Social media’s “game-changing” ability is so overstated and sensationalized that what you’re doing with it, right now, is likely working against your best interests. How can this be? There is no money in your knowing the truth: The social media revolution was a lie. Need proof? Look around. Where’s the revolution in your business? People actually acquiring customers and selling using Facebook, blogs, YouTube and LinkedIn know the truth; they know something most of us don’t.
The experts are wrong. The difference between fooling around with social media and selling with it relies on the use of proven, time-tested direct response practices—not new tools and techniques. If your goal is to make social media marketing sell, you’ll need to start developing three habits. These are the fundamental ideas responsible for selling products and generating leads using social platforms.
The Revolution Will Be Scrutinized
“Every time there is a sizable shift in the way businesses communicate with consumers, there is always a cadre of ‘experts’ … people that advise that a new business paradigm has arrived,” says Allan Dick, COO of Mountaintop, Pa.-based Vintage Tub and Bath. “One in which traditional theories of running a business get thrown out the door. What these experts miss is that the theories [that drive ‘what works’] remain the same. It’s the ways you execute those theories that change.”
Throughout history, the breathless hype and spin surrounding the arrival of new technologies has been problematic. Unbridled exuberance about something new always produces a rush to adopt it. This behavior is mostly driven by fear (of being left behind, missing out on opportunity). At the same time, we experience inflated expectations about this new techno-thingy. This is always followed by regret and disillusionment,“Hooey … it’s not such a game-changer after all!” This process is pervasive and can stifle your business’s evolutionary process.
For instance, as part of my own research, I met direct television infomercial sellers struggling with YouTube because they’re following the edicts of overzealous, misguided social gurus. Meanwhile, their competitors are trusting instincts and sticking with proven success principles to drive sales. B-to-B sellers, likewise, struggle from lack of confidence in what they already know works. Yet some, like telecommunications giant, Avaya, stick to their knitting—finding and closing six-figure contracts using platforms like Twitter.
By throwing out the hyped-up, over-blown, supposedly game-changing technical aspects of the social Web for a moment, we can reframe the entire context of the business opportunity staring marketers in the face: to evolve marketing, not re-invent it. Let’s discover how you can join the ranks of Avaya and small businesses like Logan Services by shifting perspective at 50,000 feet and taking action.
The 3 Habits
The fundamental concepts powering effective social marketing are rooted in a return to basic practices. Successful social sellers understand that the difference between wasting time on social media and selling with it relies on developing these three habits:
- Solving customers’ problems.
- Designing to sell—planning social experiences to provoke customer responses that connect to the sales funnel.
- Translating—discovering customer need as it evolves and using this knowledge to improve response rate.
How to Sell by Solving Problems
Making things like blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter and the like actually sell challenges us to trust traditional instincts—to evolve, not reinvent. The social aspects of attracting, nurturing and earning a purchase are already known. Successful social sellers are designing interactions—“conversations”—in ways that solve customers’ problems. This approach makes it easy to help customers guide themselves toward products and services.
Solving customers’ problems has always been a successful way to produce awareness, interest, desire and purchase behavior. Providing answers to customers’ questions remains the best way to effectively coax or nurture customers toward making a purchase. Social media are inherently interactive, making this process even easier to accomplish. The key is using this familiar process, not figuring out what time of the week earns more Twitter retweets or other nonsensical, yet popular, recommendations we often hear.
Get Customers to Ask Questions
Making social sell is simply a matter of facilitating and then connecting question and answer-oriented digital conversations to helpful products and services whenever they’re relevant. It’s an old idea that you can leverage to drive sales with “new” social media.
Think about it in your own life. Have you ever found yourself suddenly more equipped to make a purchase based on knowledge you suddenly became aware of? Think about it in your business, outside the Internet. Do you publish whitepapers, magazine articles or other self-diagnosis tools to help customers become more clear on problems, avoid risk or exploit unseen opportunities? Are you doing it in ways that occasionally connect with your products or services?
Look out: Just like cranking out whitepapers or information-dense brochures, earning sales takes more. Success requires relevancy and earning response from customers. That means making a habit of inducing customer behavior with every tweet, post or update you make on social platforms. And that takes a plan, a designed system of question and answer-driven interactions.
Beware of Gurus in Consultants’ Clothing
Paradigm shifts and “total game-changers” are a goldmine for gurus and self-appointed experts pushing flash-in-the-pan software, books (full disclosure: I wrote a social media book) and consulting services. There’s nothing wrong with making a living as an expert, but beware misguided advice designed to scare otherwise rational businesspeople into making irrational, hasty investments and spending money on ideas that don’t work.
Successful social sellers understand that the difference between fooling around on social media and selling with it relies on developing these key habits.
Jeff Molander is the author of “Off the Hook Marketing” and adjunct faculty of digital marketing at Loyola University. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read his blogs at www.jeffmolander.com/blog and www.makesocialsell.com/blog.