LinkedIn Prospecting: What Should You Post on LinkedIn and When?

What should you post on LinkedIn and when should you post it? These are common questions for B-to-B marketers and sales reps. Yet, I don’t recommend seeking the answers to them. Point blank: If you want to get prospects talking with you it’s more important to know how to post on LinkedIn.

What should you post on LinkedIn and when should you post it?

These are common questions for B-to-B marketers and sales reps. Yet, I don’t recommend seeking the answers to them.

Point blank: If you want to get prospects talking with you it’s more important to know how to post on LinkedIn.

What to post (and when) is secondary. Don’t fall into the trap!

Start by Asking Why
By asking, “Why am I about to post this?” you’ll focus on the most important part of LinkedIn prospecting.

Process.

When you ask, “Why am I about to post this, what do I want the customer to do?” you’re forced to consider possible answers. For example, you want customers to:

  • share and like an article (weak)
  • respond to a video by signing up for a whitepaper (stronger)
  • react: call or email to learn more about a solution (strongest)

Asking why draws attention to weak points in your LinkedIn prospecting approach. In many cases, reps and marketers don’t have a process in place to grab attention, engage and provoke response.

Because they’re over-focused on what to share, at what time.

Focus on How You Post, Not When
Most of us share content on LinkedIn without giving thought to how. We’re told to engage with relevant content. We curate articles from external experts. We share videos and whitepapers created by our marketing teams.

But are your posts grabbing customers? Are potential buyers responding—hungry to talk with you about transacting?

If not it’s probably because you’re over-focusing on what to post and when. Instead, focus on how.

How you structure words to grab attention, hold it and spark a reaction. Ask yourself these questions to get started.

Does what I post:

  • Contain a call to action?
  • Lead to more content containing a call to action?
  • Have a headline that screams “useful, urgent, unique'” (enough to grab attention)
  • Connect to a lead capture and nurturing sequence?

These are just a few easy ways to get started. If you’d like more tips just ask in comments or shoot me an email.

Relevant content is elementary. The difference between wasting time with LinkedIn prospecting—and generating leads—is sparking buyers’ curiosity in what you can do for them.

Getting them to respond.

Content Must Produce Response (or Else!)
Today’s best social sellers make sure everything they post on LinkedIn creates response. I tell my training students, “Make every piece of content make them crave more.”

Asking “Why am I about to post this?” is answered with “To make them crave more of what I have to offer.”

Accessing more of what you have to offer requires customers to respond—on the phone, via email or by signing up for a whitepaper.

Let’s face it. The best thing you can do for your LinkedIn followers is to get them to DO something meaningful. Not share or like something!

Resist the temptation to use LinkedIn like everyone else does. Sharing relevant content is the entry fee, not the game-changer. What should you post on LinkedIn and when should you post it is secondary.

More Tips for You
Get prospects talking with you on LinkedIn. Do it today. Change the way you post on LinkedIn. Pay attention to how you post. Here are tips to get you started:

  • Rewrite headlines using social media copywriting best practices
  • Get provocative, don’t be afraid to take a side and warn customers of dangers
  • Guide buyers by taking on taboo issues or comparing options to get “best fit”

To help create the habit try asking, “Why am I about to post this?” each time you post. Focus yourself on what you want the reader to do—how you want them to take action.

Let me know how these tips are working for you in comments!

LinkedIn Profile Makeover for Sellers

Are you appealing to emotional and tangible desires of buyers on your LinkedIn profile—in ways they cannot resist acting on? Reinsurance broker, Paul Dzielinski is. That’s how he’s enticing prospects to talk about buying his products. Dzielinski is generating leads with his LinkedIn profile using a system to get the job done faster. Once again, the process is rooted in traditional direct response copywriting. There are three components.

Are you appealing to emotional and tangible desires of buyers on your LinkedIn profile—in ways they cannot resist acting on? Reinsurance broker, Paul Dzielinski is. That’s how he’s enticing prospects to talk about buying his products.

