Online Lead Generation using Social Media

The focus of online lead generation and sales leads from social media networks in marketing is growing apace. Still too many small and medium sized business’s can struggle to not only generate leads from the social networks but also struggle to generate enough leads for a sustainable sales pipeline.

Online lead generation and social selling is the next evolution in the sales and marketing environment. The sales profession and sales activity is undergoing a dramatic change. The exponential growth of social media and its impact on communications has created a new set of rules for sales lead generation and prospect targeting.

online-lead-generation

Today lead generation on the social networks is about making connections, it involves providing value to prospects by answering their questions and solving their problems with thoughtful and targeted content. Social media channels are ready-made databases of connected users with intrinsically similar behaviour and values.

By tapping into a prospects social media interests and what motivates their social media interaction, we can establish mutually rewarding relationships. Sales and marketing must offer solutions to build emotional connections and increase engagement and trust to be effectively positioned when buyers are ready to enter the buying process.

The benefits sales and marketing people derive from social media are similar to those of traditional marketing techniques. Selling is still about great sales people establishing a connection with an audience. Social selling is an evolution of lead generation, not a revolution because regardless of the medium, the biggest challenge is still generating leads and the time it takes.

Now lead generation or social networking has to be non-interruptive to work effectively, in the sense that people are not on-line to be directly sold to. The balance of power has shifted in favour of the buyer, bombarding them with sales messages is ineffective and potential damaging. Sales and marketing must appreciate that the social selling efforts should educate, inform and influence an audience. When it’s apparent to the buyer, over a period of time in which to establish credibility and a degree of trust, that the product or service being promoted is desirable, sales will have established a sales funnel upon which to build a solid base of sales prospects.

Social selling is about creating effective techniques to maximise the potential of social media. Without a strategic understanding of the techniques that drive meaningful engagement, the process of social lead generation can be frustrating, unpredictable and a waste of valuable time.By taking a consistent & effective approach to social media activities, the opportunities and potential rewards are huge. Getting it right creates benefits which are unique to social media but which also present unique challenges for sales and marketing people. There are new innovative ways to engage with prospects early in the buying cycle.

Sales professionals should be in no doubt, social selling is a ‘long game’ that aims to add value  to  networks by educating them about relevant and insightful industry trends.The one thing that unites both consumers and brands on social media is passion. That might sound a bit strange but social conversations reflect users preferences and interests, the topics that define them.After all, our social media persona’s are tailored, to some extent, to reflect our hopes and aspirations. At the very least, our social persona’s are about presenting a version of ourselves which is inherently aspirational.We seek out others on social media who share our values. Partly to seek reassurance about our own choices but also to be linked to those with whom we benefit from being associated.

It might seem obvious but social media is precisely that, social. You need to put time and effort into nurturing connections. Dialogue gives us a voice by increase connections and establishing our identity.

Buyers are well informed and can easily access to large volumes of sophisticated product and service data. Its important we move to the front of the buying cycle and engage with buyers early. In order to achieve this we must offer unique or advanced expertise.   We must be seen as industry experts, as the source of most relevant and useful information. Social sellers must incorporate marketing style tactics and streamline efficiency and effectiveness in social selling wherever possible.

LinkedIn-lead-generation

Market researchers and brand owners can aggregate social data in real-time including influencers, trends, topics and conversations. It enables companies to monitor brand mentions translating social media conversations into real-time actionable visibility. Social data can reduce the marketing resources and time spent gathering social media intelligence. social intelligence platforms allow marketing, customer service and sales teams to focus in on what matters across the social networks.

As a means of generating sales leads by connecting buyers with relevant and valuable content that informs and educates over a period of time, influence is key. Multi-dimensional, cross platform social media insights, cut through the social media clutter, filter tweets, posts, news, conversations, competitor activity, mentions and keywords with precision.

The use of social data makes online lead generation more effective, making it easier to build a larger social network to drive awareness of a brand or service.

Social data create efficiencies in the sales process by;

  • Identifying social leads & prospects
  • Speeding up customer acquisition
  • Reducing the sales cycles
  • Nurturing leads and driving traffic by profiling and social conversations.
  • Using hash-tags and keywords to source, filter and engage with buyers
  • Finding the social conversations, people and social influencers you want to target.
  • Minimising resources and time spent gathering social media intelligence.
  • Enabling companies to monitor brand mentions
  • Aggregating real-time social data including influencers, trends, topics and conversations.
  • Allowing us to focus in on what matters across social networks.

SEO Google results update for Ireland

This is The Bitter Business report on our SEO Google results in Ireland for the keywords we have targeted for sales and marketing services as of June 2015. Most of the links showing up in search results are just between seven months down to a few months old with more to follow.  The SEO search engine results for the keywords below are for Google.ie.

An encouraging observation I would comment on is that some of the results below proves with carefully selected titles and content, within smaller market niches and territories the SERP results can be quicker to materialise.  Some of the results I am happy and have even exceeded my expected results while others are still climbing but not as fast as I had projected. Still goes to show that despite my scientific approach to SEO there is still some things I haven’t figured out.  However I continue to learn what works and what does not when it comes to trying to get higher rankings for selected keywords. Always happy to share these if you drop me an email.

