Inbound Marketing Guide

There is allot of talk around “inbound marketing” and as a guide to what it means to a business. Social media marketing agencies and practitioners seem to have developed a language of their own as digital marketing has become the dominant channel. Terms such as marketing automation, marketing qualified leads, social selling and lead nurturing are now common place words in the quest for business to find more customers. Here we will try to help you understand some of this vocabulary.

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To start with, most inbound marketing plans would focus on five key stages

Attracting visitors/web traffic to a site,

Converting visitors to leads,

Convert those leads to paying customers,

Turn the customers into repeat purchasers,

Analyse KPI’s and metrics to improve results,

Some reasons that have boosted inbound as a marketing tactic would include the fact that companies with a content driven strategy have 50% more website visitors than those that don’t and

leads captured from inbound marketing cost 60% less traditional forms of lead generation.

The reality is that an inbound marketing strategy has more or less the same goals as outbound marketing so the difference between them is not what any company wants from the marketing effort but how it goes about getting it. Inbound marketing is focused on attracting IN buyers to consider a brand usually with content as the bait (articles, videos, images, whitepapers etc) while outbound marketing employs diversion tactics (online ads, direct mail, cold calling) to get buyers attention. Most businesses would use a mixture of inbound and outbound marketing. A worrying trend is that some effective outbound activities like prospecting and lead generation via sales people is becoming dormant as too many start-ups or small businesses rely exclusively on inbound marketing to deliver leads and sales.

For a whole host of reasons, inbound marketing is now the primary channel deployed to engage buyers when considering a purchase due to the more non-interruption nature of inbound marketing.

Below are a list of activities and terms relating to inbound marketing, so next time a social media marketing agency speaks about how to put in place a plan then you will be well prepared to talk about it. While content is the rock upon which inbound marketing is built there is more to this strategy than articles, it also includes the use of social selling, targeting long tail keywords, interest sharing, engaging in social network conversations, attracting social media influencers and managing multi platform social channels.

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So here are some inbound buzzwords to improve your marketing speak.

 Inbound Marketing Plan;

The inbound marketing plan is basically a publishing calendar of activities including goals and targets covering blogging, content themes, articles, and whitepapers, landing pages, social networks engagement, social selling, lead generation, traffic and engagement in social media conversations.

Growth Hacking;

A recent term added to the marketing vocabulary. Mainly a tactic employed by start-ups in the App or SaaS space, growth hacking works on out of the box thinking blended with technology to try to achieve massive growth in numbers in a short pace of time. The sole focus of using this as a strategy is to grow big (web traffic, social media followers etc but not revenue) quick so every action is designed to drive that growth.

Viral Marketing;

This is about taking a marketing campaign, seeding it to other people and hoping the content appeals on a large enough scale to make the campaign grow rapidly. It is the multi level marketing of the digital age. Think “Ice Bucket Challenge”. Lots of marketing people go to bed at night dreaming about their image, video or article going viral. However the reality is there is little control when it comes to what will go viral. To try and make viral marketing work the key is to create some unusual content that will get lots of people to promote it for you. The more people who share your content will lead to increased brand exposure. It boils down to encouraging people to plug you to their social media audiences.

A/B Testing;

This refers to the testing of two different versions of the same email template, landing page or call to action (CTA) to figure out which version delivers the best results. A/B testing is something all marketers should do. Examples would be to take a call to action and test it with different strap lines, colours, text, and or with a different image. This allows you to determine which call to action performed better. So don’t guess as different messaging works to different audiences and even geo-locations. Always be testing as even a small percentage increase in leads or traffic can have a huge impact on sales (depending on your average order value).

Content Marketing;

Content marketing is the seed that will grow to capture future opportunities for web traffic, leads and customers. It is the bedrock upon which inbound marketing was formed and still powers. It involves the creating and distribution of valuable, relevant content on a consistent basis (daily, weekly) to attract buyers with the goal of getting the customer to take some predetermined actions. The content created is heavily keyword/SEO orientated the majority of time for a start-up and a high percentage of the time for companies with larger databases.

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Marketing Automation;

 Marketing automation is software that is used to automate large parts of the marketing process like lead nurturing, content publishing to social media or auto-responder emails. This software usually appeals to mid-sized upwards companies with larger databases or well trafficked sites.  Marketing automation is mostly used to improve the nurturing, conversion and closing stages of the sales funnel and is not a one fit fits all solution. The hard work of getting traffic and creating content is still yours to complete.

Social Selling;

Social selling is a great inbound tactic, despite its name it is not focused on sales but rather selling oneself or a brand to raise awareness to buyers of what you offer. It is a subtle and patient tactic where time is spent building up trust or “emotional lodgements”. It works on the premise that social media accounts are a fantastic broadcast channel while also a place to gradually build relationships and make connections. The key is to share content from other sources (not just your own), like other articles, participate in social conversations and provide regular updates. Social selling can be used as the key to unlock sales calls if used correctly, otherwise you are seen as a smash and grab merchant.

Lead Nurturing;

This is the marketing or sales process that is set in motion after someone downloads or fills in a form (newsletter, white paper) on your website. In the B2B sales environment it could be a series of emails together will social selling and direct sales contract. In B2C it usually involves a series of emails. The skill here is that when someone downloads a piece of content from your site, you ask (and give reasons) for them to provide their email address. Now with the verified and opted-in email address, you can implement a series of emails to be sent to them in the next days, week or month after they first signed up to downloaded something. Lead nurturing is important as it reduces your cost of customer acquisition and allows you to build a relationship as you know what they are interested in from your offerings. Be careful not to over expect the speed of developing the relationship or put too much urgency into the nurturing as their initial sign-up could only be a top of the funnel action.