Dzielinski is generating leads with his LinkedIn profile using a system to get the job done faster. Once again, the process is rooted in traditional direct response copywriting. There are three components.

  1. Solving customers problems in ways that
  2. are designed to provoke a response and ultimately
  3. foster buying confidence in customers (convert the lead).

Give Prospects a Reason to Act
Dzielinski knows that prospects are lazy. That’s why he gives them a reason to take action. There is no better reason than a pain, fear or goal his customers have.

Smart sellers like Dzielinski are placing videos and Slideshare presentations on LinkedIn that invite customers to act—to be taken on a journey. A trip where the prospect identifies as a buyer and then chooses to steer toward or away from products.

As it turns out, engagement is not the goal. Response is. But you’ve got to give customers a clear, compelling reason to act.

Design Slideshare Decks to Provoke Response
Dzielinski ‘s customers are asking him questions—the questions he wants to answer for them. Here’s how he’s doing it. It’s all about what and how prospects encounter content on his profile. For example, buyers are asking for advice, short-cuts and practical know-how based on a Slideshare deck on his profile.

What makes Dzielinski ‘s Slideshare deck work? Success is all about how the content is structured around the three-step process. Paul is successful because he exploits classic copywriting techniques via Slideshare.

Dzielinski is giving prospects temporary satisfaction. He’s answering questions in ways that satisfy for the moment, yet provokes intense curiosity, which creates more questions.

“It’s Copywriting 101,” says Copyblogger Media founder, Brian Clark. “You know, in copywriting, the purpose of the headline is to get the first sentence read. The purpose of the first sentence is to get the second sentence read.”

Get Prospects to Lean Forward
Clark says, when you apply the idea to SlideShare, “the purpose of each slide is to get the next slide advanced … and the next thing you know, your finger is just moving. Advance, advance, advance.”

Clark wisely points out, “It’s very engaging because it’s not a lean-back experience. It’s a lean forward. I want to see what the next slide says. And when it’s really well done, it’s fascinating. The next thing you know, you’ve gone through 70 slides and read the entire thing.”

In Dzielinski’s case, he’s offering prospects pithy, useful advice about captive insurance. Do they need it, why they might benefit, why not (what’s the “best fit”) and the kind of costs involved.

Using his PowerPoint presentation, he’s getting buyers curious about the details behind his solution. At the end he makes a call to action for a free assessment.

Is a deadly simple idea. Plus, it’s effective and repeatable.

The Truth About Sharing Content on LinkedIn
Your prospects don’t need engaging stories. Buyers have nagging problems and challenging goals that are far more important. What they need is a better way to achieve goals—or an insurance policy against risk. Thus, your job is to leverage this need and get customers curious about your remedy.

How can you help customers overcome the challenges they face, reduce the risks they need to take or find a short-cut to achieve a goal faster?

Make sure your words are making customers respond.

Make sure you LinkedIn profile is answering questions in ways that makes potential buyers think, “Yes, yes, YES … I should take action on that. That will probably create results for me. Now, how can I get my hands on more of those kinds of insights/tips?”

Need some help making this happen on your profile? View the 12-minute video training here.

Getting customers curious about you is the key to using LinkedIn for lead generation—effectively. This simple idea is the difference between wasting time on LinkedIn and having it pay you.

Good luck!

My Best Tips for Writing Response-Generating Emails

When writing sales emails don’t forget to get readers curious—create questions in their minds. It’s the best way to get more response. Today, I’ll show you a simple, effective way to write email that gets customers asking you questions. Philippe Le Baron, a sales productivity coach, has cracked the nut. He figured out how to make customers respond to him in sales emails. He writes to make customers curious about him—in a way they cannot resist acting on. The result: Prospects respond to him more often. Customers reply to get clarity on thoughts his emails provoke.

When writing sales emails don’t forget to get readers curious—create questions in their minds. It’s the best way to get more response. Today, I’ll show you a simple, effective way to write email that gets customers asking you questions.

