How I used a story to show my client why they need social listening

Igor Pauletič / / Sales

In business (as well as our everyday lives) we can always find three types of people:

  • Those who aren’t afraid of technological advances and changes, who know how to adapt to them and use them to their advantage;
  • Those who stand firmly behind their view that the technologies that are permeating our lives are harmful (to something, anyway);
  • Those who haven’t decided yet which of the two groups above they would like to join.

But the fact is that technology is increasingly becoming an indispensable part of our lives and business. Those who don’t accept that are bound to fail. Let me use a practical example to explain what I’m trying to say. I’ll tell you a story of what was going on a few years ago in a village close to where I live.

Social listening in practice

For twenty years, a man (let’s call him Frank) managed a family business, a trade now known as “catering.” Practically no event took place without his catering services. He covered all larger weddings and other kinds of social events. He was a local monopolist because he was practically the only provider for all those years.

Frank had made a good name for himself in his local environment. He was known for high quality and also had excellent business skills for that time. He found the majority of his sales opportunities while having his morning coffee at the local pub. He also got plenty of hints from the local priest, with whom he had a drink every afternoon at that same pub. His business largely depended on the local gossip about upcoming parties.

The times to find good sales opportunities while having a coffee at the local pub are long gone. Click To Tweet

Then the economic crisis came. The volume of orders dropped in catering, too, and his clients were less willing to pay as much or even at all. To maintain his family’s standard of living, Frank had no other option than to expand his business to more remote villages and towns. But lo and behold, there he could no longer use his routine method to win new clients. Seeking sales opportunities through pub gossip and local priests was suddenly impossible without personal contacts. And he needed time to establish these. Lots of time, which he didn’t have.

Because Frank was busy trying to grow his business elsewhere using the same methods as before, he paid less attention to his home village. After a while, his neighborhood competitor, who also wanted to win new clients due to the crisis, began to take the local priest out for drinks as well. This ended up with Frank losing a wedding or two in his home parish. But it was the local firefighters that nearly destroyed him: after twenty years with him they decided to go with the neighborhood competitor, who changed his business model and enabled the fire department to generate a larger profit.

The approach that enabled you to manage your business successfully in the past is no longer working. Click To Tweet

Frank gave up. Illness forced him to pass his family business onto his son. (Let’s call him Peter.) Peter knew his father’s business well because the entire family had to help out with larger projects. All of those years while Frank was actively involved in his business, Peter was a student. In addition to obtaining training in catering and hospitality, as required by the profession, Frank also had him go abroad to study tourism management and marketing. This ended up saving Frank’s business.

Peter understood his father’s approach to doing business. He knew that all of those years his father had used pub gossip about various parties so he could be the first one to go see the party organizers, offer help in organizing the party, and become their caterer. The approach his father had used to successfully manage his business for twenty years no longer worked for him. The problem wasn’t just the harsh times and the tougher competition. That wasn’t what destroyed his father. The problem was that Peter was not particularly fond of hanging out in pubs and, having moved away to a larger town, he also no longer had genuine contact with the local priest.

But Peter was a systematic and contemplative person. He knew he needed to find new clients that his father had never even tried to find because they just weren’t part of his social circle. Peter was well aware that gossip no longer circulated only at local pubs and churches. People had moved their gossip to the internet, social networks, and the media. All the rest is just a matter of how to intercept it first and continue his father’s old approach by offering assistance to party organizers in exchange for closing a catering deal.

Deals still depend on gossip; the difference is that it has moved from local pubs onto the internet. Click To Tweet

Peter went to see a few social network and media analysis specialists. He used the money that his company had previously spent on advertising for exploring new sales opportunities. He expanded his business across the entire country. Thanks to the sales opportunities that his business partner found by analyzing the gossip in the social networks and the media, Peter hired and trained seven other advisors to help clients hold and carry out parties and other events. Business picked up. Peter increased turnover ten times over what his father had achieved in his best year.

Frank’s health improved. Because Peter had modernized their service range, they again had control over all of the deals within range of their local pub.


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P.S. This is a story about Social CRM and has no connection whatsoever with my fellow villagers. Peter and Frank are made up. I’m sorry if I disappointed you or if you have identified with the story.