 

Keywords                                            Position on Google.ie                                           Link Age

Sales and marketing services                     No.1                                                                         7 months

Sales and marketing company                   No.11                                                                       7 months

Customer acquisition strategy                   No.7                                                                         7 months

Customer targeting                                      No.6                                                                         3 months

Social selling                                                  No.8                                                                         1 month

Social selling tips                                          No.1                                                                          1 month

Lead Generation                                           No.20                                                                       4 months

Sales Techniques                                          No.6                                                                          4 months

Social media marketing plan                      No.15                                                                        2 months

LinkedIn Lead Generation                          No.6                                                                          1 month

Business mentoring                                     No.15                                                                         4 months

Business Consultant                                    No.19                                                                         3 months

Sales Outsourcing                                        No.6                                                                           4 months

 

These are not all the keywords I have targeted, some like the keyword “sales team selling” show up on 1st page(very small exact keyword searches here)  but other more focused and competitive keywords like “social media marketing” (highly competitive) have yet to show up in any meaningful way.

seo-steps

I have noticed a correlation between article lengths and search results with articles over 1000 words doing best. Also long tail keywords with articles written with this keyword in mind can show up on the 1st page of Google results. A keyword like “Social Selling Tips”, this article is only 1 month old but currently occupies the top results for this searched term on Google.ie.  Also when it comes to link building (important when promoting your content marketing) I have narrowed it  down to about 12 to 14 sites that Google rate, so posting your article on these social media or social linking sites is what will give your articles the boost to climb up the search rankings.

The biggest lesson I have learnt over the past few years (I have got a few sites with multiple keywords to top 2 and 3 results on Google.com –USA) is there is no magic formula when it comes to SEO in Ireland. It is about content; keyword focused content, content marketing (sharing and linking) and plain old fashioned grunt work to ensure your articles are posted to the 12 to 14 social sites I believe Google rate.  Update this again in December 2015.

Social Media Marketing Strategy

This is a seven step guide to creating a social media marketing strategy to reach more customers and drive greater on-line awareness for your brand or product. For a business to really capitalise from social media, it needs to build a clear strategy that takes into account what are the goals, what are you trying to achieve, who are the target customers are and what is the competition is doing.

Social media marketing can be defined as the use of blogs, articles and content marketing, white papers, video and images to share on social networks to raise awareness to pull in the web traffic and prospects

social-media-strategy

 

1st Step; Understand your social media goals

As with any planning in business, the first thing anyone needs to do when creating a social media marketing strategy is to understand what you want to get from it?. What are the goals (traffic, leads, likes, buyers, SEO) so you know the purpose of your social media efforts. For some businesses it is to do with creating or raising awareness of a brand or product. For some companies the focus will be on generating leads, increasing sales or driving website traffic. Larger companies many look to social media to build customer loyalty, increase community size or use as a communication channel. The key point here is the goal for your social media strategy has to go beyond simply gaining Facebook likes and Twitter followers.  The above examples are only a few areas a business could focus on, but depending on your resources a business should ideally focus on one primary or one secondary goal. Remember if you do not have goals, targets and measures of success then in all likelihood you are not going to accomplish any meaningful results from social media activity.

2nd Step; Create measurable targets and objectives

The second step is to now set clear targets and objectives based on the goals you have set. Remember the “S.M.A.R.T” method, so make sure your social media goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based.

Let us take the example of a business with a social media goal focused on increasing sales, then you might decide that the target is to generate an additional fifty on-line leads a month via landing pages, whitepaper or eBook downloads. If on the other hand, the goal set is to create brand awareness, then a target could the number of times your brand is mentioned on the social media networks per month. Also worth noting at this point, your goals, targets and objectives for social media should be directly tied to overall business goals, and they should be achievable. Goals without targets, actions and activities are just wishful thoughts. It is important to make sure the objectives are time limited. For example, you need to achieve a 100 percent growth in on-line leads generated within the next six months, not at some vague point in the future.

social-media-effectiveness

Now that you have set the targets and objectives you need to make sure you can measure them. There are lots of social media tools to track and analyse activity and quantify your progress. These tools like Klout, Google Analytic, TweetDeck, Buffer or Social Mention to name a few, can let you know when your progress plus they will also help you to identify any trends early and adjust your activities if you have to.

3rd Step; Customer targeting – who do you sell to

So now, the goals, targets and objectives have been set so now you know where you are going, so all set, right?, well no because you still do not know how you are going to get there. You see a successful social media strategy is all about customer targeting, reaching the right people with the right messages. To do this, a business needs to understand “who do you sell to”. For example, there is no point in targeting everyone who has an interest in sport if you really want to target only those who are cycling enthusiasts.

The best way to do this is to draw up a buyer profile. What does the profile of your ideal customer or buyer look like? Make it personal and give them a name. Where do they work? How old are they? What social networks are they likely to be on? What is their income? How often do they cycle (as in above example) Do they have children? What brands do they like or dislike? What motivates them? The list of detail goes on. If you find that you have more than one ideal customer or buyer profile then create a persona for each.

social-media-planning

4th Step; Monitor the competition

As social media activity is mostly transparent, monitoring your competitions activity will tell you a lot about what works and what does not. After all, you are all targeting the same customer set. By constantly monitoring the competition, you have a fantastic opportunity to learn from their activity and actions.

This fourth step involves researching your competitors, maybe select ones your own size, in similar locations and some of the big ones. Find out what social networks they are active on, study their content (articles, case studies, whitepapers, videos, promotions, links). Is it direct or educational? What kind of industry references do they use? Do they talk about their product, markets, industry or brand and what if any other things do they focus on (events, discounts, and webinars)?

If for example you sell bicycles, do your competitors talk about how their bicycle brands perform in races or do they post cool cycling videos that just happen to include their bicycle range? Now see how well each competitor is doing on the social networks (followers, connections, mentions, comments, shares, likes) they get on their social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. This should give you a good insight into what social strategies work and which ones do not.

5th Step; Develop your content marketing messaging

OK, now that you have an ideal customer or buyer profile plus insights on your competition, next up on the list is to start developing your social media messaging. This is your top line titles and key messaging you want to share (writing the detailed content comes later); a list of key messages that you think will create awareness with your customers or buyers based on the profiles you have created in step 3. A suggestion is to target three or four buzzwords or better still “Keywords”, then break each keyword down into longer tail keywords so you build up a messaging plan.