A Quick B-to-B Example
Philippe Le Baron, a sales productivity coach, has cracked the nut. He figured out how to make customers respond to him in sales emails. He writes to make customers curious about him—in a way they cannot resist acting on. The result: Prospects respond to him more often. Customers reply to get clarity on thoughts his emails provoke.

In LinkedIn InMail or regular email always remember: Plant seeds in your prospects’ minds. Then, create an urge to find out more details using what customers really want as bait.

Get them asking more questions that lead them toward what you sell.

Where to Start
Let’s say you have a LinkedIn Group or e-newsletter where sales prospects subscribe and receive your updates.

You’re probably presenting tips, tricks, answers and shortcuts. But are you writing in ways that create more questions in the minds of buyers? This is the part most sellers forget. They rely too much on formal call to action.

Make sure you create an urge in readers. Speak to them in ways that provoke them … get them to hit reply and ask for details about the thought you just sparked.

Quick example: Philippe Le Baron has a LinkedIn group called Sales Productivity 2.0. His group is filled with prospects who receive occasional updates from him via LinkedIn email. Recently, Le Baron sent an email to prospects.

Follow his simple template by:

  • Making an offer specific to buyers’ seasonal needs.
  • Being useful by giving simple “next steps” to act on the need.
  • Creating curiosity by being action-oriented yet incomplete.

Step 1: Make a Sympathetic Offer
Philippe is making offers specific to seasonal objectives of his prospects. His email starts with, “Here are 3 easy ways to measure your sales management efforts better in 2014.”

Philippe then explains why most of his customers tend to fail. He makes it clear quickly. In essence he communicates, “I understand what you are struggling with.”

He continues with “Improving the impact of your effectiveness as a sales manager can be very tricky, that’s why most sales managers …” Here, Philippe bullet-points his buyers’ pain. He takes special care to include how it feels to fail. This opens the door to talk about his cure … a prescription for improvement.

Step 2: Tell Them ‘You CAN,’ Then Show Them How
Next, Philippe quickly gives prospective buyers what they want: Three simple steps that sound easy to act on. He gives this advice following the Golden Rule of copywriting: Help your customers believe they can; get them confident in themselves.

Tell them they can do it, then immediately arm them with weapons to succeed. Show them how. In his email, Philippe writes:

“Improving the effectiveness of sales managers is actually much simpler than most people think: you only need to focus on 3 very specific things…

  1. the duration of your weekly 4cast meeting
  2. the specific sales management productivity metrics you measure
  3. the coaching questions you ask once you’ve adopted the right ‘Lion Tamer’ mindset”

Philippe’s use of the phrases “much simpler than most people think” and “3 very specific things” help create curiosity.

Other words and phrases that create curiosity include:

  • Unusual
  • Odd
  • Simple technique
  • Different
  • One small thing
  • Surprising

Step 3: Get Them Intensely Curious
Philippe plants seeds. He creates a call to action without actually making the call. He creates intense, irresistible curiosity about himself.

Philippe’s three tips create more questions in customers’ minds. Questions that he knows buyers will have a deep, burning urge to get answered.

These include:

  • What is a 4cast meeting? Is that like a forecast meeting?
  • What are the best productivity metrics? Am I measuring the right ones?
  • What do you mean “Lion Tamer” mindset? That sounds like something I should know about if I want to succeed.

These questions pop into the heads of readers by design. Philippe is getting customers to respond more often because he is prompting them to ask these questions—questions that ultimately relate to what he sells.

Yet the prospect isn’t being “sold to” at all. That’s the beauty of these social media copywriting tips. Prospects are conversing with Philippe. They’re warming up as leads.

All based on the structure of his email message—the words he uses and the timing of those words.

Try This 3-Step Process
Customers want email messages, blog posts, YouTube videos and social media updates that help them:

  1. believe there is a better way
  2. realize they just found it (through you!) and
  3. ACT on that realization—to get what they want (giving you a lead)

That’s why Philippe uses the technique across all digital media to drive more leads his way (not just email).

Philippe writes in a way that customers cannot resist. They become curious and cannot help but reach out and contact him. Why? To get clarity on the thoughts his messages are provoking in their minds.

