Blogging for Sales Leads: The No. 1 Reason Your Blog Isn’t Getting It Done

I used to believe in blogging authentically, transparently, telling good stories and being a thought leader, but these ideas consistently failed to generate leads for me. That’s because I was missing the one, essential piece that content marketing and blogging gurus don’t even know about: Use a blog to create confidence in the buyer—not me, my brand or my business.

I used to believe in blogging authentically, transparently, telling good stories and being a thought leader, but these ideas consistently failed to generate leads for me. That’s because I was missing the one, essential piece that content marketing and blogging gurus don’t even know about: Use a blog to create confidence in the buyer—not me, my brand or my business.

Today’s most successful B-to-B sellers are using blogs to do one thing really well: prove they’re worth investing in before customers pay a dime. They’re giving customers a few results and letting them experience what success feels like.

Blog to Help Prospects Believe in ThemselvesNot in You
The blogging gurus love to tell us to build trust with prospects using social media. Yet they never mention the best way to build enough trust to close a sale. (probably because they’ve never actually closed a sale)

I’m talking about helping a buyer get so confident in themselves—so sure that buying will give them everything they want—they can’t help themselves. They buy because they cannot argue against not buying anymore! (and of their own free will, of course)

Enter social media and all the bogus short-cuts we’ve been told will create trust. Telling stories, being honest, showing customers our “human side.” These things might help you foster trust but only if you apply them to help prospects get more confident in themselves.

Give Prospects Results In AdvanceNo Excuses
What’s the connection between convincing a prospect to buy through your blog and giving them overwhelming confidence? How do you execute this idea without wasting time? You create a process that manufactures “mini-successes” for prospects—in advance of their purchase.

This is the practical, tried-and-true strategy at the center of every blog that creates leads.

Start blogging in ways that prove your product or service is worth investing in. Start giving prospects a free taste of success before they purchase.

Help them do something that they really need to do, learn or accomplish. This gives them partial satisfaction (in themselves) and creates hunger for more. Not hunger for your product or service.

Hunger for more satisfaction in themselves.

Give It Away—All of It
If this sounds like a free trial you’re right but let’s say you’re selling a complex product or service. You’ll need to go further—convince prospects to buy based on what you’ve actually done for them lately.

I’m describing a situation where buying what you sell isn’t a point of consideration; it’s a logical next step for your prospect to take. Purchasing becomes part of the journey your prospect is already on.

By doing meaningful things for people that actually move the needle (solve a problem, teach a skill, etc.) prospects build a sense of achievement. Even if it’s a small one potential customers build trust in you based on this sense.

They begin to trust in your ability to deliver the FULL result if they were to actually buy from you.

Make sure your blog articles, video tutorials, white papers, ebooks and such are:

  1. Taking prospects on a journey toward (or away from) what it is you sell and
  2. creating confidence along the way by solving problems and/or teaching them new skills.

Lots of Examples…
This strategy is at the heart of thriving companies like HubSpot. I, myself, apply the technique to generate leads for a social media sales training program. Sure, money back guarantees help us close, so do customer testimonials. But nothing works better than giving away my best knowledge and helping prospects begin to experience actual success.

Nothing creates trust like having a material impact on your prospects’ lives before they buy. Nothing. Because it proves you’re able to create success for them and willing to prove it up front.

Again, all you’re really doing is building prospects’ confidence in themselves that they cannot argue with.

Look at every one of the social media sales success stories I’ve documented on this blog, in the magazine or on my other blog. Each of these B-to-B social selling success stories are finding a way to give out samples of results in advance.

Every successful B-to-B social seller I’ve found ever (and I do this full time!) is helping prospects get confident in themselves as buyers—before they’re doing anything else.

Let’s be honest. Can you really afford to not blog in ways that give prospects miniature versions of what it is you’re so darn good at? Especially when your competitors probably are—or are thinking of it?