Long Tail Keywords;

This term usually applies to your content marketing efforts and is the SEO keywords you have selected to target. These keywords are normally three plus words such as “social media marketing in Ireland” and are not as competitive in Google as a one word keyword such as “marketing.” Google also auto suggests long tail keywords so research these as part of your content strategy. Can I target hot or one word keyword, you ask? Sure as lots of people are probably searching on that word daily but on the flipside your competitors are targeting these keywords too. It could take years to even get on page 5 of Google for a heavily trafficked keyword. Ten or twenty well indexed long tail keywords when combined will deliver just as much traffic in the medium term as a single keyword. So when creating content titles and web URL’s, choose longer, more detailed keywords. If you research your buyer profiles well enough you will get clicks and views from potential buyers from your target market faster than you think.

The above is not a complete list of phrases as new words and terms come into play all the time around inbound marketing but hopefully by the time you have read this article, some of them are still relevant. Thanks for reading.

B2B Social Media Strategy

How many small businesses really value a B2B social media strategy as a channel to create awareness and drive customer acquisition? As the social media networks and communities run into millions of business buyers on a journey of discovery the question has to be asked

Is your business maximising the potential of social marketing.

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I am certainly not the only one who can prove that you can get leads and sales from social media plus measure the success; however some marketing and PR people still are not fully informed on what social media has been able to achieve in the past few years. If any proof was needed I have many examples of B2B focused businesses who have implemented a successful social strategy to engage buyers and drive higher consideration levels for their product or service. Yet many companies still have a very limited exposure or plan on to use social networks to help scale their sales. Is it due to a lack of resources, maybe   not sure of the value or return, maybe you think your business or product does not warrant investing in social, uncertain as to what social media can do or is it just a simple case of unsure as to how to implement a social media strategy?

If you are a business owner selling into a B2B market then maybe it is time to challenge some of your beliefs regarding the power of social. Nearly every business size and type can utilise social networking to boost buyer consideration. As a starting point let us discuss the various buzzwords and concepts we hear mentioned.

What does it mean to be a social business

The words “social media” can conjure up all types of ideas and meanings. While most people will identify or even use platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, any strategy involving a social element is more than just profiles or getting followers. Being a social business means defining a whole range of actions and goals that match a bigger business. At the heart of it all social marketing is a belief, a concept, and an approach to engaging people for work, pleasure, family, friends or business. There were the ideals from which all platforms were created and I am sure on which new ones will be formed. However it is not limited just to the platforms mentioned above.

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Social media allows us to open communication channels, local and global interactions and instantly share information or news across large networks of people.

If we take a wider or bird’s eye view of how social can impact our business then we switch from simply seeing B2B marketing as managing our Twitter account or Facebook page towards really evaluating how much a B2B social media strategy can help our business as a whole from sales to customer support to recruitment. The use of social networks can rapidly improve how we communicate both internally and to the external market which can open up all types of possibilities that go beyond the traditional view of what social media does for a business.

Let me give you a powerful example as to what social media can achieve.

The Ice Bucket Challenge. Just a few short summers ago, we all were throwing buckets of ice over ourselves or over someone else. It all started with someone living with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) to raise awareness for people suffering from it. The idea quickly spread, so fast that the ALS Association made it an official charity effort. This fun activity, shared by so many of social media raised over $115 million for the charity. It resulted in over one million related videos on Facebook videos and got over two million mentions on Twitter.

Now I’m not suggesting business owner’s start throwing buckets of ice over their heads but I am using this example as a reason to encourage anyone involved in B2B sales or marketing to think broader about social. Even a small change in how we view things can bring a big change in what we prioritise.

There are many ways to extract value from the social networks

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There are many ways in which the networks can help those in a B2B market to achieve their goals. A common issue I still find is that many B2B businesses still do not fully understand how social media can help them.

Most social media strategy plans are centred on using social to engage directly with a target audience. As a business network, LinkedIn is proving to be really effective for B2B sales and for social selling. As how sales teams prospect for new customers evolve then LinkedIn will increase in value for how sales people research and engage potential customers.

Now I hear you say, “OK apart from LinkedIn where else can I use social media in a B2B sales environment?” Well, it may surprise you but a business can use Twitter, Facebook, Owler, Crunchbase, Medium, Google+, Pinterest, WordPress and Blogger to drive buyer engagement. This list is not exhaustive. The value in B2B social media can be found in SEO, in readership, in views, in reviews, in referrals, in content found and shared, for data in social conversations, in buyer’s profiles, in social data and in potential buyer contact details.

There are tens if not hundreds of industry forums, interest groups and social business groups which can be tapped into to increase awareness for your business. Also think about what you can get out not just about what you have to put in (content, articles, information news). Does your strategy involve using the networks to source emails, telephone numbers, conference attendees, competitor analysis, event details, buyer likes and interactions?

Social Media Strategy is not an option

It is a must have. The world and buyers are changing how we source vendors. The average life expectancy of a company is now approx. fifteen years. Due to the impact the internet has on all our lives whether consumer or business means the world is moving fast and faster. As social media becomes more and more accessible on mobile, TV and devices while time poor buyers turn to it to self discover for purchasing decisions, then not engaging with it can leave you at a disadvantage.

