The following report analyses the sales strategy of Hootsuite, an international firm that offers a range of social media management services and markets primarily to other businesses (B2B). The main purpose of all products offered by Hootsuite is to help companies increase their recognition on social media (“We are more,” 2018). The firm allows other businesses to manage their numerous social media accounts on various platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. The main functionality of the service includes message scheduling and posting, hashtag and mentions monitoring, shortening of links and media visibility analytics (Al-Qurishi, Al-Rakhami, AlRubaian, Alamri, & Al-Hougbany, 2015). These services are marketed towards individual entrepreneurs, small businesses and big corporations by presenting various free and paid options for usage.
Hootsuite was established in 2008 by Holmes who wanted to “create a better social media experience for businesses” (“We are more,” 2018, para. 2). The firm’s headquarters are located in Vancouver, Canada. Holmes is still the CEO of the company and one of its main speakers and teachers (“Leadership,” 2018). The firm employs more than a 1000 workers and has offices in multiple countries. Currently, Hootsuite is one of the most used platforms for social media management, and it has more than 16 million clients worldwide (“Hootsuite secures US$50,” 2018). Such organisations and businesses as Five Guys, Monster, Wiley, the WWF, Accor Hotels and the Rockefeller Foundation use Hootsuite for monitoring their media presence (“Customers,” 2018). The firm’s popularity makes it the strongest competitor in the industry of social media managing platforms, allowing it to surpass numerous rivalling companies both in traffic and financial gain (“Hootsuite secures US$50,” 2018).
The reason for choosing Hootsuite for this analysis lies in the unusual position of the company in the industry of sales and marketing. Hootsuite offers intangible services and products to its customers in the form of an online platform and a mobile application. The primary target audience of the firm includes sales managers and social media marketers which means that the company operates in the same field as its typical customer. This connection between products and clients allows Hootsuite to choose a more informal approach to attracting clients which Hootsuite uses to promote its services with educational materials, training courses, and other useful information. The choice to examine Hootsuite’s case can give one an opportunity to look at how a business that targets marketing departments of other companies manages its own sales process.
As Hootsuite is a service that allows other people to manage their social media accounts, its presence on most social platforms is not accidental. The company offers solutions for all businesses and non-profit organisations and does not want to focus on a particular niche such as large enterprises or local brick-and-mortar stores. However, it still appeals to a specific range of customers as it is mostly used by marketing departments and social media managers. Thus, most marketing strategies of the firm are directed at the sales and marketing managers.
On the other hand, its ideology shows that Hootsuite treats all businesses in the same way, ensuring its customers that virtually every company may benefit from using social media (Selling Power Editors, 2011). If a business consists of a single person, but this person is interested in managing his or her multiple accounts on social media, Hootsuite can offer this business a number of options. Similarly, large corporations can find that Hootsuite can provide them with tailored solutions that will accommodate their marketing department’s extensive and complex structure. The focus on businesses strictly interested in internet sales is challenged by the firm as well as it believes that social media can become an asset to every company’s marketing strategy. Nevertheless, Hootsuite offers solutions for every type of business, including highly specialised B2B firms and major retailers. Some specific services are targeted at healthcare organisations, financial services, higher education, and governments. By offering these services, Hootsuite further expands its reach and appeals to an even wider audience.
Moreover, the company often focuses not only on offering a product but adding a story or a collection of useful tips for every possible way of using social media. A blog led by Hootsuite writers and speakers has numerous articles about social media, B2C and B2B relations, small business growth, advice for entrepreneurs and more. The company often uses itself as an example of a business that interacts with customers and engages in active conversation with its primary stakeholders. This position of the firm on the market is especially interesting because it places Hootsuite’s marketing department on the same level with its customers. Blog posts that share workers’ personal and professional experiences are filled with relatable contact which attracts salespeople from other companies and allows them to emphasise with Hootsuite’s employees. The knowledge presented in these blogs is also directly and indirectly linked to its products, sales people’s work and the combination of social media effectiveness and one’s selling skills.
Furthermore, Hootsuite also bases its strategy on the idea of accessibility. The firm offers a free trial for almost every payment plan, excluding only customizable options for large enterprises. Nevertheless, individual businesspersons and large companies can try to use a fitting type of service for free and decide whether they want to continue working with Hootsuite. This strategic action may be seen as a signifier of confidence or a sort of bait. On the one hand, Hootsuite shows that a free month of service will not negatively affect the firm’s income. On the other hand, people have already been using service for free for a month may not think about switching to alternatives. Thus, this approach to product offering allows the company to appeal to multiple types of people at the same time.
The pricing strategy of Hootsuite highlights flexibility as its primary benefit. Companies can choose to change their pricing plan every month or year depending on the payment they have made with the purchase. Moreover, custom plans are available to larger businesses. Discounts which are popular in most companies are also present, as clients can pay less for a yearly plan (Jobber & Lancaster, 2015). “Short-term tactical reductions” are also a part of the firm’s strategy with exclusive sales and benefits for returning and long-term customers (Jobber & Lancaster, 2015, p. 52). The means to increase customer retention include customer care, client engagement in the firm’s events, personal discounts and merchandise for loyal and active customers and the ambassador program for those clients who want to promote the firm’s services to their peers.
