Social has changed the game for business today. The old sales and marketing methods are still working but not as well as they used to. There’s a fundamental shift that is taking place that is eating away at your ability to become ‘top of mind’ with prospects and convert them into customers.
There’s no denying that the power is shifting into the hands of prospects and social is the medium that’s leveling the playing field. With prospects making 60% of their buying decision before speaking with a sales rep (Source: Corporate Executive Board), sales must rely more on marketing to attract and nurture the prospect before they’re ready to connect with a sales person.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Businesses need to rethink the sales process in this digitally charged, social age.
The Power Shift
Salespeople used to be in the position of power as the information gatekeepers between customers and businesses. Today, it’s more about how buyers buy than the way they sell. With the Internet, buyers can leverage Google search and recommendations from friends and family via social media to learn and compare products and do all their pre-purchase research without speaking with a salesperson.
Why? Because it’s faster, easier, and more informative – all the information they need is just a few clicks or tweets away. So as a business, you have to stop thinking about how you sell but how you help buyers make an educated buying decision. More importantly, if you try to sell to them, you’ll turn them off. The dynamics of the conversation must change as well.
THE BOTTOM LINE: With a strong product and brand recognition, more often than not, you will win the sale. The best way nurture them towards that sale is to demonstrate that you’re willing to help them make an informed decision, offer them an incentive and demonstrate that you’ll always have their best interests at heart. If you can make your buyer smarter and better because they are doing business with you, then you will succeed in selling more to that buyer.
The Invisible Sale
Where is the sales process happening online? It’s invisible to the sales person and no longer exists with just cold calling and advertising. It’s in the hands of influencers or social agents – people who know a lot about your product, industry and needs of the consumer. They may not necessarily buy from you, but their recommendations are valued and trusted you should do your best to empower them to speak on behalf of your brand.
FACT: Consumers place the highest value on deals and promotions (83%) and rewards programs (70%)
How’s that done? Pure and simple – in developing educational and promotional content that’s well researched, informative and ‘shareable’. When influencers develop a relationship with your brand or company, they will recognize the value you’re creating on behalf of consumers and will evangelize on your behalf.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A big part of social customer acquisition is content creation. What you publish via your blog, social media including press releases, eBooks, videos, webinars, etc. falls under the umbrella of content creation. If you’re doing social customer acquisition right, you’re developing and distributing a lot of high-quality content to benefit your target audience.
Prospecting with Context
Creating content that will support the invisible sales process requires context or creating meaning around what your potential customers want. To move beyond the generic exchange of information and responses, it is critical to build a repository of knowledge around your customers’ motivations.
How’s that done?
Adding Context to Marketing
People are drawn to content that matters to them – simple as that. But what attracts them doesn’t necessarily convert them. Creating content that is engaging, adaptive and based on the characteristics of the viewer will more likely convert and that covers creating websites, landing pages, and emails that all work together to personalize the complete customer experience.
Adding Context to Sales
Just like marketing, sales has to adapt to deliver this same level of relevancy to move beyond the impersonal and intrusive “just checking in” phone call or email. All too often, sales will follow up with a lead before they’re in the right mindset to have the conversation. Marketing can mine intelligence for sales around buyer persona preferences and motivations, when they’re downloading content, reading an email, etc., and qualifying them with materials to support the next stage of the sale.
THE BOTTOM LINE: People are the sum of their entire online and offline experience – across channels, devices, and storefronts. You must get beyond just adding their first name into an email and look at ways to emotionally connect in meaningful ways. This only comes when you understand their needs and support them in meeting those needs. Having that context, and integrating that experience through all channels transforms the relationship between a company and its prospects.
The Role of Community
You need to be very approachable and real online and create opportunities for open dialogue with community leveraging the strengths of each channel and look to integrate online with offline (Twitter TV, etc.). It’s fundamental that the more often you touch a consumer then the more likely you are to ‘like’ the brand. It then becomes important to create a place where potential customers congregate online and offline.
Once you’re identified these places, you can create more opportunities for people to stumble across you and your brand. The more you develop contextual content and promotions for these larger audiences, the bigger your chance of people converting to your brand, product or service.
How’s that done? Use editorial calendars to plan your release dates, manage your authors, manage your deadlines, assign keywords, and monitor promotional campaigns that show the sales progress. Social customer acquisition is based on the idea that your community will provide you with value and sales. It’s the idea that building genuine relationships with people will inspire them to support you, buy from you and tell their friends about you. That’s a lot of value to take from your community.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Always be focused on providing more value than you’re taking away. Towards that end, there are two things marketers should avoid when cultivating community. Don’t produce content at the wrong stage of the sale and duplicate it across multiple channels. Think about content creation as an ecosystem – never create one piece of content once but look for ways to repurpose it or even re-channel it or EDITORIALIZE!
Refocusing the Blurred Lines with Measurement
Measurement comes in two forms today – tactical and strategic. Marketers care about the tactical because its needed to optimize the results of their marketing campaigns. Sales needs those same metrics distilled down to cost per impression, cost per engagement, cost per lead, and cost per customer acquisition. Social fits in across the board which is why it’s hard to measure its impact singularly.
How that done? It’s all about finding the right media mix which requires experimentation and refinement through measurement. Once that’s achieved, demand generation, lead nurturing and conversions are aligned activities that can measure the impact of sales and marketing on revenue generation.
- Understanding best owned and earned media to use across social: determine the top engaging brand content and organic public interactions than can be leveraged
- Fueling social engagement with paid options: match your social goals with corresponding paid advertising buys (network growth, interaction, conversion)
- Converging paid/ owned/ earned for amplified results: evaluate owned, earned and paid social options and map best combinations to drive desired business outcome
Additions & Feedback
If you have additional links, sources or ideas that you think would be helpful, please comment below.