Now is the time for B2B companies to really make social a key part of not only their digital strategy but their overall business strategy.

How to Find New Customers on Social Media

Every business needs to find new customers and social media has become the go to channel for reaching new buyers using content as the main hook. Since the arrival of social selling and big data tools, social networks are now the main channels on which to identify and engage with new customers. While social platforms are superb publishing channels they are also great channels in which to promote products or services.

social-media-channels

The foundations to using social media platforms to find new customers are built upon 3 pillars. The first is having all your  social media profiles set up, the second is having your website populated with some customer centric content and the third is you have put in place a lead nurturing process for potential customers engaged with through the social networks.

So assuming all the social profiles are set up and you have the resources to lead nurture, take a look at these simple ways you can use social media to find new customers.

Here are some ways to use social media to find new customers

Getting leads via friend invite

A great way to increase social media exposure is to enable a friend’s invite scheme. Encourage your existing user base to invite their friends to connect with you or the business and maybe reward if they do will allow you to tap into a market segment that is likely to be interested in you. Also as you are using friend invites to increase social media exposure, why not use those friend invites to find new customers. The audience who already purchase your products or engage with your website are more likely to introduce higher quality leads, which allows you to find leads that are more likely to convert into paying customers.

LinkedIn group discussions

LinkedIn has become the main channel for B2B social selling, providing businesses and sales people the opportunity to network and engage with shared interest professionals. Done correctly the LinkedIn groups can provide a gateway to share, listen and engage with potential new customers.

A simple way to start is to do a search for the type of customer you are looking for; this will give you a list of groups to help you identify new customers. Just type in the search bar the profile of person you want to find and then on the left side click on Groups.

LinkedIn-group-discussions

Start viewing the groups that have populated in your search, but before clicking on join, be sure to look through the list of members to make sure that the people in the group are the type of people you want to engage with.

Once you have been approved into the group, plan out how you will go about sharing interesting content (not always your own!), creating discussions and contributing to existing topics around the group topics. Doing this activity in a thoughtful way will build your “social selling index” and add credibility to your brand. Over time this activity will give you insight to what your potential new customer are interested in. This is the preamble before you should reach out to connect with them.

Tap into hashtags on Twitter

Hashtags and social conversations are a superb way to find new customers. Twitter has over 600 million users and the real-time chatter provides any business with ample amounts of data to find customers.

For example, if your company is selling the latest marketing tool and your target audience are marketing professionals, search the hashtags #marketing on Twitter and a list of conversations and profiles with marketing will be accessible. Just like LinkedIn you can then start following and engaging with these professionals so you can start building relationships that can potentially turn into new customers.

Promote your customers on social media

Promoting real and valid customer stories is a great way to find new customers through word of mouth referrals. Select some customers who are benefiting from using your product or better still ones, who engage with your product on the social media platforms, then promote them on your company’s social channels. This type of activity will gain those customers’s loyalty, and the exposure you receive when they also share the “promotional url/article” on their own social profiles; increasing your brand awareness through your brand promoters.

Funnel social media traffic to landing pages

The creation and use of landing pages on inbound marketing and social media campaigns are a great way to find new customers. When running a campaign to promote a product, a white paper or maybe a webinar on social media, funnel your traffic to a landing page that relates back to the tweet or social post. Companies like Hubspot and Marketo are experts at this. It works as follows.

landing-page-example

When someone clicks on the link in the tweet/post it takes them to a dedicated landing page to download the content or information after submitting their name and email address. This kick starts the lead nurturing process for potential new customers that were acquired through social platform traffic.

Use and optimise Social Video

Video channels such as YouTube, Vimeo and Vine are powerful social networks to generate social media traffic for your business. In fact, according to Shareaholic, Google owned YouTube drives the most qualified referrals to websites.

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If not already doing so, consider using video content in your marketing strategy. Ensure to always include a call to action at the end of the video or in the description box. The call to action should funnel people to a landing page (see previous tip).

Target and measure Social Sharing

Social sharing is not only a powerful method to generate online referral traffic but also to boost SEO which in turn drives more traffic. Every day there are over 22 billion social shares on the web. This echo system can provide a large amount of product exposure that requires very little work.

Always include social share buttons on every blog article and make sure they are positioned to make it is easy and encouraging for users to share your content. Depending on the quality of the content will increase traffic to your content or website.

Become active on Google+

Google+ has over 2.5 billion users. (Social Media Facts and Trends) and in the world of social networks, Google+ can be overlooked. However, Google+ has a useful feature in its Google+ Communities. Just like LinkedIn groups, these communities have members which could a source of new customers. Do a search on a topic relevant to your business, and you will see the communities that could be a good channel to engage with potential customers.

Google-Plus-Community

Do a search for “web designers”. The search will pull up the Google+ communities that were made for web designers. Start by joining the communities that have the highest number of members, highest number of posts, and the most relevant profiles. Again the tactic is to engage within the community to build authority, then share relevant content that funnels people towards your website or landing page.

Final Thoughts

All the social media channels provide any business with the opportunity to find new customers and as a customer acquisition channel. The about suggestions are just some of the ways social platforms can be used to find customers. Remember that every tactic must be customised to your types of business and customer, vanilla flavour doesn’t work! So ensure to understand which social networks your target audience are on before committing resources into social media to find new customers. Understanding your ideal “target prospect” and where/what (type of content) this audience engages on the social networks will help you in being efficient in acquiring customers. Do not get caught up in the quantity over quality of leads debate, this is a matter of targets. To be successful in customer acquisition via social media is as simple as ABC, (a) use the right social networks, (b) have great content to share (c) have the right social selling tactics. Follow this mantra and finding new customers on social platforms will become a whole lot easier than you imagined.

