Every sales person was taught about the magic sales funnel. How you need to market to customers to gain interest and their consideration; nurture them with education about product’s features and benefits and close the sale. Ladies and gentleman, the crackling sound you hear is the Great Imploding Sales Funnel.
The funnel implosion starts at the very top. Customers are finding you, not just you finding them. The web and social media referrals work that way and are transparent to many measurements. By time they reach out to you, they may already be better educated about your products than many of your sales people. If the purchase is important to them, they will have invested some serious time reading about their impending decision. Like a couple planning their first great adventurous getaway, they will look on your web site, they will check out blogs, reviews forums and even social media content about you and your competitors.
Think of your own purchases. If you begin and end your research at Consumer Reports, you are now in the minority. Forrester Research reports in their Global Social Technographics report that 68 percent of U.S. consumers read blogs, forums and social content as part of their decision making process. B2B (or business-to-business) technology decision makers are considerably higher. Both buyer types are learning about your product in a way your sales team can’t: They are looking for what is relevant to their own situations.
People who are really passionate about certain product segments tend to blog, comment or review on those products. Thirty-three percent or one in three consumers review products on sites at least once a month. Twenty-three percent create content on blogs or create videos. Yes videos: search YouTube for some product reviews and be prepared to be surprised. These numbers may seem ridiculously high, but face it: You likely know people of all ages who are writing and sharing this type of content already. Now you need to find the people who are reviewing your product segment and see if you can make them your brand advocate.
They will likely want to see some social media presence. This means Facebook or Twitter (or both) – for starters. A newly released study from DDB published in AdWeek states that 92 percent of Facebook users would qualify as brand advocates; while other studies show Twitter has the most influential users on the Internet. Video is great on YouTube, photos on Flickr, both adding more depth to your presence. What happens in those platforms is different what happens in the Great Imploding Sales Funnel. The Funnel dictated that you found prospects to convert to customers. Social Media is, well, social. You can’t push sales down their throat any more than you can close a sale at a dinner party. The key is relationship-building conversations.
Social Media Guide in 6 Words
If you needed a six word corporate guide to social media use these: authenticity, transparency and be a person.
As in any conversation, you generally know when someone is being authentic and honest. On Facebook or Twitter, you will be speaking with them in a very public forum which will become instantly searchable by millions of people. Don’t do what one candy company did and start a nasty verbal war on their Facebook page. The best phrase I can offer is “how can I help?” This also means, obviously, you are listening for conversations about your product with one of any number of tools, some free like tweetgrid.com or Twitterfall.com. Forum and blog posts can be searched in Google and Google alerts.
Transparency is a wonderful quality in new acquaintances. Businesses need to have limits to protect business critical information, but there are ways of answering honestly. If something is backordered, be apologetic but honest. If they ask about unannounced product, I like saying “Thank you for asking, but like most companies, we can only comment on what is available today.” It is an honest answer. Maybe not the answer THEY wanted, but it is honest.
Being a person in social media means you act like a person. Companies do not speak, tweet to Twitter, or post to Facebook: People do. Simply, treat others the way you would like to be treated.
While nobody may care what you had for lunch, but people DO care about events that personalize your company. Post a quick photo where a team member is getting a community award or a shot from the holiday party. Okay, maybe post a photo from a trade show you’re at instead of the holiday party, but you get the drift: Extend your brand to your team. Let people feel connected to the people of your company. Let your team write blog posts (that go through an editorial review). This builds a very strong and long lasting bond with people. It can create a perception that your team is very knowledgeable in your segment – and you’re willing to share the knowledge.
Speaking of extending your brand, make a plan including what you would and would not say, as well as how to react to a PR or product issue.
Social media is really not that different from “old school” storytelling. You can manage the story, but you can’t control the retelling that comes through word of mouth. The best way to get an advocate is be a person, not a company. Actually, you’ll likely get quite a few advocates that way.