Is social media the answer to your marketing problems? The internet has created dramatic shifts in how marketing and sales work. Companies have historically interrupted potential customers day to present a sales message and close a deal.  TV and Radio present a mild form of interruption, while telemarketing and email are more intrusive. People are fed up and just want to be left alone. There is a National Do Not Call Registry. The CAN-SPAM Act allows you to unsubscribe from updates with one click. Dish has introduced the ability to skip commercials. Combine these trends with the failure of newspapers and print media and the result is a real problem for your business. How do you meet, connect with and sell to new customers? Social media may help you solve these problems, but it is more complex than you might initially think.

Starting in social media

social media sign postAs you bring your company into world of social media, leave your old interruption marketing tactics behind. Think about all of the networking events you attend to market your visit. If you walked around the room saying “I’ll give you a free guide to implementing an x,y,z strategy” as you walked by people, would it work? It won’t work well online either.

Social media is social. It is all about conversations. Send out updates with valuable content, but realize that you need to be present and have a conversation.

Let’s consider Twitter.  Go to hashtags.org and find a hashtag that you find interesting. Enter that hashtag into the search box on Twitter. How many of those updates are actually interesting? Look at a few profiles. Are they interesting? Do they invite conversation? Look at their tweets. Are they a stream of information put out like a robot? Does that invite you to make a connection? Now, start talking with people. How many respond? How does that experience differ from just watching the stream of updates fly by you. Consider the difference between these two approaches. Which experience would lead you to purchase from someone? Here are some more tips on how to publish updates on different social media networks.

Social media is not free. It never was.

Many companies approach social media as the new free way to get new customers. It is not free and it never was. At a minimum you will spend time developing and publishing valuable content. As social media platforms monetize, this will impact your approach.

For example, as Facebook begins to explore monetization more seriously, companies are complaining. Some are even leaving the network altogether. The business reality is that it may or may not make sense for you to be on a given social media network. You need to look at the business case and the first question you need to ask is: “Are my customers spending time here?” You have to start by finding the right social network for your business.

Consider the business ecosystem around you. All of the social media platforms want to monetize. Would you provide access to your key resources for free? They won’t either. So you can expect that each social media platform will begin to monetize. Consider how this could impact your business strategy. In some cases, having to pay for exposure and new leads could mean that Facebook is no longer a viable place for your business to market.

You need a real social media strategy.

Your strategy should start with your customers. Ask yourself, “Where do my customers spend time?” They might be on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+. The odds are that your customer is on Facebook. The next question is, “Can I develop a business relationship with my customers?” B2B companies may struggle to sell on Facebook, but find it easy to sell on LinkedIn. When you find the right network, start testing. Learn how to develop a presence on more than one social media network. What if the rules change and that social network is no longer a viable way to  meet customers?

Next test how much it costs to get a customer on this network. Measure the time you spend and how long it takes to get a lead. How much does it cost to get your first customer? Remember that progress in social media tends to be exponential. It is easier to get your tenth customer than your first. Your 100th should be even easier. That said, measure this and be sure that it is true for your business.

Your strategy absolutely must include developing your owned media platform. Social media should become your distribution and feedback channel. You want to develop audiences on each platform, but the key point is to drive them back to your platform. You also want to collect emails, names and phone numbers. Many b2c companies capture leads with contests, while b2b companies offer white papers and guides in exchange for contact information. The next step is to develop a relationship before you start selling.

Identifying your ideal client is a great starting point when building a lead generation strategy. Start with developing profiles that include as many demographics as you can.

There are really two goals here:

  • You need to understand who your client is so that you can speak to that person in your marketing.
  • You need to be able to target them when purchasing lists or on platforms like Facebook.

Try to get the following demographic information:

  • How old? (This can be a range)
  • What gender? (Could be both)
  • Yearly income? (Can they afford your services/product?)
  • What hobbies? (What do they like to do? Can this be a way to connect with your client?)
  • What magazines do they like to read?

Now start to consider the hobbies, magazines, blogs and other articles that they read. What are they reading? What does that tell you about your client?

Start looking at the magazines/blogs and other articles. What kind of content is your ideal client reading? What headlines seem effective? What about the writing style? Is it direct and to the point or longer and descriptive?