Based on monitoring your competition a lot can be gained from adopting some of their successful messaging ideas and blending them with your own unique messaging that sets you apart — this has the effect of creating a unique voice in social conversations. Be creative, daring, controversial and educational as social media activity should be exciting, not dull.

6th Step; Select the social media channels

Depending on whether your business is B2B or B2C you will need to choose the right networks that are worth investing in for the products or services.

Most of us would agree that LinkedIn is a good platform to target for business buyers or business type sales while Pinterest would be better if a business is involved with retail or fashion. Some of these channels are obvious when you look at your buyer profiles and competitors but see if any other social media channels could pay dividends like Blogger, Scoop.it, Tumblr, Plurk, and Instagram.

As part of this exercise you should identify social influencers, these are the people who can help reach your target audience. Social influencers and respected bloggers have high levels of trust in their followers or readers and can be indispensable in creating social chat buzz around your brand.social-media-networks

7th Step; Build a content writing and sharing plan

The last but critical step is you need to develop a strong content writing plan based on your target keywords, you need to write and share (not just your own) engaging material. The content needs to align with your overall marketing messaging as in step 5 and be relevant to the social channels you will use. Content marketing is more than promotional blogs or product information; it has to add real value in the buyer’s journey to create awareness and consideration for your business within the audiences. Also if possible try not just stick to one type of media or theme, mixing videos, helpful guides, research papers,  images, info graphics, news and other formats will engage your potential customers far more effectively.

A golden rule to go with your seven step social media strategy is “Content marketing has to be constant” meaning a constant presence with great content across your chosen social media channels. Heed this note, every social media strategy can only be successful if you have an ongoing presence on social media networks, and that entails sharing fresh engaging content on a regular basis.

Content Marketing Tips

Content Marketing is the key driver upon which most inbound marketing and social media marketing tactics are built. Content marketing not only impacts SEO, web traffic, leads and sales but also acts to influence buyers as they increasingly seek information before purchasing. Whether your business is B2C or B2B, the sharing of content (self-penned articles, general news articles, product, research and whitepapers) across social networks is now a must when it comes to promoting a product or service.

The tips below are designed to help drive traffic to a website and generate more leads or sales. Apart from writing your own content, to really maximise social media marketing you also need to source interesting facts, expert insights, statistics, and trends on your industry and then share them on a constant basis to produce dramatic results on SEO and traffic results.

content-marketing-plan

Step1. Tell and share great stories

Telling and sharing compelling stories is at the core of content marketing — tell the stories with images, videos and words. So step 1 is to focus on improving your ability to tell a story. Crafting words is at the heart of all storytelling; make the stories real, relevant, insightful, human and social to get people’s attention.  Writing like most skills will develop with practice, so persevere to improve. You can start with article research by doing some keyword searches while also looking at the most read articles on social networks. Try to make your articles longer than 1000 words to maximise SEO. Then you can post the articles on lots of free social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Plurk, Google+, Scoop.it, and Storify) to get buyers attention as well as gather some quality backlinks to your website.

Step2. Create memorable and optimised titles

A memorable title will get more readers while an optimised title will boost SEO. Just as the cover image can make or break sales on a new book the article title influences how many people will click to continue reading the rest of your article. So start with the end in mind and practice writing memorable titles that hits these 3 buttons – tempt the readers, drive engagement and optimised for searches.

Step3. To be seen, be consistent

In social media there is no such thing as a one hit wonder. Once step 1 and step 2 are in play, the key is to be seen and seen often. Sharing quality content (not just your own), images and video on a consistent basis are a recipe for success. Set up a blog posting schedule or social network sharing calendar that ensures you have a plan to stick to. A good guide is to publish a thousand word blog post per week and then do a few social media updates daily.

Step4. Improve all your social media profiles

It may have been that you created your many social media profiles in a burst of activity but have since forgotten to update. Take the time to freshen up all your social media profiles and while you are at it why not review your social media strategy. Stay ahead of the pack by studying changes in the social media networks and any changes that could affect your social media activity.

Step5. Promote your content

As you improve your article and content creation also make sure to focus on improving your ability to share your content across the social networks. Social media is about creating awareness and consideration for your brand, product or service. So promote (share) your press releases, blog posts, white papers or news on your social networks to your target audience (do not spray and pray).

Step6.  Continue to improve your social media skills

Create a list of social media skills you want to improve whether it is writing, posting, selected images, getting followers or joining in social conversations. If you want to improve your LinkedIn skills such as social selling or making connections then spend the time reading posts and articles on the subject. Pick one item from your list where you would like to see improvement and work on it.

Step7. Enhance your email usage

Email is not old hat. In fact it still plays an important role in inbound marketing and social media. How can you improve your sales pitch efforts, marketing message, the click through rate on email newsletters or even personalised emails to followers and connections?

Step8. Try a podcast

If you have already done some podcasts, cool, if not start thinking about doing your own podcasts. Dip your toe into the podcasting waters by finding out what podcast are popular in your industry or even find a podcast you could join in as a guest.

Step9. Light up your posts with graphics

Images can have a powerful impact when communicating stories, news or ideas. An graphic or infographic can simplify a complex concept or convey a story in a very succinct way. Marketing surveys show that powerful visuals will improve engagement with audiences leading to higher conversion rates.

content-marketing-strategy

Step10. Develop whitepapers and research

To be a thought lead in social media it helps to do more than sharing your insights. People and buyers love experts so try to expand your content marketing into areas like research or white papers.  Expert lead or expert quoted content with data and trends has been proven to increase brand or product retention.

