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.

Social Data in Sales

Social Data Trumps People in Sales

Today, big data and the use of social data in the sales process trumps people. The reality is that due to changing buying cycles, more educated buyers and the use of social media to source and inform, most sales managers if given the choice between an exceptionally talented sales person or a highly accurate database with deep social insights, then data will trump people nearly every time.

This article is not suggesting for one minute that a sales manager should stop searching or recruiting great sales talent to his or her team. However no matter how good a sales person is, the benefits of providing sales teams with the latest social data, detailed profiles, social media insights and the most accurate information available are telling. Because when it comes to sales performance, an average sales person equipped with better data will outperform a talented sales person who has little or poor data every time.

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To sell successfully today, every piece of detail can matter to win over customers, from social media activity to information management, who is connected to whom, what articles do they read, what they talk about on the social networks, who is the gatekeeper and what messaging do the decision makers like. Each answer to these details relies on having accurate data.

Here are more reasons why data and social data are important.

Data Provides Sales Focus

The instant access to data and social media insights saves sales teams both time and hassle, saving hour after hour of a sales person’s time in having to research information like LinkedIn profile, twitter name, email addresses and phone numbers. The market is full of contact databases that make it possible to start with good basic contact details. But in a socially connected business world to generate sales leads the sales teams now need a source for more social data like LinkedIn connections, social conversations, social media insights, articles, and news plus company information.

As the sales teams no longer need to spend thankless hours researching prospects or leads, they can use this time to research the best sales approach. This allows any sales person the opportunity and time to develop a more educated approach when he starts the contact phase in the sales process. Social selling and the use of social data is all about the more relevant information a sales person has on things the buyer or company cares about, the more specific they can be with the sales message.

Social data empowers sales teams with the necessary level of insight to lead nurture and interact with the right person, at the right time, and to convert the lead into a demo, a trial or even a meeting. The use of social insights means sales people will be able to identify the problems that the potential buyers have, and already have a plan formulated on how they will articulate the solution to their problems. Remember buyers today do not buy features, they buy solutions, they buy partners and thanks to social media they are better informed than ever about what solutions they will consider.

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Social Data Provides Guidance

In the old sales models, a direct line or phone number was gold as it meant sales people could reach the decision-maker. And it is still a valid sales activity as research shows a sales person is more than 46 percent more likely to be successful in selling when they reach a director or VP. But what happens when sales people cannot get to talk to a prospect on the phone to explain the company’s solution. Too many sales teams still hope that a prospect will make a decision to engage with a business based solely on some email communication and what content is published on the website. This can work out from time to time but often leads nowhere.

Still too few sales managers are changing mindsets by teaching their sales teams to look deeper at social selling and using social data from the likes of LinkedIn and Twitter to find prospects or to engage with lead nurturing. No matter where you source your prospect or leads list from, it is crucial the sales teams have the tools, content and data to influence the decision makers. The more data, especially social data a sales team has on the prospects or buyers, the greater the understanding about the true issues the proposed solution they are selling will solve.

Social Data Brings Speed

Social data is way more than some contact information. Today, social selling and social media tools gives sales the ability to access real-time data from the social networks, which helps create a more consistent and sustainable sales process. Using social data allows a business to identify and target specific prospects or accounts that are more likely to buy, and buy sooner (based on social insights or conversations). And because selling with social data returns a higher level of success for the solution being offered, customer churn will likely go down as well. We live in a fast paced sales environment, finding leads and prospects is hard enough without them leaking at the other end of the funnel due to wrong target selection, so social data helps sales to target the right buyers to fill up the sales funnel.

The better trained and educated the sales teams are on social data and social selling; the more a business can fine tune the customer acquisition and development efforts. Companies using these methods accelerate the sales forces ability to acquire new customers and to grow existing clients.

In the digital sales era, social data is king. Investing in social media tools and social selling solutions will only improve the health of a sales organisation plus they are much more cost-effective than having your valuable sales resource spend hours trolling through websites and social networks. Create a culture, mindset and the selling skills around ensuring that your sales organisation is using data to power the sales engine and watch your sales grow. Social data combined with real sales talent with drive revenue growth.

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

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.

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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

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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