Creepy Marketing and Social Media: How to Scare Away Your Customers for Good

Halloween is around the corner, so for this week’s post I wanted to turn to a topic that is most definitely apropos: creepy marketing. No, we’re not talking about marketing for Halloween. What’s creepy marketing, you might ask? Creepy marketing is what happens when personalization goes horribly wrong—when good intentions morph into, well, disturbing communication that has the opposite of its intended effect and, instead of helping a brand push a product or service, sends recipients running for the hills.

Halloween is around the corner, so for this week’s post I wanted to turn to a topic that is most definitely apropos: creepy marketing. No, we’re not talking about marketing for Halloween.

What’s creepy marketing, you might ask? Creepy marketing is what happens when personalization goes horribly wrong—when good intentions morph into, well, disturbing communication that has the opposite of its intended effect and, instead of helping a brand push a product or service, sends recipients running for the hills. With the rise of social media and its nearly universal adoption by marketers, it’s high time that marketers learn what not to do when they engage with their customers and prospects.

Fact is, marketers use personalization because it works extremely well. How well? Generally, the more you personalize a message the better it will perform. In a landmark study by Banta Corp. on multichannel marketing, it was reported that incorporating three or four personalized elements in an email boosted its clickthrough rate by 63 percent, and seven or more elements lifted it by an amazing 318 percent!

Wow! With stats like these, you can see why marketers of all stripes have been jumping on the personalization bandwagon like it’s going out of style. During the past few years, we’ve witnessed an explosion of personalized content across the marketing spectrum—direct mail, email, SMS, landing pages … all spiced up by including personalized content or messaging. Out of all of this personalized communication, some has been good, some has been great … and some has been downright creepy.

Last year, I put out a post titled “Creepy Marketing—When Database Marketing Goes Awry,” in which I defined creepy marketing as “if it looks creepy and feels creepy, then it probably is creepy and you shouldn’t do it.” I then go on to point out that an actual example of creepy marketing includes writing out a customer’s name along with other personally identifiable information anywhere visible to the general public. I also include displaying a customer’s age, marital status or medical condition in marketing messaging.

Turning to social media, avoiding creepy marketing takes on a new urgency in the medium where stakes have been raised considerably. The reason why is two-fold: First, because social media involve networks of individuals with public exposure, it’s way easier to creep people out. Second, if you do offend someone on social media, then good luck handling the ensuing social media disaster. Offended parties now have the ability to let everyone on their social networks know right away just how unhappy they are—and they usually don’t hesitate to do so.

So how do you avoid creeping people out in social media? On a strategic level, a thoughtful post by Laura Horton that appeared on VentureBeat.com offers five pointers:

1. Be helpful but not pushy;

2. Be a thought leader, if you can;

3. Be careful what you say, even if you know a lot;

4. Reach out if you see active interest in your brand; and

5. Stay on top of social marketing best practices and trends.

I think this list is a good place to start. More tactically speaking, in her blog Kristen Lamb gives us five examples of social media marketing tactics that not only creep individuals out, but probably don’t work very well, either. Her list includes automatically adding people to your firm’s Facebook fan list, and sending out annoying automated promotional messages on Twitter to random people who might have tweeted about topics you think are relevant to whatever product you’re trying to push. Yuck.

Again, I think this list is a good starting point. Though of course, the possibilities for abuse by marketers are probably endless. Have you ever been creeped out by a company on social media? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Please let me know in your comments.

Happy Halloween and happy marketing!

—Rio

Five Ways to “Get Real” With B-to-B Social Media

Today, 89 percent of B-to-B marketers in the U.S. are using social media, says a study conducted by iTracks and the Business Marketing Association (BMA). In fact, B-to-B use of social media may have even eclipsed that of consumer marketers, according to another report from White Horse Productions. But the B-to-B marketers I talk to still sound confused. “What should I be doing,” they ask. “What’s really worth my time?”

