As any salesperson knows, having the most up to date and accurate marketing materials is a must. Surprisingly, email, while ineffective, is still one of the most common methods for document sharing, yet even when companies want to move away from it, the options are IT intensive and lack flexibility. But, times have changed and as business ecosystems have become more and more distributed, and salespeople are traveling less, having a way to securely work together and collaborate around important documents has gone from being a nice-to-have to a necessity.
But how exactly is document management moving from the old and inefficient applications to the new and more dynamic ones that are taking over today? The answer is in the basic social networking applications most of us use everyday – Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn and host of other applications.
At a high level, document management is no longer just about the content and technology, it’s about the people. The first step in this shift was document management moving from on-premise to a cloud-based service. What good is a location specific on-premise solution when most salespeople and prospects are distributed globally? If a salesperson in Ohio and a customer in China need to access documents from your company that’s based in California, no problem. Cloud-based document management is always on, everywhere for everyone.
While global accessibility is essential, the next step to making document management more people-centric is connecting the right people and enabling true collaboration. These are what I call Social Content Networks. A Social Content Network is powered by the invitation-based capabilities of social networking applications we are familiar with like LinkedIn and Facebook. It connects the right people around the right content with the ability to work together.
Extending this concept further is functionality familiar to most people from sites like Digg and Yelp: socially interacting with the existing content. Documents should be living entities even when they are not being updated. Salespeople can now rate content so other salespeople can easily gauge what works and what doesn’t. If a prospect needs a document and you want to send it securely to their email, new document management systems can do that too. That’s just another example of the many ways to new interact with existing content.
Finally, a feature on most social networks called ‘groups’ is also changing how people interact around content. Instead of one central location with a massive amount of content, people can now create individual invitation-based workspaces that, again, ensure that the right people have access to (or only see) the content that’s relevant to them. Especially when working with new business prospects, this concept is a boon for salespeople.
Overall, no matter where a salesperson is, they have access to this information at all times. Even in a sales meeting, they can easily pull up the latest and greatest content very easily. If a prospect in India asks for a spec sheet, not only can the salesperson share it with them, but they can also create a Social Content Network that they populate with documents that the prospect can access whenever they want.
The end game is about closing deals faster and keeping customers happy. While information sharing is a simple concept, the efficient execution of it has long eluded companies. Building Social Content Networks in which interaction and collaboration around documents is easy, has allowed companies to take a massive step in changing the way they can leverage the content they have at their disposal.
Eric Hoffert is CEO of ShareMethods, a provider of on-demand document collaboration software based in New Jersey. He can be reached via email at
Like a runaway train, B2B buyers continue to evolve and reshape their buying behaviors. They are adapting to new channels as well as technologies to solve critical problems, reach goals, and accomplish more. My conversations with B2B marketing and sales leaders indicate that it will be tougher for B2B marketing and sales teams to keep pace in both customer acquisition and retention.
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