example? What actions have you taken to ensure that those groups remain active and interesting to employers, and as a result continue to grow?How often do you use the Follow Friday convention (#FF) on Twitter to thank your employers for their support or to put an employer's business into the spotlight? How often do you share content that you find on employers' Facebook pages on your own fan page or pages?If you want your new social media manager to engage with employers via these platforms, what guidance will you offer? What sort of references to employers and their activities do you want on your "walls" or in your Twitterstream?Difficult Questions?Perhaps you're breathing a sigh of relief that you don't have a social media manager starting work next week.If you don't know the answers to the above questions, try pretending you need to brief a new staff member with responsibility for social media very soon. That will help to focus your attention on an important aspect of your business development strategy. It will also help you to use the social web more effectively.
Do you like to keep up with developments in the world of business? Do you cast your eye over the latest economic trends each month or each quarter? If you do, you'll know that new business activity is increasing.Are you taking advantage of these developments in order to grow your own employer community?Connecting with new businessesAccountants already know that the number of new company formations is increasing, because quite a lot of the work of setting up these new companies is coming to them. Other suppliers of products and services to new businesses are also finding their sales increasing. Those new businesses will soon be making other purchases, too.Are you actively trying to get more new businesses to join your employer community? Are you hosting new business events and business start-up conventions? Are you revitalising your strategy for making sure new businesses know about you and how you can help them?To take advantage of the current situation set targets for growing your list of employers to reflect what's happening in your local business marketplace. Make a commitment to pay particular attention to the needs of new businesses when you're planning your marketing activities for the autumn.Building relationships with businessesMost people take time to decide to buy a product, service or development programme. They buy when they are familiar with the organisation delivering the support and have heard good things about the quality of service on offer.Is your approach to employer engagement designed to help to build the sort of trust that over time leads to business?Have you communicated the benefits employers gain when they choose to join your e-mail list or to attend a free event or to give up valuable time to meet one of your staff? Are you actively thinking about how you can encourage employers to learn more about you, and at the same time demonstrating to them that you do a good job?Are you also directly asking new employers to join your community?Personal invitations always bring in the best responses. To help to attract new businesses to your organisation ensure that every one who works with employers reminds them about the benefits of being part of your community on a regular basis.Make a particular point of spelling out the benefits new businesses will gain from building a close relationship with your organisation as they face the challenges of surviving those early years of trading.Giving buyers what they wantThe quickest way to build your business with employers is to supply what they're actually looking for.According to the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) employers are changing their spending habits when it comes to their purchases of learning and development. They are making more use of such cost-effective development practices as e-learning, coaching by line managers, in-house development programmes and in-house knowledge sharing events.Have you revised your offer to take such changes into account?For quite some time employers have expressed reluctance to buy, when offered qualifications. Are you ready for the world where they no longer wish to buy as much skills training either?Taking the right actionStatistics about the economy as a whole don't always draw sufficient attention to what's happening in the small business sector. Don't allow your organisation to ignore the changes that are taking place in this part of the employer marketplace.Make sure the majority of the new businesses in your area become part of your community rather than someone else's. In other words, make sure your employer community is growing.
