This post is part 3 of a 5 part series on creating lifelong customers. Social media has changed dramatically the marketing landscape. It is the new way to introduce yourself to potential customers. Companies also often do it wrong. We were using social media in the wrong way for our business. We were using the wrong platform. Your business will generate more leads with social media if you avoid these three key mistakes: going for the direct sale, using the wrong network and being inconsistent. Doing this right is also key to developing lifelong customers.

Avoid Going for the Direct Sale on Social Media

I think it is because social media is seen as the new magical answer for business to generate leads. Companies create an account and then start sending updates with products for sale. It’s a little bit like a man walking down the sidewalk of a busy street shouting about his new financial product. Lots of people hear what he is saying. Few listen. No one wants to talk with him.

I have seen people get to this place in one of two ways. First, they are sales focused, which is a strength in some situations, just not this one. They feel comfortable talking with people and pointing out the benefits of their product. They do it in sales meeting after sales meeting. They naturally start to do this in 140 characters on Twitter. Second, someone comes in never talking about sales. This person forms relationships and focuses on the social part of social media. They don’t get very much business so they begin to post offers. Soon they become comfortable and slip into number one. These are both normal ways to learn how to do social media.

You are better off just doing it right. 90% of your updates should be information that your target market will find valuable. 10% can be about an offer. The internet is a very low trust environment. Your offer should be designed to earn your potential client’s trust. Deliver before selling. I am blogging for a reason, but you haven’t seen any offers. There’s a reason.

Be on the Right Social Media Network

There are so many social media networks. Unless you have a lot of resources, it is a mistake to try to be on all of them. It’s also a mistake to be on the wrong one. It doesn’t matter what everyone says about the best social network. It comes down to one question: Where are your customers?

Facebook has 1.19 billion active monthly users. That’s 15% of the entire human race. Your audience is on Facebook. Facebook ads are becoming more and more necessary to grow your audience. Facebook offers excellent targeting options to target ads based on interest. You can target someone based on detailed interests in your city or across the planet. For more on marketing on Facebook check out Jon Loomer.

Twitter is a place to meet new people. Expanding your network is as simple as finding your target market, following them and waiting for them to follow back. The stream moves fast but it s a great place to network. I have done business with people who I’ve met on Twitter. Learn about marketing on Twitter by reading The Tao of Twitter.

LinkedIn is not just for looking for work. LinkedIn has become the social network for business. There are valuable sales tools and ways to contact potential clients. If you market or sell in the b2b arena, you must be on LinkedIn. One hint: Check out (or start) a few groups designed to attract potential customers.

Google+ will be a game changer. Google has ruffled some feathers over changes in how gmail works. They will allow you to email most people (but not everyone) . Whatever your point of view, Google has dramatically changed the entire company by turning Google+ into the hub that connects all things Google. I think it is a smart bet to start interacting on Google+. Google+ has Twitter’s advantage of being able to reach out and connect and Facebook’s advantage of a good medium to have conversations and develop relationships.

Do Social Media Consistently

It may take some trial and error testing to see which social network is the best fit for your company, You can monitor your content mix to ensure that you aren’t publishing sales content too often (or not often enough).  The real difficulty in content marketing is being consistent. There are a few tactics that you can implement to help including setting up an autoresponder campaign and working ahead to cover times when you are too busy. If you fail at this, you are constantly restarting relationships which is a little harder each time. I’ve found a few tricks that have helped me be more consistent.

Set realistic goals and build from there. It is not realistic to develop profiles and audiences on all of the major social media networks in a week. You could complete a profile, begin publishing useful links and connect with people on one network. If you set your goals too high, starting becomes even more daunting. You are better of setting realistic goals, following through and then adding more when it is easy.

Focus on your successes. Imagine sitting down to write a blog post and only getting 50 words done. Now focus on the failure. You only wrote 50 words. Not the magic 500 that everyone talks about. How motivated are you after that? Now, imagine yourself focusing on the fact that you started. You have words in the computer. Next time you’ll write more. Be excited about the victory of starting. How is your motivation now? I find that focusing on what I have done well motivates me to do more, better and faster. Focusing on my failures leaves me watching TV and wasting time.