Step11. Review content marketing against goals

There is no point investing hours of time in crafting articles and content then sharing them if they are not measured against your social media marketing goals. To finely tune your marketing you need to know what worked and what did not. Every plan can be strengthened, practices improved and marketing plans revised by doing some in-depth investigation on your digital marketing efforts. This review is vital for improved social media results and an opportunity to see where you got your best bang for your buck. The good news is the time taken to do a review will tell you where and how you can continue improve your content marketing skills.

acd-content-marketing

Finally to be really successful in content marketing, focus on improving your social media skills every day. Continued learning drives your ability to produce content on a consistent basis. If you apply these 11 tips to your social media activities, you will see gradual improvement in your skills and capacity to drive business results using content marketing.

Social Selling Tips

The sales and marketing buzzword word at the moment is “Social Selling”; where the sales process is now tapping into social media conversations and the impact of social networks in driving brand awareness or buyer consideration.  Most sales and marketing leaders would concur that the sales process has completely changed. Sales people need to adjust their skill set as tactics like cold calling has a low return for allot of effort so learning how to harnessing the power of selling via social media is important.

social-selling

A social selling strategy should be about a genuine effort to share value and content prior to engaging in any sales conversations.  Social selling is not SPAM, too often the simplistic approach is for sales people to spam sales messages on Twitter, Facebook, on LinkedIn groups, or to a new connection  with a vanilla flavoured sales message and a self serving web link.  If you do this stop, as the moment anyone gets these messages, the brand loyalty and any trust gets flushed away. Connecting and building your social network just to SPAM them is NOT social selling.

The biggest social selling tip is to truly build value over time with your social network by sharing content that people find useful and helpful. In time when you personally message to a social tie to engage in a sales discussion your chances of a positive response will be greatly improved.

So a great social selling tip that will benefit all social marketers, sales people and businesses is to take the time every single day to do the following.  Connect to your social network community with news, images, videos, snippets of information. Another tip is to find ways to connect your network together (as this provides value) and offering to help others connect.  Pause a minute and think about this scenario. You see a message posted on LinkedIn that says, “Where could I find some inspiration for a presentation?”  Instead of posting of reply such as, I would be interested in this myself or have you tried PowerPoint? (True reply!).  Why not see if anyone in your network is a presentation expert or does allot of presentations that you could offer to put in touch with your connection that is looking for some presentation inspiration.  Act as a conduit, a connector who brings value by taking the time to listen and connect your social ties

social-selling-tips

Social Selling Steps. 

Step 1. Listen to and monitor social media conversations across several social networks to get a comprehensive view of what’s being said about your specific focus

Step 2. Start to identify interests, most liked news, influencers and prospects through the listening process

Step 3. Track your prospects. Review their posts, timelines and understand what they are interested in or saying.

Step 4. Share quality content (not just your own). Seek out some information of mutual interest, and then share. The information must be professional and relevant to them. You can also like or even re-tweet their content.

Step 5. Position yourself as an expert by sharing real insights and proven research you have gained in the industry or with working with customers

Step 6. Gradually become a valuable connection, one worth listening to. Once you have established yourself as a valuable connection, you can nurture and build a buyer/supplier relationship far more quickly.

These steps are the foundations of social selling, and too many marketing and sales  people forget that selling is all about firstly building relationships and secondly providing value.  Start now to implement these social selling steps and you will have set yourself to gradually drive more sales then cold calling can ever do.

Another social selling tip is to remember that selling is inherently social so social selling is nothing new. Rather look at social selling as a sales tool to help you sell more effectively that will evolve over time.

social-selling-tip

Next up on the tip list is to break ‘social selling’ into two main areas:

(1) Direct and

(2) Indirect.

In social selling the direct aspect is utilising social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Tumblr to look for conversations where you share content to make connection to people you want to target and nurture relationships with. Take the example, the CIO of a prospect tweeted something about their focus on reducing IT costs in the coming year. (See step 1, 2 and 3 above)

So now share some articles or research on reducing IT, then if your product or service can help with reducing IT costs, at an appropriate time you can tweet them about it, message them or send a personalised e-mail explaining the value you might be able to add to their focus based on what they said (see step 4 above). This is a shortened version of events but the point is to look for information about what people or companies are doing or saying so you can be highly relevant to them when you reach out on social media.

The indirect aspect of social selling has to do with building your own personal brand so over time your social audience (connections and weak ties) eventually value your shares and see you as an industry expert, not just another sales person (see steps 5 and 6 above). However please do realise this does take time and does not provide the instant hit that sales leaders think should happen these days. Social selling is all about adding value to your target market.

I write articles on sales and marketing, I try to add some value by not just talking about the theory of selling or business but actually giving my readers some useful tips on sales, marketing and business. I share suggestions on what to do and how to do it. I also regularly post or re-tweet articles from other sources not just about sales but about business topics that I think are important to my audience.

On a daily basis I review discussions on my groups in LinkedIn and give honest answers to  questions people have without plugging my business or telling them I wonderful I am or how I can help solve their problems if they meet me. So, let me wrap up by saying, really take the time to think through your “Social Selling” goals, expectations and approach. Spend time looking for articles, news and research you can use to connect with people without interrupting them while at the same time position yourself as an industry expert by sharing quality information that is on the money. This will help you throughout your sales career no matter what product or service you are selling.

LinkedIn for Lead Generation

LinkedIn can be a powerful sales tool when used as part of lead generation and networking activities. As social selling and reaching social influencers becomes ever more important in raising awareness of a company, brand, product or service it is important to use LinkedIn effectively.

LinkedIn-lead-generation

However, before any lead generation can happen, it is important to build up your network and influence across the social groups on LinkedIn.  Every business, marketing and sales person should focus on 3 key actions.

  1. Give to receive: Share quality, relevant content and news from multiple sources.
  2. Behaviour: Buyers are well informed and knowledgeable so be genuine and insightful.
  3. Connecting: Invest time connecting to people you know plus customers, influencers etc.

