So you’ve built the best — if not the only — Customer Engagement Portal for prospects, customers, and market players in your industry. It contains a robust curriculum that covers all that they would ever need to know, houses a rich authoritative content library, and uses the latest gamification techniques to solidify your position as the authority in your space. Let’s say you launched the portal yesterday.

Now what?

Now it won’t do a thing for you, if you haven’t built it with an operations plan to back it up.

The Importance of the Operations Plan: Make or Break for Your Portal and Business

Customer Engagement Portals must be designed to:

  • Achieve the goals of well-understood target audiences
  • Meet the needs of your sales, marketing, and customer care teams

An operations plan covers how to use the system and integrate it with your business so that it can achieve both those purposes. Today, we’ll examine the latter objective: how you and your team should use the portal to support business-critical functions, so that it becomes the tool for differentiation, scalability, and sourcing new opportunities.

Your team has established methods to handle marketing, sales, and customer care activities. But with the launch of your portal, it’s time to evolve. They cannot keep doing things in the same ways. With a new mandate, training, and a detailed operations plan, you will have everything you need to manage this change in your organization and ensure every department leverages your portal properly.

Integrating Your Customer Engagement Portal into Marketing

First and foremost, it’s critical that your staff understand the immense marketing potential now available. A Customer Engagement Portal, as a service to prospects and industry players, is a new, differentiated “home” in which to land any person who requires your body of knowledge.

Consider your online and offline marketing activities. Every tactic now can — and should — include your new portal. With a logged-in authoritative resource at your command, your marketing team must adapt its approach to:

  • Social media
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Email marketing
  • Providing webinars
  • Advertising
  • Direct mail
  • Whitepapers and industry research
  • Tradeshows, conferences, and networking events
  • Sourcing keynote speaking opportunities

Your new marketing objective across all platforms is likely to drive all leads into that environment, so that your sales team can track engagement and conduct more pointed sales interactions. (More on that later!)

There are best practices for each of these marketing channels in general, and specific best practices that apply only to those with Customer Engagement Portals. Those without a portal have no knowledge hub or landing place to leverage.

Integrating Your Portal Into Sales Processes

As with marketing, your sales teams now have a differentiated environment and new best practices to implement. Leveraged correctly, the portal can:

  • Drive more leads and enable timely and focused interactions with them
  • Allow for more insights into prospects’ needs
  • Shorten the sales cycle
  • Increase order size
  • Increase lifetime value through reorders and cross-selling
  • Increase referrals

To achieve all this, it’s imperative that your salespeople discontinue relying on traditional sales methods, such as verbal explanations, sales lunches, dry proposals, etc. Starting immediately, their new focus must be to ensure that every prospect and is continually encouraged to log into the portal.

Your salespeople need training (and a plan) in order to:

  • Leverage the portal’s content in all of their communications, sales materials, and in verbal exchanges with consistent messaging and language.
  • Understand how to use the real-time user engagement data (for instance, which prospects and customers are reading which materials and at what moment are they most engaged) to guide sales actions.
  • Incorporate the insights from the portal into a customer relationship management system, into lead scoring and nurturing programs, and to develop more robust prospect and customer profiles.

Customer Care: Your Portal, The Added Service

You likely have account managers, customer service representatives or sales personnel who interact with your existing customer base regularly. They may be mandated to cross-sell or up-sell, manage ongoing projects and work, or to answer questions and concerns.

In every case, you want to ensure that those customers are continuously encouraged to log into the portal so that they can:

  • Become fully informed, thus driving new sales and referrals.
  • Get added support for the use of your products or services.
  • Find answers to their questions in a more convenient way than picking up the phone.

In this way, your customers benefit from the system in a differentiated way from your competitors. Plus, you save time.

Beyond encouraging sign ups, your staff also needs to actively listen to your customers to pick up on information that may be missing from the portal. Addressing these knowledge gaps helps to expand the program to provide the full service and support you intended for both your customers and your staff.

Your Customer Engagement Portal Brings Change: Manage It

Whether you’ve been in business for five years or for a hundred, your teams have ingrained habits as to how they go about their jobs. But you’ve invested in a Customer Engagement Portal, and the only way to ensure that investment pays off is to train, empower, and hold your staff accountable to leverage that portal to the fullest extent. Crucially, staff need to adjust their processes and tactics to incorporate the new portal, drive users onto the system, and monitor the data collected there. With a detailed operations plan, you’ll be able to integrate your portal into all your business activities, including marketing, sales, and customer care.