Content marketing is powering social selling

The creation and use of content marketing is key to getting social selling activities right. In fact content marketing is now powering most selling and sales activity as it is the smoothest route to build up a relationship with prospects or buyers. It also gently reinforces a brand without over ally interrupting people with sales messages. In today’s digital aware environment, brochure selling is a big turn-off and no longer cuts it with buyers.

The sales professional today knows that selling is now about genuine, beneficial interaction with existing and potential customers which builds trust over time. Content sharing also has the dual effect of building brand awareness, a business may never actually sell anything directly over social media but they will generate awareness.

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What content is shared will impact the results.

To really make social selling work, the target audience has to be interested in what the sales person has to say and, ultimately, the customer believe in what they are saying.

 “Creating content your potential prospects will find useful or enjoyable is key to success”.

Quality, insightful and useful content brings a brand to life, giving the business a personality and allowing it (if they work hard enough) to eventually become an industry thought leader. Content can also help a business differentiate them from the competition. .

As content marketing plays such a central role in enabling social selling activity, here are some tips to help make a business brand stand out from the crowd:

What does a business need to consider when developing a content marketing plan?

There is no “magic wand or instant success formula” to creating effective and impactful content as each buyer grouping and seller is unique, each with its own buyers journey and value proposition. While it is helpful to review other content marketing strategies and competitor approaches by doing some internet searches, ultimately any company’s content marketing plan needs to be tailored to its customers and market needs. However any content plan should include the sales team sharing information that is of interest to their target audience (of which a portion should be nothing to do with their brand). Information worth sharing might include market insights, industry news, analyst reports or independent market research.

They say people buy from people, and in the social network world people follow people who share things that enlighten them or educate them. Also a business should consider social selling training so sales people develop their own style and not be a channel to spew out branded sales updates.

A good starting point is maybe blogging about observations or customer opinions about the industry in which a business operates which can also be a handy means of kick-starting some social conversations. “Maybe research shows some validated trends that all companies or customers are embracing. Then create a nice content piece about it and to add in your observations maybe with some independent quotes.

There is always LinkedIn group discussions, Twitter conversations or any other forums in which the target audience can be found to share insights. But don’t be a bull in a china shop, marketing and sales people need to listen and understand what is going on in the social world for their customers in order to get to grips with the relevant topics to engage on.

The marketing department should ensure that everyone involved in social selling has access to pertinent content as and when they need it or as part of a schedule, this content can be developed internally, aggregated from social media or taken from approved third party sources.

The content marketing strategy needs planning, production schedule, promotion plan and a means to measure the effectiveness of the activity

  • A business needs to define and set content marketing aims plus ensure they support business objectives.
  • To identify the target audience and gather as much information about them to understand their characteristics and interests via social media.
  • Clearly define what kind of content will help achieve the business goals.
  • Develop a content marketing execution plan. Including a weekly or monthly content calendar so that the sales teams understand what content and marketing campaigns are in the pipeline.

Content marketing is about sales and marketing combining in order to share with customers the right content at the right time.”

Final suggestion on this tip is for sales and marketing teams to hold a content meeting each month to decide which segments or messaging they will focus on and then agree what content is necessary to create or source.

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How businesses can ensures it exploits its content plan effectively

The first step is social media training for all in sales to ensure they maximize the content that will be made available to them. This social selling training should cover how to/not to use the various  social media platforms, what the company’s social guidelines are to training on tone of voice and language on social media.

Business needs to make it easy for sales people to interact with marketing in order to understand what content topics are working and which are not, then repeat the things that do deliver results (make sure results is defined to all) and stop any content production to those topics not delivering. In this regard monitor and report on the analytics whether it is leads generated, white paper downloads or social followers etc. Monitoring the analytics from social activity in detail, and drawing up a reporting pack will help the business stakeholders what content drives what activity plus what the target audience has read.

Other basic marketing activities such as monitoring click on URLs, content/blog page views can provide a business with useful data to shape the content marketing plan accordingly and tweak where necessary.

A crucial element in content success is ensuring that the business (sales and marketing) have a daily plan to actively engage in social conversations. This means taking the time to impart value-add comments, liking or re-sharing content with less emphasis on broadcasting sales messages.

“Buyers want to see that sales people are knowledgeable in their own right, not just conduits for branded marketing campaigns.”

Strike a balance so the target audience do not get bombarded with too much content or feel like they are being stalked. Mix up different types of content, whether is it informational, infographics, video, white papers, case studies or images to make the social interactions more meaningful.

The aim is to share quality content that people enjoy reading, also in social selling sales people need to come across as being unbiased so providing impartial advice works really well.”

Social selling is NOT plastering half-price offers on social media. A business needs to be engaging and give audience food for thought.

What are the key challenges a business is likely to experience?

Delivering real business results using content marketing combined with social selling can be tricky and which some companies struggles with date due to a number of factors.

Content Quality! It can be challenging to create really engaging content that cuts through the huge amount of social chatter. The volume of content and information sharing on the social network is huge so it requires any content marketing campaign to be “targeted and relevant” to a clearly defined audience.