Here is some pointers to maximize LinkedIn for lead generation:

Tip 1. Profile: Yes, it seems obvious that you need a profile but the point is you need a full profile (photo, career, articles, social pitch) that will support the lead generation activities, not just any profile mashed together.

Tip 2. Think of your profile as a commercial that clearly spells out “what you do”. So make sure you complete the entire profile (also state that you are open to connecting with people), you could also import your resume or CV.

Tip 3. Make sure maximize the section below your name by using keywords. Select keywords that promote your products or services. If a potential buyer is searching for someone to do “sales and marketing” they are more likely to find you than if you list your company name.

Tip 4. Spend time completing your work history, summary and employment sections (again using active keywords), highlight any accomplishments or achievements. This builds trust within the LinkedIn community.

Tip 5. On-line users can be very visual, so try to include Slideshare content, presentations or videos on your profile and not forgetting any articles you published on LinkedIn pulse. This builds authority.

Tip 6. Unless you are a major social influencer, it is best to keep your LinkedIn profile pretty open as you are using LinkedIn for lead generation, so the easier it is for “social ties” to connect with you, the better. This builds connections to business people and weaker social ties.

Build Relationships Steadily

The whole premises of using LinkedIn is to build  relationships with business colleagues, potential buyers, existing customers, business people you know and to build connections with weak ties via group participation

LinkedIn suggest this 5 step process for building effective relationships based on social media best practices:

  1. Establish presence (Give to receive)
  2. Attract followers (Give to receive)
  3. Engage followers (Behaviour)
  4. Share your message (content, news, articles) through your network (Connecting)
  5. Analyse results and refine your strategy

As I keep stating, you will attract more followers and connections if you post fresh, valuable content on a regular basis.

Use Content Marketing

I have written elsewhere on The Bitter Business site about the power of content marketing. On LinkedIn stories that have a social twist, that educate, that gives insights or have a human element will attract the highest readership.

Posting articles with a variety of content, on a regular basis on LinkedIn or indeed any social network is best practise. The content should consist of sharing blog (links) updates, as well as unique written content for LinkedIn to share with your connections.

Remember content marketing creates awareness of your company and puts you on the road as an authority within a group or subject. Also, as with all content marketing, make sure your content is SEO optimized. Without being overly promotional try to include a subtle call to action (CTA) in your LinkedIn posts. Including a link back to your company website is a great way to increase your lead generation performance.

Content marketing is not just about self-promotion, it also includes content curation and is a good way to encourage connections by sharing updates from social influencers and industry experts in your own updates. It is all about, giving to receive as you cannot expect sharing of your own content unless you are willing to share quality content written by others.

Try to give LinkedIn updates daily, maybe once or twice a day (with no more than a couple per day). Some social media gurus believe sharing posts in the morning works best, my own view is either late afternoon or just after lunch. Experiment to see what times work best for you.

online-lead-generation

Match the Buyers Journey

Content marketing is aimed at matching the needs of potential customers as they travel the buyer’s journey – awareness, consideration and decision. We now know from studies that in today’s on-line world, B2B buyers do most of their information and awareness gathering on-line, not waiting for some salesperson to ring them up. In fact, many B2B customers prefer to purchase on-line — that’s how Dell created a global business selling computers online.

It is critical that you DO NOT view your content shared on LinkedIn as some sort of teaser or preamble in B2B lead generation — it is the main tool in creating buyer awareness!! Always give readers all the information they need to work with you, not just a few selected sound bites or customer success stories. Your tactics is to carry potential customers on the buyer’s journey from awareness to consideration, on to decision and through post-purchase. So the content shared should include information on using the product or service, answers about installation or how to use, any industry recommendations or awards plus encourage feedback on the articles are all important factors in providing for the entire buyers journey.

 Analyse and Tweak

No lead generation or marketing campaign is complete without capturing data to assess performance and provide information to tweak the campaign. LinkedIn provides some good analytic tools to track performance of your LinkedIn company pages including clicks and other interactions. Make the most of these analytic insights by doing conscious testing — article headlines, post types, post times — not just monitoring passively. With patience and work, LinkedIn social selling can not only generate leads but also influence buyers considerations.

Social Media Marketing Plan

A social media marketing plan should not pose any major challenges to a small business. As in any growing business with a great product or service, the marketing team or person is most likely to be working on different tasks at different times and these tasks can change rapidly depending on the business needs. However, even with taking this into consideration, social media is now so vital to business success there are some tasks that need to be planned as part of the daily marketing routine.

social-media-infographic

Set the social media goals and objectives.

Every article, news release, research or whitepaper are assets in a social media strategy to serve the goals that have been set. As with any business strategy you must know what you are working toward. Is it drive brand awareness, customer acquisition, generate new sales drive traffic, build up your network, reduce the cost per lead. Whatever of any or all of these you need goals and associated objectives clearly defined.

Work on the content strategy

When it comes to marketing the product or service, social media marketing success depends on the content strategy a business decides upon. Prior to writing, commissioning or publishing any content, a business needs to understand, what audience(s) are going to be  targeted?, What type of voice (expert, commentator, industry) will you use to communicate? Who are you trying to influence? What specifically do you want to achieve (leads, likes, traffic, views or authority)?  Allot of strategy answers are to be found in questioning the content strategy so everyone involved in the marketing and sales efforts need to know the why, what and who, understand it and is always in their minds. Content marketing strategy can then be tweaked and optimised as necessary.

Make sure there is new quality content to post

Fresh, quality, informative and relevant content is at the core of every social media campaign to reach target audiences and ensure engagement. To be seen as an influencer and sector expert it is vital to share new content consistently and regularly. New content when well written (not self- promotional or product articles) and engaging can propel a business forward. This is why the person in charge of the social media plan needs to make sure there is always some new content ready to be shared. There is no hiding the fact that writing content does take time and continuous effort so it needs to be planned.

