I was excited today reading product news and updates from former coworkers at Exact Software in my Twitter feed. Without a pause, I retweeted the goodness forward, offered congratulations, chatted about successes, and even engaged in a few insider development jokes with another former employee who was equally fired up. Years have passed since I’ve worked for Exact, yet I’m still an evangelist for the company, the products, the customers and the partners.
I wondered out loud in Twitter if other companies recognize the voices past resources have in social media. Do organizations actively engage them or include them in their SM marketing strategies?
Rick Ladd stepped in as an unintentional instigator to further define the questions. Rick shared that he’d suggested further engagement with past employees to leaders in the aerospace industry; an idea shunned by those with an old school, command and control mindset.
Initially, that seemed short-sighted to me, but gradually it became clear that the type of relationship is dependent upon the role of the resource. Rick recently wrote an opinion piece ‘How Much of Relationship Do Your Customers Actually Want,’ in which he questions marriages of necessity between customers and vendors.
I’d like to flip that around, asking: How Much and What Kind of Relationship Do You Have With Former Employees?
When should you enter into a marriage of convenience or work towards an amicable divorce?
Like Rick, my own perceptions are coloured by my experience with a past employer, but in my case, Exact seems to be doing it right.
A little background on my history with Exact… I started out with Exact a decade ago as an Implementation Consultant, with a brief stint in Dev R&D thrown in for giggles. After a few years, I left to become a freelance gun-for-hire, working for Exact’s Partners in North America. Lucky me, that meant I still worked with many of my past customers and coworkers on a daily basis. Ultimately, this lead to a jump forward working exclusively for a Vendor that developed premium add-ons for Exact’s Synergy line; still in consulting Heaven working with passionate people sharing the same goals. Ultimately, Exact acquired the partner, the code, and me, which closed the circle, bringing me back under the Exact umbrella, and on the payroll for the acquisition transition period.
It was the best decade of my career to date.
Which is probably why a corporation doesn’t need to put a lot of thought into strategizing or budgeting time to engage a former employee like me. It flows naturally and the message doesn’t need to be reconfigured or redirected. It’s authentic and true.
The keynote above is that I was already a forward-facing voice with clients, at trade shows, on forums, and presenting to user groups long before Facebook, Twitter and other SM channels were the norm. The message is the same, there are just new mediums to use for sharing it.
If you’re following along closely, you might have recognized a trend: the people you employed in the past for customer centric positions are still, and will likely always be, facing outwards. They’re the talkers who already enhance the buzz. Feed & fuel them with regular doses of useful corporate content.
A different strategy is required for marketing to past resources like Rick’s engineers, (who aren’t the easiest to communicate with at the best of times. You know it’s true. ;>) These resources aren’t likely ardently active in the same social media channels that the corporation is selling to, yet still hold much value as back-channel voices in their industry.
I would still ‘market’ to these other old job-holders, but I think I’d use the same approach that Exact implemented. Exact NL addressed this by organizing several lunches and parties throughout the year with the specific purpose of bring past resources together with other former, current and new employees. It’s an opportunity laden with the promise of knowledge sharing (dumping), courting past brains back into the fold, and learning about new technologies and techniques, especially since many of these folks moved on to other partners, vendors or competitors, like I did.
When devising an SCRM plan, it is important to study, listen to and engage with your past employees, asking these questions:
- Who is their audience?
- Are they part of your target community?
- What are they passionate about?
- Are they forward-facing or active in peripheral industry/development channels?
- How influential is their voice with customers?
- Would they recommend you as an employer?
It is always about the audience and their influence, isn’t it?
Do you think engaging with past employees is valuable? Would you include marketing to your past resources in your planning?
(Updated to include Rick Ladd’s insightful response:
Companies Should Pay Attention to Former Employees )