Good luck applying these tips for writing effective emails in your business!

3 Questions Before Implementing Any Mobile Solution

I often get super excited when I see other businesses doing cool and innovative things in mobile. You read an article here, a blog post there, see a speaker at a conference … It makes me excited … I go back to review my notes and identify all of the things I want to execute. It’s usually a long list that has some low-hanging fruit and some things that are probably not going to happen any time soon …

I often get super excited when I see other businesses doing cool and innovative things in mobile.

You read an article here, a blog post there, see a speaker at a conference …

It makes me excited …

I go back to review my notes and identify all of the things I want to execute.

It’s usually a long list that has some low-hanging fruit and some things that are probably not going to happen any time soon …

Does this happen to you?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to figure out how to incorporate a new technology into a strategy the minute the news breaks, just because someone in a C-level position read a press release.

I then realize how easy it is as a marketer to get hung up on shiny objects, such as Google Glass, and start plotting how to leverage it moving forward. BUT, then I stop myself and ask myself three important questions.

These questions help me determine how, and more importantly when, to move forward with a new mobile opportunity.

  • What problem is this solving? This could be a customer problem or even an internal operational problem.
  • How will using this mobile solution make my customer’s life (or employee’s life) better?
  • How and how soon will it contribute to the businesses bottom line?

You see, at the end of the day I call myself a revenue marketer.

Leveraging mobile solutions that either solve a problem or make your customer’s life better usually end up in increased revenue.

This means the mobile solution you implement may not be super flashy or sexy, but it gets the job done.

That’s why so many brands still heavily rely on SMS as their mobile marketing workhorse. It just works.

So, I challenge you to ask yourself these three questions when you’re approached with an opportunity that sounds cool and innovative.

Just because someone higher up than you recommends it doesn’t mean it’s the right solution.

Innovation is relative.

Solve a problem. Make your customer’s life better. Make more money.

Have you ever had this challenge? If so, we’d love to hear about how you got through it.

DM 101: A Small Business Primer

Yesterday, Target Marketing hosted a webinar called “Direct Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.” I was honored to be a speaker, along with Cyndie Shaffstall of Spider Trainers. Considering all the resources available for DM information, I was completely surprised when I learned that over 1,000 people registered. During the live event, we were deluged with questions and there wasn’t enough time to answer them all, so I thought I’d dedicate this blog to trying to cover a few DM strategies that might make your marketing life a little easier

Yesterday, Target Marketing hosted a webinar called “Direct Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.” I was honored to be a speaker, along with Cyndie Shaffstall, of Spider Trainers.

Considering all the resources available for DM information, I was completely surprised when I learned that over 1,000 people registered. During the live event, we were deluged with questions and there wasn’t enough time to answer them all, so I thought I’d dedicate this blog to trying to cover a few DM strategies that might make your marketing life a little easier.

There’s not enough room on this page to cover everything I’d like to say, but based on the questions, here are my top five pieces of direct marketing advice:

1. Before You Begin Any Marketing Program, Decide Where You’re Going
Start with your company’s business objectives (Grow revenue? I certainly hope so!), and work backwards.

There are really two key marketing strategies to achieving this objective: Retain existing customers (i.e. retain existing sources of revenue), and add new customers. Duh. But retaining existing customers should include measurable marketing objectives like increasing average order size, increasing number of transactions per customer, and increasing frequency of purchases. Marketing to cold prospects might include metrics like increasing the number of qualified leads into the sales pipeline, or driving more traffic to your web store. Depending on your objective, different marketing strategies and tactics will be utilized.

2. Know Who Your Existing Customers Are
If you can’t profile them by the data you collect, you can append data from a reliable third-party data provider—and many of them offer analytic services so you can get a good handle on your buyer profiles.

Another option is to think about your product/service and how you might market it differently if you knew your customers better. For example, if you knew your customers had toddlers, would that drive a different set of messages than, say, parents of teens? Do a survey and ask your customers to share key information with you. (An incentive to fill out a SHORT survey often works; make sure you only ask questions you can use the insights from in future marketing efforts.)