Set up a content sharing schedule

The social media plan needs to have a schedule when content will be shared so all social marketing activities tie back into other marketing events or business plans. Also a schedule will take account for any external events, key word targeting, launches, promotions or seasonal trends that impacts your industry. This is why the content sharing calendar is so important for deciding what social media activities are in the pipeline. While not all content can be created and planned for weeks in advance of sharing, the core, and keyword targeted content pieces that demand more care and effort should be.

social-media-strategy

Sharing sector Expertise

Selling is not sharing. Share your sector expertise on a regular basis in terms of marketing, insights, research, social stories and commentary to establish your business, product or service as an influencer. For every 1 self-promotional content pieces shared, share 4 quality “industry relevant” articles, also share insightful articles from other authors, comment and add value (not plugging your own business) on forums and groups.

Generate new content ideas

As stated above the value a great, insightful and quality piece of content can bring to a social media campaign cannot be overstated. This is why a business needs to spend the time brainstorming content and article ideas. Every business should always allocate time for it on a weekly basis. The reality is that without interesting ideas on content your goals and results will suffer in the long run. Content needs to be kept fresh, up-to-date and interesting in order to continue engaging an audience. An easy way of generating content ideas is to track your competitors and other influential blogs to see what content is working for them.

Following news for current and relevant content

As with most companies, some of your content marketing will be focused on industry news and events. This is why keeping informed of relevant news and events means you will be able to react quickly and creatively to opportunities which can boost your on-line exposure. Many social media managers monitor several different keywords, hashtags, social group and Twitter in order to keep up the date and in the know on trending topics. When the opportunity presents itself, it is vital to be ready to respond.

Include images, video and design

Social media is also a visual channel where images, video and good design can give an added edge in the awareness stakes. Using nice imagery or videos and a visually stimulating way of presenting content is far more likely to reach and engage a large audience. As the volume of content rises across social channel, great content should be complimented with visual impact. A business should working with a designer in order to produce visual elements like photos, infographics and video.

social-media-data-snapshot

Run social advertising

To add to organic reach on social networks, depending on your social media goals and business then social advertising on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may be a consideration. Running a paid social campaign might help get the content out to a wider audience and more relevant readers.

Communicate with all stakeholders

Whether you are a social media manager working in an agency or working directly for a company, you will need to work with all the stakeholders (management, sales, product, marketing and service) in order to agree on the content to be shared. This is why social media marketers should be spending time with the all the stakeholders to plan for the future as part of the marketing daily tasks. Meeting all concerned can help gain more insights into deciding what type content to create, what upcoming events are there in the pipeline, launches or news that may be of interest and any other ideas to use content to engage the target audiences.

Reporting

Finally but as important is the reporting on social media actions, activities and results. Whether you work for a company or an agency, it is vital to report on the social networks achievements and the upcoming plans in place. This is done by setting up and agreeing on regular reports that monitor the KPI’s or metrics you have agreed on with the stakeholders.

For more social media marketing tips, read the marketing category on The Bitter Business.

Inbound Marketing Strategy

Every business today needs an inbound marketing strategy. In the digital world nearly all marketing efforts are focused on actions like growing web traffic, increasing visitors, gathering sales leads, driving up conversions and securing buyers and customers.   Inbound marketing strategies deliver on all the same marketing goals but in a different way. Traditional marketing or push marketing  is really about interrupting buyers, trying to get their attention with TV or radio ads, online advertising, cold calling, direct mail to name a few.  Whereas inbound marketing is focused on “pull marketing”, devising marketing tactics to get buyers permission to share information as to add value to the buyers journey when researching products or services.

Every business will most likely use a blend of inbound and outbound marketing tactics to deliver the targets. Every marketing focused company including marketing automation companies like Hubspot, Marketo, Oracle and SAP all use both outbound and inbound marketing tactics. Indeed  outbound marketing activities like cold calling and lead generation by sales teams is nearly a forgotten weapon in customer acquisition as too many companies (especially newer technology focused companies) rely too heavily on inbound marketing to drive the sales pipeline.

inbound-marketing-strategy

As a percentage of traffic and sales leads, inbound marketing is now the main driver in getting a brand into the buyer’s awareness and consideration steps when looking for a product mainly due to the non-interruption aspect of inbound marketing efforts.

Listed below are some inbound marketing tips to compliment the marketing strategy in pulling in buyers to a business. The golden rule of inbound marketing including social selling is that is it about sharing not selling, help not hype.  A business of any size can deploy inbound marketing with some good content and a few whitepapers to start but be aware that inbound marketing will take time to take hold however once traction starts happening , inbound marketing will deliver better qualified and less expensive sources of sales than outbound marketing.

The cornerstone of nearly all inbound marketing strategies is “Content” and sharing quality content alone on social networks will go a long way to increasing traffic and leads to a business or website.  But like all great strategies there is more to inbound marketing than just publishing content; inbound marketing should also include whitepapers, research publications, social stories, social selling, article sharing, social conversations, reaching social media influencers, article seeding and participation on the social networks.

