During the COVID-19 pandemic, small and medium-sized firms (SME) have become increasingly dependent on social media as a tool for their international sales process, according to a recent study published in International Business Review. Digital communication tools seem to be most prevalent in finding and reaching new prospects and in the persuasion phase, whereas more traditional communication tools still prevail in customer relationship management.
“During the COVID-19 outbreak, small and medium sized firms have become more reliant on social media tools to reach internationally dispersed prospects and customers. Such use has helped them to overcome limitations set to face-to-face interaction by the pandemic,” lead author, Senior Researcher Sara Fraccastoro from the University of Eastern Finland says.
The study clarifies the benefits of integrating social media to other sales communication tools during the business-to-business sales process phases. However, there seem to be important potential boundary conditions, including relationship culture, location proximity, technology resources, and strategic importance of the customer that affect the way international SMEs use different communication tools during a sales process.
“Our research team has assumed a leading position in research dealing with how B2B firms apply social media in their international sales. Our findings provide a structured framework for managers on how to best integrate social media into their communication portfolio along the sales process phases for international markets,” Professor Mika Gabrielsson from the University of Eastern Finland says.
The study was conducted in collaboration between the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Toledo.