Work ahead. We all get busy. There are times when we can’t write. Sometimes this is a predictable time crunch like the end of the month billing. Sometimes there is no warning. If you have a month of content scheduled, neither of these situations is as difficult as you might think.

This is part 2 of a 5 part Creating Lifelong Customer series. We’ve already covered how important it is to talk to directly to your potential customers about solving their problems. Today’s post will cover content marketing for the sales funnel.

Problems with Marketing and Sales

Many companies make a mistake in their marketing process. Their marketing process goes from Know to Buy. This might work, but it also creates a bit of resentment on the part of your customer. I was at the grocery store today and a woman talked us into buying some beef that was pre-seasoned and already prepared. I wasn’t really ready to buy. I had already tried it and it was good, but I wasn’t ready to buy. She pushed and I guess my willpower was running low, because I said yes when I’d normally say no.

She might have thought this was a good thing. She sold me something, but I now regret buying the beef. My walls will be up the next time I walk into that store. Even worse, I am less likely to become a brand champion for that store.

Create awareness: Getting someone to know you

Let’s use the following marketing stages: Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy and then Champion. You need to create content that moves your potential customers into the next stage. Let’s talk about each stage and what it takes to get them to move on to the next stage.

The goal of this stage is to get people to simply know who you are. Historically this has been done with some sort of advertising. Today, this stage often starts with social media, SEO and using other online tools.

Developing a strong social media profile and audience is a great way to start this process. You can do this while developing your content marketing strategy. The feedback from the people you meet will help you refine your strategy. Developing strong profiles on the right social media network is key. We’ll cover more on developing this platform next week. You also need to link to helpful content on a regular basis, have conversations and be a part of the community. Avoid posting link after link without interacting with others. This makes your account appear automated and no one really wants to talk to a machine.

In terms of content consider: blog posts, white papers, an auto-respond email campaign, pictures with captions, infographics and other material that establishes your expertise or your products usefulness. A good account to learn from is George Takei from Star Trek fame. He now has 4.6 million likes with massive engagement on each post. Most of his posts are just jokes and they get shared.

Getting people to like you with content marketing

Be likable. Getting people to like you is easier said than done. From my perspective, it comes down to basic social skills and finding your voice. You can’t listen on a blog, but you can write about issues important to your audience and help your audience. Avoid talking about how great you are. Teach them how to solve some their problems, which will both establish your credibility and make you likable.

The second piece of being likable is finding your voice. Some tips to finding your voice are:

  • lose the marketing voice
  • write as if you are talking to one of your good clients
  • think about helping your audience as you write
  • write about topics that you believe in
  • write like you talk

How to build trust and start selling

Be trustworthy. Remember that the goal during this stage is building enough trust that people will buy something from you. Push past their anti-sales walls. We all have a wall when it comes to sales people. I’ll bet that when someone walks up to you in the store asking if they can help, you respond, “I’m just looking.” This same thing holds true of marketing copy on your website.

Be trustworthy by avoiding:

  • offers that are too good to be true
  • overly strong icons
  • yellow highlights on your sales page

Be consistent. Imagine looking at a company’s blog and realizing that it was 4 months out of date. What would you think? Would you worry more? I always wonder if they are still in business. I click that red x and start looking at other companies.

Make low risk offers. Here you want to make either low risk offers or use a lot of risk reversal. You might consider some sort of free or low cost product. The trick here is to avoid becoming known as a low cost option. You want the free product to clearly be a sample. Another option is to offer a higher cost product and use risk reversal techniques. Risk reversal is when you take on the risk. This commonly takes the form of guarantees.

Make high value offers. If you offer a free white paper or introductory coaching session, you need to Wow your customers. Take time to make sure that the experience is better than expected. White papers must give out great information. Introductory sessions, classes or meetings should be designed to be comfortable.

If you get this right, you have the start for a system to turn leads into customers, but we’ve missed something important.

If you don’t get this one thing right, you’ll miss out on a lot of customers. We’ll get to that next time.