Don’t force it. Too many companies try to push the sales teams and people to become a brand advocates with little choice. Start by educating and tapping into the people are really interested in social media where their passion can lead to other team members getting involved. Forcing people to update their LinkedIn profile or Twitter account every hour can lead to social fatigue. Think Smarketing. Where sales and marketing work together to plan and put in place goals that everyone will contribute to. Both teams and departments working in unison can the difference between success and failure in running content marketing campaigns. “If either sales or marketing try to push out this activity alone, it probably will not work. Avoid headless activity where people detach themselves from the brand values and focus on their own goals which can be wasteful. Clearly defined goals, objectives and constant feedback is what makes content marketing powering social selling successful.

BENEFITS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN BUSINESS AND SALES

“What are the benefits to social marketing media to business or sales?” This was a question I got asked recently at a presentation I gave.

What still surprises me is the amount of senior managers, business owners and even those involved in sales that are still to be convinced how social media can impact their business sales results. During my career I have nearly (not always) been a fan of technology and tools that help create a competitive advantage to a business in the selling process which is why I believe social media will change the face of sales forever.

Quite simply, social media has to be a baked in component of any business or sales strategy.

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Research into the sales process has shown that the use of social media has a significant positive effect, in fact sales people that use social media to interact and share information, gain as much as 78% greater sales than sales people not using social media. Now what impact would these numbers have on your business? Proof that social media matters in sales and is playing an increasingly bigger role.

So here are five good reasons why every sales person, manager and business owner should implement a well planned out social media strategy.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS A 24/7 SALES CHAMPION.

Social media will work for your business 24/7. Business never stops and neither does promoting your company to potential customers. Sales people can work maybe 7, 8 or 10 hours but only social media can work 24/7 sharing information, reaching potential buyers and driving awareness for your business. Social media is now the go to channel to check out a business, to source referrals, to see how engaged a business is and for a buyer to evaluate what vendors are worth considering. Today most business is global and time zones are irrelevant to buyers who are seeking information or considering a purchase. A deal or a buyer waits for no one regardless of how many hours a sales person works. This is where social media comes in. With social media, a business or sales person can remain engaged and active that bridges both time zones and continents.

Also well thought out sales strategies make use of social media to create and maintain professional profiles, these act as online business cards providing information and conveying knowledge, experience and expertise. The combination of well crafted social media profiles with quality content (articles, white papers, thought leadership and research papers) gives any prospective buyer the information needed to place the sales person or business on their radar for follow up or even to engage in the sales process.

SOCIAL MEDIA BUILDS CREDIBILITY.

Years ago small companies or new start ups found it hard to build business credibility against large companies with huge advertising and marketing budgets. The Internet and social media has changed this. Social sharing of articles, recommendations and the ability to freely publish information has “democratised” the exposure of companies on a global scale. Social media acts like one big resume or CV for a business.  As any buyer or sales manager will tell you, nearly every sales or business meeting is preceded by or followed by visiting LinkedIn, Twitter and Google to look for business credibility.  Switched on buyers know that social networks will throw up lots of data on a business, from looking at LinkedIn for profiles, to Twitter for activity and Google for company information or validate business credentials , they use social media to consider or dismiss a vendor long before ever sealing a deal.

It is vital that every business and every person in the business that could influence a buyer’s decision to maintain not only their social media profiles but also a presence that conveys the message any buyer would like to see. Social media profiles whether personal or professional should be impressive and appropriate. They not only validate the sales persons credibility but the whole business, while acting as a conduit to draw the prospect closer to doing business.

BUYERS ARE IN THE DRIVING SEAT.

With so much accessible and static information shared on the social networks, sellers are no longer in control as buyers have changed their journey in how they buy. Now any buyer can do extensive research quite easily prior to making a purchase whether B2B or consumers, in fact the “average consumer views more than 10 pieces of content online prior to making a purchase”.

Social media has empowered buyers so they no longer have to rely on the information provided by sellers. It does not matter if the transaction is business-to-consumer or business-to-business; buyers are doing their homework by visiting social media sites and accessing content to support buying decisions.

Business owners and sales team must make themselves easy to find by potential buyers using inbound and content marketing tactics if they are to stand a chance at scaling the business. A story from the 1950’s comes to mind when a bank robber named Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed so many banks. His answer: it’s where the money is! Now every business leader and serious sales person should ask themselves this question. Why focus on social media? The answer: It’s where the buyers are!

SHARING IS CARING.

Every marketing person worth their salt knows the power of “going viral.” Social media and the Internet can bring potentially huge exposure for a business as a result of social media channels ability to easily and quickly share information. With content marketing as the lead driver, the ability to instantly share information or expertise on the social networks means that any business with the creativity and determination can raise awareness quickly. “Social media’s success is built on the ability of people to access and share information”. Just visit any profile or view any piece of content on social media and you will be encouraged to vote, like or share the information. Our natural tendency coupled with some encouragement from the social networks has resulted in buyers and consumers sharing millions of pieces of content around the Internet about products or services they like or dislike.

Marketing and sales teams that maximise the potential of social media create a sustainable mechanism to attract prospective buyers and turn existing customers into brand advocates for the product/service. Through sharing of relevant and quality content, a business can potentially reach hundreds, thousands and possible millions of people with their message.

social-media-effectiveness

CONTENT IS NOT KING, IT IS A KINGMAKER.