Here is a list of inbound marketing tips that will hopefully improve Inbound Marketing results for you

inbound-marketing-guide

 

  1. Develop a complete inbound marketing plan. Inbound marketing includes blogging, articles, whitepapers, social networks engagement, social selling, lead generation, traffic and social media conversations. Which of these tactics can be improved?
  2. Implement all inbound marketing tactics. A business should never rely on one or two tactics even if you are getting good results from current inbound marketing tactics, implementing all tactics will drastically improve desired results.
  3. Don’t forget the “awareness phase”. Social media using content as the lead is where people become aware of your business and they delight in the quality of the content being read. The awareness phase is where you engage customers and prospects for future purchases and opportunities, even in B2B marketing. A business needs to have blog posts that delight, social media content that engages and messaging that keep customers or clients coming back. Before you get a lead or a sale, you need to build awareness.
  4. Share the content. Simply posting a new article or blog post and then leaving it to chance that it will be picked up by search traffic or prospects are wasted opportunities. Social media networks opens up the ability to immediately collect traffic and leads based on a new article published not to mention the long tail SEO impact. There is more to sharing content than posting to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Sharing content takes time and effort, share across all social networks, forums, groups, while seeding the article on relevant sites like Reddit, Scoop.it etc.
  5. Love your social media accounts. Spend time attending to all your social media account, yes they are fantastic broadcast channels but also more importantly a place to build relationships. Have a constant presence and it need not take a huge chunk of time. Share content from other sources, like other articles, reply to messages, engage with conversations and give regular updates.
  6. Stay tuned in as Inbound marketing, social media marketing and SEO are in a constant state of change. What is the latest social platform, the coolest social network, what type of content (words, images, videos) are best of which audience? To keep inbound marketing firing on all cylinders, marketing teams have to stay on top of changes and make sure to adjust to new opportunities while refining old ones.
  7. Embrace analytics and reporting- The numbers produced from marketing tactics are the key to what is working and what is not. Data and numbers should be checked against goals on a regular basis be it daily or weekly. Ensure all the metrics and KPI’s are in aligned to goals, actions and activities. By viewing the numbers, a business can see where it needs to make adjustments to improve results.
  8. Solicit feedback. Chat to customers, other departments (sales), prospects and industry peers about inbound marketing. Where do they go to be made aware, what delights them, and why do they consider one over another? Also sometimes we can fail to understand how integrated inbound marketing can be with other aspects of the business, from outbound marketing campaigns to sales calls to social selling and customer retention for future purchases. How else you can use inbound to get great results?
  9. Write quality content. Content marketing in the inbound marketing mix is the main conduit in bringing in search traffic and leads. While content will bring in a level of traffic regardless of the content quality, the bounce rate will be high and the consideration rate low. In a digital marketplace where everyone is sharing content, every blog, article or whitepaper needs to be specific, well researched, well written and above all informative. Search the web for blog ideas and to see what social influencers are reading (and interview them to get in-depth information for future social posts)inbound-marketing-terms
  10. Commit time and resources. Inbound marketing takes time, if it is a real marketing strategy for your business, then investment in time and resources to make it happen is a must. Do not let other activities take priority. Every business that is successful with inbound marketing takes the time to follow through on all tactics, methodologies, strategy and implementation; otherwise inbound marketing contribution to the business is just a wish.
  11. Give to get considered. Once awareness levels rise (traffic, reads, likes), start to give more to get into the buyers consideration phase. Offer more giveaways, free trials, deeper white papers, studies and reports. Make it easy for them to consider you, use landing pages, webinars, free samples, and contact us forms so you can move the prospect to a qualified lead.

So as you can see, there is more to inbound marketing than a simple promotional blog and posting it on Blogger. Words sometimes can be hard and time consuming to craft, but words are powerful, fun, enlightening and engaging. These words constructed into quality content and shared as articles across deep reaching social networks will drive your whole marketing and  inbound marketing for today and into the future.  Inbound marketing works as you HAVE READ this article right DOWN TO THE END.

Brian

The Bitter Business.

Customer Targeting

Customer targeting or who a business sells to whether it is B2B or B2C, is a key part of the business planning process. Customer profiling and target selection is critical as it defines the marketing strategy, resources, costs and customer target selection lists for the sales team. A businesses services or products may have appeal to a wide range of customers or markets but the reality is you cannot target everyone at once so you need to list your target customers by demographics, segment, industry and size to get the best return possible.

customer-targeting

Every business wants as many people or buyers as possible to know about their business. However when it comes to customer acquisition the more customers you want to reach, the reality is the more time, resources and money it’s going to cost. Defining the customer acquisition strategy and target customer selection may feel like you could be ignoring some groups or segments but it is important to remember that you’re not excluding anyone; for now the business is choosing where to focus, to spend the time and money to win new customers at reasonable cost. Customer targeting focuses a business and ensures all marketing and sales resources are being maximised. Focusing on a market segment or profile of businesses/consumer who could be interested in what company is offering allows you to communicate and engage with that segment more deeply. The cost of customer acquisition alongside the product to market fit is critical for any business success.

Customer Targeting – Action Plan

Consult the business plan.

Review the business plan, the business mission, the product strategy, and then look at the goals the business has set itself, next analyse the products and/or services on offer. Think about how the products or services you sell solve a problem for a potential customer. Also, think about what sets you apart from the competition in your industry—what makes you different? Where are the low hanging fruit? And who might be interested and who may benefit most from having what you are offering. In customer acquisition knowing why customers buy and why they should consider you is vital in identifying your target audience.

Now move on to the information you need to know and why. What do you need to know about your potential customers in order to reach them?

As your ideas become clearer, refine the business plan and go to market strategy to focus on who you want your audience to be, remember product to market fit is a key building block in business success so target selection is ultimately about the customer. Rather than think about who you would like to sell to, think about the market, who do you believe is considering or likely to evaluate the products and services you offer.

customer-acquisition-strategy

Research your customer targets.

Start with free publicly available research. Existing sources like LinkedIn, Google, Industry whitepapers, articles and forums can help most businesses gather together information about your market, the industry, your competition, and the profiles of the potential customers you have already identified. While it takes time and effort, the cool thing is that someone has already done the work and the information you gleam will not cost you anything. Join groups, follow influencers on Twitter, and get access to updates on social media and what the competition is talking about.

Create a typical customer profile.