On the B-to-B side, do your customers tend to come from a handful of industries only? Then you have a better chance of selling to more customers in those industries than in a brand new industry. Knowledge is power, so it’s difficult to plan and execute successful marketing efforts if you don’t understand your customer base.

Don’t forget about taking a deeper dive into your data to find your “best” customers. Chances are 20 percent of your base is driving 80 percent of your revenue. Better know who they are—and fast—so you can make plans to protect and incent them to stay loyal.

3. Clean Up Your Act Before You Try to Make More Friends
Since most customers will visit your website first, make sure it’s optimized for site visitors … and for smart phone users (yes, the future is NOW). On the B-to-B side, you better have your LinkedIn profile updated with a professional picture and solid bio, because, yes, people do judge a book by its cover.

4. Choose the Right Media Channels
This is probably the hardest one to get right. Do magazine ads work? Yes, if your audience reads a particular publication. Does cold prospecting work? No. End of statement. Does direct mail work? Yes, if you spend time identifying who your best customers are, profiling them, then overlaying that profile on a list to find look-alikes, and you combine a meaningful offer in an appropriate format. There are lots and lots of nuances in direct mail, and most folks get it wrong. So how do you make the right media decisions? If you know who your best customers are, find out where they congregate—that’s where you want to have a presence.

In the B-to-B world, this can be made a little easier as business people get together at industry events, join industry associations, read industry publications, etc., etc. It’s a little easier to figure out ways to get your message in front of them.

In the B-to-C world, you need to be much more analytical. Go back to the profile of your best customers. What do they have in common? In what context would your product/service appeal to them? Instead of trying to “interrupt” their behavior by placing an ad where they’re not even thinking about your solution, try to place your ad in an appropriate context. For example, if you’re a nonprofit trying to reach high net-worth prospects for charitable giving, use your PR skills to try and get a story placed about your efforts. Then, purchase banner ads on the publication’s site so they run next to the article about you—or place an ad within their publication when the article runs. Use Google Analytics and AdWords to understand the most popular search terms for products/services like yours. See what your competitors are doing and figure out how you can differentiate yourself with your message.

5. Format Matters
I’m often asked if postcards work. Or is a #10 package better than a self mailer. And what about Three-Dimensional packages—are they worth it? The answer is yes, yes and yes … but here are a few things to consider:

  • Postcards work best when you have a single, simple message to convey. Keep it short, sharp and to the point.
  • Self-mailers work better if you need a little more real estate to tell your story. Plus, they can be quite “promotional” in nature, so they’re not taken as serious communication.
  • Envelope packages work best if you have a more complex message. A letter (with subheads, please, as we’re all scanners of content), order form, brochure and business reply envelope (yes, they still work like a charm), can all work if your audience is older. (Here’s a hint: Not everybody wants to go to your web site, fill out a form and give you a credit card number if they can check a box on your form, add a check and mail it back to you on your dime.)
  • 3D packages can work like gangbusters if the item inside is engaging and makes sense as it relates to your brand/message. Inexpensive tchotchkes don’t usually work very well—they don’t garner attention and they don’t make your brand look smart.

Net-net, marketing is a skill. And, considering you will invest to get financial gain for your business, you really shouldn’t try to do it without professional help.

How to Select a Social Media Agency or Consultant

Social media agencies and consultants insist that following your customers into social spaces is a smart idea. Yet it’s actually an incomplete idea, unless you have a clear means to capture demand and convert it to sales. So, it pays to make sure you have a list of specific interview questions in hand when choosing a social media agency or consultant. That’s why I’m giving you some gems that really work.

Social media agencies and consultants insist that following your customers into social spaces is a smart idea. Yet it’s actually an incomplete idea, unless you have a clear means to capture demand and convert it to sales. So, it pays to make sure you have a list of specific interview questions in hand when choosing a social media agency or consultant. That’s why I’m giving you some gems that really work.