Most people in provider organisations who promote programmes to employers have tales to tell about the proposals they've made, that somehow didn't turn into business. "It was a great meeting. The employer really liked the proposal." Yet, three weeks later there's still no agreement to go ahead. Why's this? What went wrong?There could be lots of reasons, but are you sure you're actually giving the employer a good enough reason to take action right now? Ask yourself the following to help you to work out if your offer really is so compelling that employers won't be able to wait to snap it up.Will your offer be there next month?Do the proposals you make to employers include deadlines? Is the offer in your proposal only available this month? Do employers know that you're planning to raise your prices for that programme at the end of term? Is it clear in the proposal that there's only so much time available in which to arrive at a decision before the opportunity will be lost?It's important to stress the limitations to your offer. Employers will often recognise that a proposal is good value and really worth having, but put off deciding to make the purchase until after something else has been bought, or until the next quarter, or until after the reorganisation has been completed. Employers will always be tempted to do this if it appears that your offer will remain on the table for weeks and weeks. It's your job to ensure employers know that time is running out and that a decision is needed now, so set those deadlines.Do you have a limited number of places on offer?Some providers like to boast about how many learners they have the capacity to enrol on their programmes. This approach isn't too helpful, if you're trying to get employers to commit to work with you sooner rather than later. When they believe you have lots of capacity, employers will reason that they will be able to access places whenever they choose.Far better to suggest that resource is scarce and precious. Tell employers this, because it's probably true. Even where you potentially have lots of places on offer, you probably recruit learners in groups and only decide to open a second group when the first has filled up.Let employers know when there are only a few places left in a particular group. Tell them that the group will probably be full by Friday. Ring employers and ask them if they want places reserved before someone else takes them.Is your programme special?If employers believe they can shop around for an NVQ or an apprenticeship programme that is much the same wherever it's offered, they will buy on price. Show employers that your programme is different from those offered by your competitors - in ways that are important to them - and you will become that employer's provider of choice.Once an employer accepts that your programme is different, and that it's what he or she is looking for, ask if there's any reason to delay in agreeing to your proposal. There almost certainly won't be.Promoting your programmes effectivelySales people know that it's important to give buyers a reason for accepting their proposals now rather than putting them aside until next week or next month.You're already spending time promoting your excellent programmes. Spend time, too, reminding employers that they will miss out on something valuable, if they don't take up your offer soon.If you're not doing this at present, maybe it's time to inject some urgency into the buying process.
It's all very well producing a set of procedures and flow charts to show how you manage relationships with employers, but do those systems work?I'm not talking about whether the systems work logically and whether, for example, your process for handling employer enquiries actually results in an employer receiving a response. I'm asking if the systems you operate work at a different level.Does the way in which you manage your relationships with employers deliver satisfied customers who buy from you more than once and who recommend your organisation on to others?Do employers like your account management system?Do employers like the approach you use to managing their relationship with your organisation? Do they believe that your customer relationship management system is set up to work to their benefit? Have good relationships been built up between the account managers and individual employers? Is the frequency of contact that you maintain between your organisation and employers right – in the eyes of your employers?Most importantly, whichever approach you use to manage your employer accounts, does it deliver plenty of repeat business to your organisation? If it does, it's a system that works.Do employers like the events you put on?When you host an employer event you can obtain immediate feedback about the value employers place on your efforts by simply doing a headcount of people in the room.If you want additional feedback, work out how many of the people present are employers and how many are others – your staff and invited non-employer guests. If you have at least four employers attending for every staff member or invited non-employer guest in the room, you're heading in the right direction.Take things a little further. What specifically do the employers who attend like about your event? What would they like more of? What would encourage them to attend your next event and bring another employer with them?Find out, and you'll soon have a list of topics for employer events that will last you for months. Ask the employers who recommend a particular topic to commit to inviting their contacts to attend the event, and you'll also get feedback on the value they place on your work.Do employers like visiting your premises?Do you make visiting your premises an enjoyable, stress-free and rewarding experience for employers? Whether your premises are the sites on which you teach, or the places where you host events for employers, do you ensure that the experience of visiting your chosen location is one that employers will actually enjoy?Do you send out accurate and helpful information in advance of an event? Do you help employers to reach your premises easily? What about the parking and the public transport access? Is there clear signage that helps adult visitors to find you and the employer-related event that they are attending easily? Can employers get refreshments in an adult environment? Is there somewhere for them to leave their coats?All in all, does your experience of working with employers suggest that employers arrive at events without anything you have done – or not done – raising their blood pressure or creating anxiety for them? If they do, you know your system for managing face-to-face relationships with employers is working.Great systems?It's easy to look at your employer engagement processes principally from your own perspective, but that's not enough. If you check that your systems also work well for employers, you'll be demonstrating that you really are customer-focused. You'll also almost certainly be bringing in more employer business.