That all too familiar marketing quote that “content is king” should in reality be “content is a kingmaker”. Content cannot be king, but through the sharing of quality, insightful and useful information, content can influence buyers (in search results, on forums, in reviews and social networks) so they come to view a business as king of their topic. Well crafted and optimised content found on search engines, social media and web sites creates a path leading potential buyers straight to the seller’s site. Content marketing can be any type of information that can be indexed on the web. This includes articles, info-graphics, video, podcasts, whitepapers and any type of information that can be accessed online by buyers. The power of content is its ability to inform and influence prospective buyers. The goal for sales and marketing is to create compelling content in different formats, which when shared will influence potential customers seeking information before making a purchasing decision that their company is the one to consider. Any business who fails to create and share content bestows advantage to their competitors who do incorporate content as part of their business strategy.

So why are the most successful companies in the world fully engaged with social media marketing? Because it is where the buyers are! Social media and content matters in sales to make your business and not the competition the king. It gives you the advantage and turns potential buyers away from the competition towards your offerings. That is one powerful motivation to use social media to sell more and win business.

Content Marketing Done Right

Content marketing when done right can deliver exceptional results yet as many as 75% of marketing departments are doing content marketing the wrong way. One big and critical difference between content marketing and promotional marketing can be summed up in these two words: sharing versus telling.

Today’s digital savvy buyers and educated consumers are ignoring traditional advertising and sales tactics like never before. They have become immune to brands telling them what to buy. Banner ads and online advertising are also feeling the heat with ad blocking technologies like AdBlock and AdDetctor helping consumers avoid advertising altogether. As one marketing agency stated “Internet savvy people are more likely to sign up for a trip to Mars than click on some banner ads.”

So, the logic would follow as buyers and consumers turn away from interruption ads online and are even using tools to nullify them, then marketing have responded to this challenge to ad weariness, right?

Ah no, this is unfortunately not always the case.

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Marketing is contributing to “Content Blindness”

When developing content marketing strategies, over 75% of marketing leaders report that product mentions are a regular tactic in their content strategies. (The Economist Group). Marketing departments have responded to the move away from online advertising or “ad blindness”by viewers and implemented content marketing tactics to counteract this decline in raising product awareness. However by flooding the social media networks with promotional lead content, they are in fact now encouraging “content blindness”.

The sharing of content has become a breeding ground for brand plugging and promotional stuffing. The result is audiences are now starting to see some content shared by brands as being deceiving, missing out on the fact that when you strip away the advertising pitch many of these brands have powerful stories to share.

Content marketing is primarily about sharing great stories and as you earn the audiences trust you can begin selling your products. The hard sales pitch tends to turn off potential customers, so rather going straight into selling mode, start with building trust and credibility through informative content that adds value.

Prior to publishing an article or blog post, ask the following questions:

  • Does the content offer real insights on a market or interest OTHER than plugging how great a product or service is?
  • Do the articles and blogs showcase the company’s expertise by providing actionable tips or research based analysis?

If the answer is, “Yes,” to these questions, your content is ready to publish.

Hold on I hear you say, so if we work diligently to create content NOT to sell to our readers, then how do we use content marketing sell?”

Well research shows that less is more, the least sales pitch orientated articles drive more sales when executed correctly. This is because the content will drive awareness (inform, educate, amuse, engage) and ultimately help prospects become qualified leads as they consider you as a viable purchasing option.

Any business can create a content marketing journey for their prospects and over time gently guide them to the solution to solve their problems: considering your product or service. But the patience and skill is you have to let them arrive at that conclusion at their own pace.

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Educate Through Content – Highlight Your Expertise

Real content marketing is about sharing thought leadership or research, addressing problems or market trends your customers or potential customers face. This stream of valuable content acts like a seed, planting the ideas which overtime grows into the realisation to prospects that they need your product or service.

The stark reality is that the press release route and publishing in-depth product descriptions serves only to create a wall between you and your audience. Audiences just tune out if they have not been primed with educational content before you go for the sale with “sales content”.

Also B2B buyers now use social media to research trends, reviews and ways to improve their business. This presents a great opportunity for marketers. But are B2B marketers missing the mark?

Well, the CMO Council studied how buyers viewed content published by business-to-business marketers. This quote may help focus your content strategy: “Business to business buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped, and overly technical content.”

Still lots of B2B marketers think that “content marketing” almost like a Trojan horse, publishing product descriptions in the guise of content. But buyers constantly remind us they are not ready to be sold the moment they see some sales content. Their journey is about accessing content that understands their problems first.

So when publishing content on forums, LinkedIn or on the company blog, keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Hold the sell. As most readers are looking to learn more about a topic, do not start bombarding them with promotional jabber. Content sharing focuses on engaging them through quality articles packed with valuable insights to encourage them to learn more. Remember, in the sales process it takes anywhere between three and thirteen interactions for a prospect to turn into a qualified lead, so starting a “social conversation” with a sales pitch baked in will chase away potential customers, so the goal is to get them to stick around to learn something.
  2. Think of your audience, not your product. When creating and sharing content, always prioritise an audience first approach. What would the readers want to learn more about? What obstacles are they encountering and how can you overcome those? When you tap into your prospects’ needs and issues, you can create content that they can align themselves to and encourages them to continue the education process.
  3. Become a valuable information resource. Publish helpful content on a consistent basis will give readers a reason to visit your blog time after time. Becoming a go-to resource is critical to building up followers and readers. I also suggest that carefully offering a white paper, e-book or case study to visitors is a way to gain more in-depth information.

As your journey into content marketing continues, remember that telling is not selling so put your audience’s interests before your own. Content will only grow in quantity on the web, and the way to avoid content blindness and do it right is never use sales pitches disguised as articles. Instead focus on sharing your expertise and insights. Always write to benefit the reader. As time progresses readers will take note of your genuine approach to offering solutions and then will be happy to engage with the sales process.