Today, 89 percent of B-to-B marketers in the U.S. are using social media, says a study conducted by iTracks and the Business Marketing Association (BMA). In fact, B-to-B use of social media may have even eclipsed that of consumer marketers, according to another report from White Horse Productions. But the B-to-B marketers I talk to still sound confused. “What should I be doing,” they ask. “What’s really worth my time?”

What you want to do is get out of the hype, get real, and get results. Here’s a simple plan of attack.

First, get busy on LinkedIn. This is the no-brainer of B-to-B social media marketing. You, your company, and all your employees need to take maximum advantage of the exposure. Your LinkedIn to-do list looks like this:

  • Fill out your profile 100 percent. LinkedIn will prompt you on how to make sure every element is captured. Encourage your employees to set up their profiles, including their skills lists. Prospective customers will check out you and your staff as part of their due diligence before doing business with you—so be prepared.
  • Set up a company page, with your logo image, plus a crisp, benefit-laden company description. Invite links from your customers, suppliers and friends. Along with a Google search, this is how you will be found in the marketplace.
  • Join groups, or set up fresh groups, in your field of expertise.
  • Post regular status updates in the micro-blog area LinkedIn provides.

Then, examine your marketing objectives. Each social medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. What you want to do is get the most bang, by applying them to their best use.

Here’s a typical array of business marketing objectives a company may be pursuing. Let’s look at how social media can be applied to support what you’re trying to do.

Understand your market opportunity. In other words, market research. What customers and prospect are talking about on social media gives companies valuable insight into customer needs, issues and trends. You can set up a listening post using tools like Radian6, or simply set up an RSS feed from sources like blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Focus, Quora, YouTube and Wikipedia, so you can keep current with what’s being said in your field.

Stand out in the crowd. Social media can help you differentiate your company from your competition. If you want to be seen as a thought leader in your industry, or a trusted advisor to businesses trying to solve problems, then it’s all about content. You’ll be publishing white papers, research reports and case studies, and tweeting about them. Or publish an informative blog and promote it via Twitter and LinkedIn micro posts.

Blogging can be a powerful way to establish thought leadership, but it does represent a risk. Only start a blog if you have valuable content to present, and if you can commit to keeping it up. Editorially, the tone should be informative, not sales-y. If you don’t have good writers in house, there are plenty of freelancers available to help. Another tip: If you hesitate to take on a blog on your own, you might provide guest posts to influential blogs managed by someone else. (As you see, this is the route I took for myself—it’s great!)

Find new customers. There’s a lot of hue and cry out there about whether social media can help you find prospective customers. Of course it can. The trick in B-to-B is to turn your social media messaging into a lead generator, with the addition of three essential elements:

  • A compelling offer, such as an intriguing research report or white paper.
  • A clear call to action, like “Download now.”
  • A dedicated landing page that captures the respondent’s contact information.

We can debate the merits of gating your content for lead generation, versus making it available to all, for thought leadership. A worthy discussion. But if your objective is to launch a business relationship with a prospective buyer, than the lead generation route is the way to go. So add an offer and call to action to your blog posts and tweets.

Expand current customer value. Social media can serve as another useful “touch” in your ongoing effort to penetrate accounts and deepen your relationship with current customers. Encourage customers to follow you on Twitter, subscribe to your blog, or connect with you on LinkedIn. A smart salesperson will link to every possible contact at a current account, and post company and product news in the LinkedIn microblog a couple times a week.

Now, what about Facebook? With 845 million users worldwide, it can’t be ignored. Ask yourself whether your customers are there, and whether they want to interact with you there. According to Globalspec, 66 percent of industrial workers have Facebook accounts, but 67 percent of them say they cannot access Facebook from their office computers. Given its vast reach, at the very least set up a company page on Facebook—for employee recruitment, if nothing else.

And don’t forget YouTube, the world’s second largest search engine. Set up a channel to give exposure to your product demos, training videos and corporate videos.

So, with that, you have a reasonable attack plan for cutting through the hype and putting social media to work for you in a manageable way. Now, what have I forgotten? Do you have any good social media applications you can share with the rest of us business marketers?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.