Remember, the answer to selling more with social media is this: Starting conversations that are worth having and conversing in ways that generate questions that you have answers to. The rest is occasionally (when relevant) connecting those answers to your products/services. This is how to generate customer inquiries using social media. Your agency, freelance provider (or employee) must grasp and practice this. Let’s find out how to make sure they do.

Question Your Consultants
Overzealous “digital rock star gurus” say the social Web has revolutionized everything. We’re told to listen to and engage with customers. But what do we do with what we hear … and when does engaging connect to sales? Does it at all? As David Ogilvy himself reminded marketers decades ago “we sell or else!”

The nature of your relationship with social media agencies and consultants should be to question. Why? Because so many are questionable in terms of the results (or lack there of) they deliver!

Be Sure They’re Producing Behavior
“You don’t sell someone something by engagement, conversation and relationship. You create engagement, conversation and relationships by selling them something,” says Bob Hoffman, (“The Ad Contrarian”) CEO, Hoffman Lewis.

Read that again and notice how it flies in the face of what we’re being told to do by most social media agencies and consultants. Notice how logical this simple truth is.

Agencies and consultants that are moving the needle are reaching beyond attracting customers for clients. They’re generating leads using three practical success principles. They’re aligning social marketing with sales by:

  • Solving customers problems with social media like Facebook
  • Producing behavior by designing each social interaction to produce it—always, without fail
  • Translating needs of customers and using insights to create more behavior, more leads/sales

It’s important to consider the current social media marketing activities of the agency or freelancer you’ll hire. Everything they’re doing to “join the conversation” (tweeting, blogging, posting updates on Facebook) must be talking with customers, not at them. They must be truly interacting. Making social marketing produce behavior is the first step. Your agency needs to understand what a call to action is and practice this approach.

Ask Tough Questions
Most importantly, press your marketing consultants, ad agency reps and employees to answer business questions first. Ask them to do it without using words like traffic, engagement or buzz. Make them squirm.
In the end you should be getting answers to the following questions:

  • Is the agency hiring employees based mostly on tactical skills or ability to create tangible results?
  • Does the agency ask the right questions of us? And are they embracing or avoiding our questions?
  • When they discuss successful client cases (in their past) are they interacting with customers intimately—or are the stories more about posting and tweeting into the ether?
  • If they’re interacting with customers/prospects is it organized and purpose-driven? Are their tactics working in harmony or apart from (competing with) each other?
  • What actionable information does each customer interaction produce and where does that information go?
  • What’s done with it (or not)? Do interactions produce actionable information? Do they connect to a lead nurturing or follow-up process?
  • Are their tactics connecting with a strategy that pushes customers down the sales funnel using the collected information?

Social media marketing is a necessary component of being online. But merely “being on Facebook and Twitter” won’t generate leads and convert sales unless you hire people who are focused on purpose-drive social media campaigns. Be sure to ask the tough questions when interviewing them. Good luck!

How to Convert LinkedIn Contacts into Qualified Leads

Answering your customers’ most commonly asked questions opens the door for discovery … and for brands to make relevant suggestions. You can offer prospects a friendly tip or useful trick or, if appropriate, outline benefits of taking a trial, downloading a whitepaper or attending your webinar.

Turning LinkedIn contacts or LinkedIn Group members into leads rarely happens using what I call passive engagement. It takes something more than occupying prospects’ time. You’ve got to convince them to sign up for your webinar or download your whitepaper.

Luckily, converting LinkedIn contacts to leads is easy. Just start by solving your target market’s problems in ways they find irresistible. Then plan engagement—carefully map it out to connect your target customers’ questions to the answers your content marketing devices (webinars, whitepaper) deliver.

The Engagement Myth
If you’re like most B-to-B marketers, you’re struggling to turn LinkedIn contacts and group members into leads. But getting it done is easier than you think. After a year of interviewing B-to-B and business to consumer businesses experiencing remarkable success using social media I found the common success principle: Ditching passive engagement—and giving contacts, friends, followers and such a reason to offer more than a “like” or merely consume content.

Many LinkedIn gurus claim awareness, reach and influence leads to conversion. They say, “regular online participation in LinkedIn Groups and with followers on other social platforms can convert them from followers into leads and on to customers.”