Based on the options described above, it is possible to assume that the firm’s main approach is marketing-based, although it also values high-quality services and continuous innovation. The marketing efforts of the company are especially notable as it implements its advertisements into content and services. For instance, Hootsuite’s blog functions as a place for promoting its products while attracting its target audience. The focus on marketing is apparent because of the company’s developed systems for a call for action, mentions of the services’ advantages and repeating messages to try the product. Almost every entry in the firm’s official blog, for example, ends with a proposition to try out some of the Hootsuite’s products (Cisnero, 2014). It does not mean that the firm offers its main services every time. Some articles also feature promotional messages for the academy, the firms’ ambassador programme and virtual conferences. Hootsuite uses traditional types of marketing and invests in video adverts as well. Furthermore, the company employs its clients through the system of ambassadors mentioned above.
The product-based orientation is also visible in the firm’s marketing efforts. Hootsuite strives to innovate its existing range of products through new technology and acquisition of new technology and companies. The firm also creates new products and incorporates new feature into existing services. For example, in the beginning, Hootsuite was able to offer only a limited number of options for customers to create and publish posts on social media. Currently, Hootsuite can integrate most popular social media platforms and also help its clients use a variety of third-party applications installed directly into Hootsuite’s dashboard. The applications for Instagram can include image editing software, free licensed stock images, social media archive search programmes and others (“Hootsuite app directory,” 2018). Thus, the focus on product improvement is also a part of the firm’s selling strategy.
Ethical Selling Challenges
There are a number of possible ethical challenges that can exist for salespeople in all businesses. However, the process of maintaining B2B relationships in the industry of fully digital products creates more unique concerns. For instance, bribery is one of the fundamental issues in the selling business, according to Jobber and Lancaster (2015). Hootsuite’s services can be purchased only through the firm’s official website thus the act of giving inducements to clients seems hard to perform. Moreover, the company operates on an international level which further complicates one’s ability to assess the scope of possible bribery adequately. The strategy of the company focuses on offering free trials for its customers which serves as a powerful enticement on its own.
Moreover, the legal issues of international businesses that may put some companies in a difficult position are not as outlined in this case. Hootsuite’s services cover social media and do not provide any content for clients. Therefore, possible legal limitations for publishing unwanted content in countries that censor information online cannot be applied to Hootsuite’s products. It appears hard to find leverage to encourage the company’s workers to offer unethical payments to its customers. Furthermore, the firm is currently at the top of its industry segment thus reducing the possibility of desire to compete in such immoral ways. It is also crucial to mention that the company has strong ethical values which may serve as a foundation for ethical behaviour management.
Another ethical problem is deception – the act of presenting a customer with nonexistent or exaggerated features of the product and misleading him or her into purchasing something that will not meet the expectations (Jobber & Lancaster, 2015). This ethical issue is unlikely to exist in this example as the products’ features are extremely transparent. Every service and product is described on the official website of the firm, and a customer cannot finish a purchase without getting acquainted with all available plans. Therefore, customers have the opportunity to decide whether the description of the product from a sales pitch corresponds to the official information on the website. Moreover, as every plan offers a free trial, the possibility to deceive customers or present them with missing features is virtually impossible. The focus on transparency of the business is emphasised with these features of the products which assures firm-client trust and openness.
The promotion of the firm’s products is a process that may be subject to some unethical behaviour. For example, the ethical dilemma of “hard sales” may also be absent from this business as all sales happen in a digital space where a customer can always stop the interaction and leave the website without making a purchase. Although one may think that psychological pressure to buy or try the product may be present in the company’s push to include a call for action in every blog post, the logic behind portraying such messages as aggressive is not confirmed. It is expected of salespersons to be persistent in their efforts to sell the product (Denny, 2013). Moreover, the firm’s calls to action are transparent and based on arguments usually included in the article or post.
For instance, a blog post by Fontein (2018) examines the process of creating Facebook advertisements and advises on best ways to save money while building effective marketing campaigns. The article which is full of tips and suggestions about marketing ends with a sales proposition to try out AdEspresso – a product by Hootsuite targeted at people who create and manage advertising campaigns. This type of product placement is expected to appear on the firm’s official blog and cannot be considered unethical. The company uses similar practices on other forms of media including social media platforms and advertising.
Another possible ethical challenge is the attitude towards cooperating with non-profit organisations. As Hootsuite offers services for raising awareness and media exposure, its products may be interesting for non-profit organisations. Hootsuite creates a positive corporate image by providing nonprofits with a discount for all services and free education for these establishments to become better online marketers. Moreover, the firm has a strong policy of encouraging young talent through the programme of HootGiving (“HootGiving: A nonprofit,” 2018). Here, the ethical challenge of working with companies which may not have necessary financial resources to operate but have a beneficial purpose can help the company to elevate itself and allow it to maintain a positive image (Tolba, Seoudi, Meshriki, & AbdelShahid, 2015). Thus, the issue of selling to non-profit organisations without aggressive pitches is avoided.