Once you have narrowed down the customer target list (segment, demographic, vertical, and industry), now you will need to create a typical customer profile. This is not an in-depth profile but a brief outline of what the typical customer may look like including demographics and profiling information:

Demographic information: This might include for B2B targeting – company size, industry, location, financials, and buyer path or decision trees. In B2C this may include – customer age, gender, location, ethnic background, marital status, income, and more.

This information can be essential for developing the actual customer profile list. Demographic information will help you identify the type of person or business who you believe will be most open to buying your products and services.

Locate your audience.

Next step is to get immersed in where your customer target profiles live on the web. Find out what forums, groups and social networks they engage with. Can they be social influenced with content; do they invite connections, what is their culture, habits or interests? The information put together on customer profiles together with knowing where the on-line locations your target audience hangs out or how they use technology will improve your chance to create awareness and shorten the sales cycle.

Refine and improve.

Customer target selection and profiling is a continuous effort as your products and growth stages change. Every business needs to continually conduct research and tap into social networks for conversations to stay current on market and industry trends including your competition.  Also it is important to track how your current and potential customers move through the buyer funnel. A key part is to have the marketing tools and insights to make sure you can track leads, traffic, sales, social interactions, requests for information, and more. All of these customer touch points are important to monitor. This marketing data will help the business to identify trends, patterns, and possible areas of improvement. Refining and improving your cost per lead, cost per sale and lead to revenue metric will ensure you maximise the marketing efforts as your business grows.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is the process of generating leads, traffic and attention while reaching influencers using social media networks. Social media marketing encompasses activities such as social selling, content marketing, audience reach and status updates.
Social media marketing also impacts on SEO or search results as content marketing (articles, blogs, whitepapers) and status updates (news, press releases, stories) when shared or published leads to search engine discovery around a set of keywords or a title. Research also shows that people also search on social media sites like LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Facebook etc. to find relevant social media content. Social connections who share a company’s social media links can also impact the position they show up on search engine results for keywords, whether within a social media network or on Google.
In marketing, harnessing the power of content marketing, social selling and social influencing can deliver big increases in traffic, audience and customer engagement. Before a business talks about marketing automation, social bookmarking, social sharing or social data they should discuss how to get the fundamentals of social media marketing right. Whether your social media marketing is designed to drive traffic, generate sales leads or reach a wider audience, following these ten simple rules will help lay the foundation to serve your marketing, customers, brand and business better.

social-media-marketing

#socialmedia rule 1. Listen
Listen to the sounds, chatter and conversations on social networks. The success of social media and content marketing efforts follows the rule of more listening and less talking. No point talking about what has been talked to death. Read your target customers and competitor’s on-line content, join social discussions in a meaningful way (not for self-promotion) to learn what’s important to them. Only after listening and hearing what is being shared can a business create content and ignite conversations with well-crafted words that add value not clutter to people’s lives.

#socialmedia rule 2. Be a hedgehog
“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” In social media it is better to specialise on topics you know than to be a jack-of-all-trades. A focused social media plan and content marketing strategy will be more successful in engaging a target audience and help build brand awareness than social media activities that attempts to be all things to all men.

#socialmedia rule 3. Quality counts
Quality over quantity. The beauty of quality words will be remembered long after the promise of a low price has faded from memory. It is far better to have 100 influential social connections who read, share and talk about your content to their own network than 1000 connections who disappear after reading your sales pitch.

#socialmedia rule 4. Be patient
Patience allows content the time to fall into place and make an impact. Social media results and content marketing success will not happen overnight. Quality always stands the test of time, social media requires time to filter around so have the patience to work steady and focused to achieve results.

#socialmedia rule 5. Publish often
Social media is not a one hit wonder. The article may be a masterpiece but one swallow never made a summer. Publish quality content regularly to build the on-line audience of followers and fans, quality content published at regular intervals is far more likely to be shared on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and on other blogs.
The network effect of the sharing content or article links on social networks and the discussions that follow regarding the content will tap into search engines like Google, so the content will show up for keyword or phrase searches. These links could grow from ten to hundreds or thousands, reaching out to connect you with people searching on-line.

#socialmedia rule 6. Connect with social influencers
Social influencers can be a conduit to spread your content to a wider range of people who could be interested in your products, services and business. Seek to be and connect with social influencers, spend time building relationships with them through the power of words. If a blogger or brand is seen as an authoritative, interesting source which shares really useful information, the likelihood of your content getting shared with social influencers follower’s increases, which can put the business message in front of a huge social audience.

#socialmedia rule 7. Be a teller not a seller
Craft and tell great stories to get people to listen, too many businesses believe social media marketing is about promoting their products and services. This has the effect of people switching off. Create content that adds value to social conversations. Jumping in on existing social conversions has limited value, better to be known as who creates amazing content. This is what really develops and builds relationships with social influencers. In time, those social connections will become a powerful channel to spread the word on your business.

social-media-networks

#socialmedia rule 8. Build ties even weak ones
Social networks ties people together for shared interests and conversations. Building relationships and connections is one of the most important parts of social media marketing success, so always acknowledge every person including weak ties who reaches out to you or favours your content as six degrees of separation means that everyone is just six steps away by way of introduction from any person in the world.

#socialmedia rule 9. Remain constant
Apart from publishing content on a regular basis, you need to be available and have a constant presence with your audience. You need to participate in conversations, share other people content, get involved, and be seen to be engaged and active. Eaten bread is soon forgotten and social media followers can be fickle. They or your competitors will replace you if you are not seen on social networks for weeks or months.

#socialmedia rule 10. Share and show
In social media there is always room to share for a story that is not your own. Show people you care about the industry by sharing content, it is unrealistic to expect others to share your content and talk about you but you won’t do the same for them? So, plan to have a portion of your social media marketing showing content published by others. Showing you value content, articles and social conversations that are not your own will make you a social influencer.