Yes, it can but this belief isn’t much different than the “reach and frequency” promise of advertising. Namely, if we beat the drum loud enough (reach) and often enough (frequency) it will cause people to perform an action—register, attend, download. As Dr. Phil likes to say, “and how’s that working for ya?” This is what I call passive engagement.

But there is a better way: Designing engagement to produce actions by solving customers’ problems in places where questions often get asked—like LinkedIn Groups.

Solve Customers’ Problems
You’ve probably heard that posting a certain number of times, on certain subjects, on certain days inside LinkedIn Groups where your target market congregates is the key that unlocks success with LinkedIn. Or maybe you’ve heard that frequent posting of blogs you’ve written in LinkedIn Groups will generate leads. These ideas don’t work. The key to success is solving customers’ problems in provocative ways.

For instance, use LinkedIn to generate questions among customers that your webinar or whitepaper gives answers to. Creatively bait customers to communicate or complain about problems (in LinkedIn Groups) that your content marketing device provides solutions for. Next, provoke actions—exploit those complaints by enticing, “ethically bribing” prospects to register for a webinar, download or perform an action that helps you qualify them as leads. It’s a snap.

Scratch Customers’ Itches in LinkedIn Groups
For instance, grocery store Harris-Teeter pays customers to ask its dietician health-related questions on Facebook. Why would a grocer—or you—do that? Because helping customers put out a fire or scratch a bothersome itch is powerful. It can be done on any social platform where your target audience is engaging, like LinkedIn.

Answering your customers’ most commonly asked questions opens the door for discovery … and for brands to make relevant suggestions. You can offer prospects a friendly tip or useful trick or, if appropriate, outline benefits of taking a trial, downloading a whitepaper or attending your webinar.

Always beware: leads don’t “just happen” passively using LinkedIn. You need to solve problems with a plan in mind. That said, using a question-and-answer technique takes much of the work out of the process. It can even be fun. What do you think about giving this a try?

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: How Twitter Helped Tax Season Run Smoothly for TurboTax

If you think you’re busy putting your taxes together during tax season, think about how busy it must be for the employees at Intuit, who work with its TurboTax brand.

If you think you’re busy putting your taxes together during tax season, think about how busy it must be for the employees at Intuit, who work with its TurboTax brand.

To help make the process of answering all the questions it receives during tax season more efficient and effective, TurboTax launched a major Twitter initiative in February. It enlisted 40 employees — everyone from tax experts to product managers to support reps — to answer both tax and software questions through its Twitter account.

The process was managed with the help of ExactTarget’s Twitter platform CoTweet, a sort of CRM Twitter software that enables users to easily search for questions across Twitter about taxes; assign customer tweets to the right expert within the company; and respond to the customer in short order. In fact, the program enabled TurboTax employes to answer tweets in less than four minutes.

The program worked. After April 15, TurboTax surveyed its customers and received the following results:

  • 54 percent of TurboTax Twitter followers specifically sought tax help;
  • 48 percent of users said TurboTax was effective in helping them complete tax returns; and
  • 77 percent of users said they’d likely recommend TurboTax.

Best practices
Because of the success TurboTax enjoyed, I asked Chelsea Marti, public relations and social media manager at TurboTax, to come up with some best practices associated with using Twitter for business. She offered the following three:

1. Remember that you’re a brand. “While you may want to personalize your approach with your Twitter followers, remember that you’re a brand first; don’t invade their personal spaces,” Marti said. “Start out by introducing yourself and saying hello, then start answering questions. Don’t start hawking your products or throwing information at them right off the bat.”

2. Keep it fun. “We find that we have much better engagement with followers when we’re light-hearted and friendly,” Marti said.

3. Plan ahead. “Before you begin an enterprise-level Twitter program, have a plan in place,” Marti warned. “Spend a substantial amount of time searching for how people are talking about your brand on Twitter before answering questions.”

Do you have any Twitter for business best practices you’d like to share? Please do so here.