Social Media Business Tips

These social media business tips may help a start-up or a business where social media marketing is a vital component in driving the business forward. Also to act as a refresher to any marketing person that may be working on different marketing projects at the same time making it difficult to remember all the steps. The main tip when it comes to social media marketing is that it must part of the daily routine so it needs to be resourced, planned and worked on.

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Tip Number 1. Understand the content marketing strategy

To be successful in social media the social media manager marketer must understand the content marketing strategy. From understanding the goals, objectives and desired outcomes to knowing who the audience is and what type of voice (thought leader, informative, educational, authoritive or maybe humorous) the business has selected to communicate with. All the critical questions are answered in a well planned content strategy, so any business or social media manager needs to know it, understand it, always has it to hand, live it and tweak while optimising it when called for.

Tip Number 2. Always have new content to post

Content marketing is not just about new content; the critical point is new, relevant and quality content that brings a different angle to a topic. The lesson for any social media manager is that new content posted regularly will help reach an audience but it is the quality and nature of the content that will achieve engagement to audiences or buyers on the social networks. So the social media manager needs to plan ahead and ensure there is always some new content ready to be posted. Creating quality content will and does take up a considerable amount of time and effort so it needs to be resourced.

Tip Number 3. Set up a content marketing schedule

Social media has to be a business function like finance or product, so the social media team needs to have a roadmap that calls out when you need to create and publish content, a content marketing schedule or diary. This also has the added effect to fully sync your social media activities with other business areas or events within that timeframe.  Try and use the 80/20 rule, 80% of your content is proactive in that it requires more effort so needs to be planned leaving 20% to publish any articles in reaction to any event or news..

Tip Number 4. Generating new content ideas

The value and impact of quality, original and insightful content a social media marketing strategy cannot be overstated. Sales and marketing together need to spend time brainstorming content ideas. It is crucial that the person leading the social media activity plans and allocates time to it. Every business that wants to maximize the results on social media efforts will pay attention to content ideas as to keep the content fresh, unique and interesting. Only then will a business be successful in engaging an audience. One simple way to generating ideas for content is to look at competitors blogs and other popular posts on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to see what content works for them.

Tip Number 5. Follow news and trends for content ideas

Social selling and social media function better when people share news and articles from various sources, so keep on top of industry or market news and current events. This also allows the social media marketer to react quickly to hot topics which is one method to boost your social network influence. Use a social media tool to monitor hashtags, social conversations and people in order to keep up the date and on top of the trending topics. Social networks move at speed so when the opportunity presents itself it is important to be there ready to drive your own awareness and exposure.

Tip Number 6. Use imagery and visual media

Social media impact improves by using visual media, infographics, video and imagery. The use of imagery and a visually impacting way of presenting social content it is more likely to reach and engage a larger audience. Quality content is more than text and social media marketing has to include the production of visual elements such as photos, infographics and video content.social-selling-facts

Tip Number 7. Track, monitor and report on progress

There is no point investing time and marketing money in social media activities if a business does not track, monitor and have a report dashboard on progress against the targets set out in the social media marketing plan. So it is vital for you to report on the various social network activities (posts, articles, comments, shares), what results were achieved (leads, likes, connections, followers, sales,) and any plans for the next phase. It is best if this is reported to all the team including sales, marketing and management at regular intervals preferably on a weekly basis. Every business needs a clear ROI on any resource invested and social media is no different. It must deliver results.

So there are some quick 7 tips on social media for a business or marketing person looking to refresh themselves on some of steps to be successful in social marketing.

Sales and Marketing Ireland 

Sales and Marketing articles,tips and information for Irish companies.

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.

Read all the series of articles relating to content marketing and sales here: Source: Sales and Marketing Ireland (with images) · brianoconnell · Storify

Marketing Companies in Dublin Guide

Marketing companies in Dublin or anywhere in Ireland offer a menu of services from digital marketing,SEO, social selling, content marketing to social media strategy. This guide is aimed at the business owner to ask what skills do they expect to see before deciding to working with one of the many marketing companies in Dublin or anywhere.

Social networks and the rise of social selling has changed the marketing game completely for business’s. Business has become smarter,faster, cheaper  with slower and expensive business models struggling. The lines dividing sales, marketing, advertising and public relations have disappeared with sales people needing to be able market and marketing people needing to sell.

Before engaging with a marketing company, when it comes to digital marketing there are some amazing do-it-yourself marketing tools that entrepreneurs or small business can use if they so choose. However, to successfully execute a social media marketing strategy or to implement a content marketing lead social selling strategy a business just may need some help. But they most likely will not need help from a bloated marketing agency still using old-school tactics.

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A Guide to engaging with the marketing companies.

Partnership not an Outsourcing Relationship.

There are lots of agencies and marketing consultants offering social media and digital marketing services. But does the potential client know exactly is being offered and what should be offered based on the needs of the business?

Will the agency assist with quality content creation? Can an agency source relevant articles and other content for the business segment to share on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc? (this is at the heart of social selling). Can an agency suggest social influencers or people to follow? Can an agency set up a tweeting plan? Does the agency know when/how to post content on the social networks? Can they recommend blogs and forums the business should be participating in/on?