As the target audience and salespeople of Hootsuite come from one pool of professionals, it is easy for the firm to build rapport with potential buyers. The company knows to which audience it needs to appeal and that allows it to create content that attracts their attention and generates meaningful conversations. The company’s official blog, online and offline conferences, meetings and ambassador recruitments have a purpose of engaging potential buyers and keeping retention rates high. The focus on social media sales apparent from Hootsuite’s articles is the focus of the company’s strategy. Hootsuite’s CEO, for example, argues that every company can benefit from gaining recognition on social media (Selling Power Editors, 2011). Hootsuite also manages to reveal significant trends to their customers and all interested individuals, establishing itself as an authoritative figure in the selling industry (Lindsey-Mullikin & Borin, 2017).
Hootsuite treats its customers as professionals. The firm also focuses on the notion of simplicity and time preservation, guaranteeing that its customers will save time and energy by using their services. However, the company does not state that its users will not have to do anything after purchasing a plan or using some free options. As a contrast, Hootsuite argues that by giving more time to its clients, it can also provide them with an opportunity to create better and more high-quality content. Thus, the firm engages its customers to participate in social media training and appeals to businesses marketing departments with various learning initiatives. The continuity of these processes emphasises commitment and perseverance highly regarded among salespersons (Jobber & Lancaster, 2015). The firm’s projects to educate marketing persons have a long-term goal of attracting and retaining more skilled customers.
One of them is the Hootsuite University – an academic course teaching public relations managers the primary functions of social media (Kinsky, Freberg, Kim, Kushin, & Ward, 2016). By offering such training opportunities, Hootsuite engages new and already established customers and opens a path for more potential client niches – future professionals and students who may recommend Hootsuite in their workplace or use it to start and promote their business. The company establishes long-term goals with this programme and strengthens its presence on the market. Apart from the course, Hootsuite also offers a range of templates, tables, worksheets, and tests for its blog readers and customers. Hootsuite highlights the importance of social media presence encouraging companies to get involved thus promoting its products. For these purposes, Hootsuite uses research, case studies, personal observations, and client feedback (Cisnero, 2014).
The ambassador initiative also serves as a way to attract new clients as well as build relationships with already existing customers (Wiriahardja, 2014). This programme is targeted towards clients who are ready to promote the Hootsuite brand to other potential buyers. It is a beneficial initiative because it allows the firm to create third-party influencers with an already established network of contacts in the field. Thus, Hootsuite’s brand image achieves higher recognition and gains a sense of trustworthiness through the appreciation of professionals. New connections based on this programme bring clients with more potential channels of influence. This chain of contacts allows Hootsuite to expand its reach gradually. Another benefit of this initiative is that it is relatively inexpensive. Ambassadors do not receive any financial compensation for company’s promotion. However, they receive “special Hootsuite swag” and get access to the Hootsuite University (Wiriahardja, 2014, para. 6).
Relationship with Clients
Hootsuite actively participates in the lives of its clients. The firm offers them an education in its University to increase retention and make customers more invested in social media marketing. The ambassador programme mentioned above is also a way to connect with clients and make them a part of the company’s path to innovation and development. Hootsuite makes sure to emphasise the place of its clients in the life of the company and create a community of engaged and active social media marketers. The firm hosts regular online conferences for its clients and also invites them to Hootups – “casual, free events organised by Hootsuite users around the world” (Eventbrite, n.d., para. 1). During these real-life events, Hootsuite’s clients have an opportunity to meet each other, share experiences, and develop a network of contacts. This approach to connecting client not only with the company but also with each other builds strong relationships and increases the level of mutual trust between the company and clients.
All initiatives mentioned above are directed at customers who use the company’s products as well as some new users. Hootsuite focuses on personal relations and informal interactions ensuring that clients do not treat its services as a product that has limited value in their businesses. The company adds a sense of purpose to the community and creates a multifaceted brand with close relationships. One of the main sales practices that are beneficial to the business is the focus on education and information sharing. It allows Hootsuite to attract clients with professional interests and in-depth knowledge as well as novices who may not be sure in their marketing skills. This way the company can appeal to a broader audience and expand in reach. There are no significant bad sales practices in the company’s strategy. It has a stable balance between a positive company image, customer interaction, emphasised professionalism and strong determination to prove the value of its products.
Hootsuite values its customers highly and pays a significant amount of attention to their needs and interests. The firm builds rapport with such concepts as professionalism, accessibility and transparency. The strategy of Hootsuite is marketing-based which means that the company is active in social media as well as other suitable platforms for marketing. The Hootsuite Academy, the ambassador programme and the company’s blog can be viewed as ways to interact with customers and build strong professional relationships with them. By engaging its customers in promotion initiatives and educating them, Hootsuite creates new potential clients and demonstrates a solid strategy for client satisfaction.
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