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It is important your marketing partner can “be you” and act like you online. They don’t see themselves as some outsourcing operation looking for a day rate. They may be required to form relationships with prospects and engage in communication that looks like it is coming from the CEO. Any business needs to build relationships and trust in the social networks and on the web in order to raise the awareness level for its product or service. By only raising the awareness levels cost-effectively can a business start getting considered (expressed in inbound leads, web traffic etc) so the marketing partner most likely has to participate in achieving the business goals .

Speed to Market

Social networks and the digital channels move at lightning speed, and any marketing agency needs to have the ability to adapt and keep up with the pace. They need to be active in real time. It is vital that agencies rev up the speed factor so that they move as quickly as buyers or consumers do.

Buyer Behaviour Knowledge

The agency needs to understand the science of how people (B2B or B2C) behave online and across the social networks to increase awareness, clicks, engagement, and views. Do you prioritise white papers or product articles, lead with thought leadership or informative content? The marketing partner needs to have proven experience and delivered results in the science of digital marketing.

Industry Expertise

Many if not most marketing companies have a wide client base and dabble in several industries. Any good marketing partner will invest the time in becoming a “subject matter expert” so they can really impact on a businesses digital marketing plans. So look for a marketing company that will take the time to learn about the industry you are trying to acquire customers in and win sales in.

Flexibility and Adaptability

The whole digital marketing landscape and channels keeps changing and evolving. What worked a few years back or even last year many not necessarily work today, and what worked today to boost SEO or web traffic might not work well in a few months. The best skill a business might look for in a marketing professional is the ability to adapt to change and the ability to speed up the tactics.

Creative Content Marketing

Any marketing company will claim to how to produce “content,” but what a business needs is someone who can create quality, engaging content that gets views plus has been keyword crafted to be indexed highly by the search engines. Content marketing which drives social selling and to a large extent SEO is still a relatively new field and the experience and expertise has not become mainstream. Remember when it comes to social media marketing or content marketing, buyers and consumers on the social networks will tune out fast to the over-abundance of posts, so it is vital a business has engaging content that stand outs.

Buyer Motivation Research

In a fast paced business environment it is not enough to just throw some ads or well-crafted messages at an audience. Digital marketing and social media successful engagement is about understanding as much as possible the things that interest buyers and why. By understanding the buyers journey, influence points and carefully researching the target audience, a marketing company must be able to more effectively craft sales messaging and marketing campaigns.

This is a an exhaustive guide to working with marketing companies but hopefully it might help a business ask some questions to find a marketing partner to deliver their business goals.

The Bitter Business is a sales and marketing strategy partner based in Ireland. We help companies Grow.

Social Media will boost Business Influence

Social media networks can boost the level of influence a business has within a market or even impact buyer decisions. The explosion in social networks in recent years means brands like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc are actually driving economic activity through its ability to connect like-minded individuals or business for economic gain. Also these same social networks are championing more human forms of regulation and currency. Influence and reputation, (person to person exchange of information), has become part of the social media economic system and indicates that personal or brand trust will give a business more value than just pure financial transactions.

social-media-influence

The availability of social media tools to identify data (profiles,reviews,reputation) and create actionable social media intelligence with deeps insights is disrupting the market and allowing people to make evaluations about companies,products, and even individuals through websites, apps and a wide range of social media platforms.  The whole area of Influence and Reputation management is well understood in the old commercial markets and now this concept is extending its roots into the social networks creating a more personal and social environment in which people to connect. Consequently, businesses that work to boost their influence and reputation in the social exchange of information and user experiences based on soft capital, such as trust, reliability,benefit and reputation are now seeing better business results than those companies focused purely on chasing the money.

For a business to thrive in this the “social media reputation economy” they need for tools to identify who actually has influence and reputation within a market so that they can connect and harnesses for economic good. What market influencers are talking about and why they are talking are top of mind questions being asked by decision makers or buyers. Understanding the why is key to discovering why certain people have influence in a given business content, location and time. Actionable social media intelligence that drills down into influencer reputation and analyses intrinsic values is key to a successful business that can execute actionable social media marketing activities on a global scale.

A key point to note within the social networks is that “reputation can determine the level of influence”. So the first focus is to to build reputation by sharing information, stories, opinions and success in a way that is easy for marketing practitioners to identify and verify. This is key to building your level of influence in the social media reputation economy.  .

The author Brian Solis (What’s the Future of Business) argues that today’s value system in social engagement is based on 5 Vs:

1) Vision (I learn something, I am inspired);

2) Validation (I’m accepted or justified);

3) Vindication (I’m right, cleared);

4) Vulnerability (I’m open); and

5) Vanity (Not egotism, but accidental narcissism. I’m important),

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Every business that wants to tap into the power of social media needs to understand that they have to invest time in positive reputation updates, build social relationships and measure social influence levels. For a company investing time in being identified as an influencer and paying attention to what they communicate online will pay dividends in the social media economy. Above all being aware that marketing practitioners have access to tools that drill down into the intrinsic values associated with influence and reputation means that you can rest assured that investing this time will deliver an real return on investment in the growing reputation economy being powered by social media.

One company I recently interacted with is – Connectors Marketplace, they provides actionable social media data to sales and marketing managers. This social media tool enables a business to discover who is talking, what they are talking about and why they are talking. Social media opens up so many opportunities for even a small business to compete on a global scale, influence and reputation can’t be bought, it must be earned and that takes time and effort not money.

Also please read articles on  Social Media Marketing

 

Sales Strategy – Inbound Sales – Digital Sales Transformation – Social Selling – Sales Training

Sales training and digital sales transformation including social selling strategy training in Ireland.