The Psychology of Your Ideal Client

You need to know more than demographics. You need to understand how your ideal client identifies with your business. When they like a post, share a post or ask for more information, they are telling you who they want to be. Your business solves a problem about their identity and lets them express how they view themselves and how they want to be seen. If you find this difficult, one place to start is with yourself.

Why do You Buy?

  • You buy food to eat, but the kind of food you buy and where you shop tells us a lot about who you want to be.
  • Do you shop for clothes at the local Walmart or mall? What does this say about who you are. Walmart might suggest that you view yourself as thrifty while the mall suggests that you appreciate fashion and want to dress well.
  • What products or services do you share on Facebook? What does this say about how you view yourself or about how you want other people to view you?

Consider the real service you offer with your business.

  • Insurance agents sell peace of mind. Because I know that my family is taken care of if something happens to me, I sleep better at night.
  • Business consultants sell success. Even if we’re already quite successful, we can always be more successful.

What is the real service that you provide? You may be so close to your business that it is difficult to understand. Take some time and consider it carefully.

Your lead generation tactics will improve if you learn how we’re wired as humans. The human brain is complex and has a number of drives. At the core, the brain focuses on staying safe and procreating. These are very powerful drives. From my perspective, success is driven by both safety and procreation. The more successful we are, the more walls we can put up between ourselves and any threats.

Ask you best clients some questions:

  • Why do they use your service over others?
  • Beyond the main service, what benefits do they get?
  • Where do your clients want to be in 5 years?
  • What do they tell friends when they talk about your product/service?

These questions should begin to paint a picture of your client, what is important to them and how to influence buying decisions.

Comment Below: How do you learn more about your clients?

If you don’t understand your audience, you can’t market or sell to them. This is true for all sales and marketing. If you don’t understand how and why people make decisions, you will have little luck in creating products and services that they will like. You need to understand why someone shops at Whole Foods or Walmart.

From a marketer’s perspective, people would jump from lead to sale in the marketing process. It just doesn’t work that way. When you think about the entire marketing process, I really like John Jantsch’s concept of the Marketing Hourglass. It reflects how people buy things rather than how we’d like to sell to them. Let’s consider the typical stages of sales: Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, and Refer.

Lead Generation – Getting People to Know You

So your future customers don’t even know who you are. You want to get out there and spread the word. People talk about advertising (ppc, newspaper ads/radio/tv) as a way to start that process. Ads are not always a bad thing, but until you have a fully developed marketing program from lead generation to referral generation, you are not ready to spend a lot of money on ads.

Traditional advertising has become known as interruption marketing. You are interrupting what someone is doing to get them to watch your ad message. For this to be effective, you need to offer some value immediately. Most TV commercials offer an opportunity to save money. Some go for the hard sale suggesting that the product will change your life for the better immediately. While this can be effective at times, we are all interrupted with marketing messages all day long. As a result, we’re less likely to trust what we’re seeing, hearing or reading. We are also try to avoid those messages altogether.

Content marketing or inbound marketing is a response to both the technological changes in our world and the trend of avoiding advertising. This often takes the form of blogging, social media and email marketing campaigns. You develop an audience through social media, begin to spread content and hope that your audience also shares that content. As you start this process, you need to identify an ideal client. This is not a one time process. Your understanding of your ideal client will evolve over time. As your business evolves, your ideal client will change.

How do you find out more about your customers? Tell us in the comments.

Facebook marketing is becoming a key to success for many businesses. At one point, only 16% of your Facebook page updates would reach people. As time goes on, there are more and more updates crowding the news feed. As a result, your updates are being shown less often. This is a trend that will continue.

Some people are upset by this. From one perspective, people pay to advertise and get more fans. They then have to pay to get updates in front of their fan base. This makes some sense. With a choice of 1500 posts to show most users, Facebook has to limit the number of posts. They already have a choice of 1500 posts to show most users. Facebook naturally suggests that you pay for advertising to reach your fans. Facebook’s business model is very similar to Google’s business model: you have to find “Googling” something useful or you just won’t do it. Google makes money by showing ads above and next to search results. For this to work, Google must provide value with nearly every search that is made.

What Facebook Must Do

For Facebook’s business model to work, people have to enjoy and find value in the experience of logging into Facebook. The news feed must be interesting and engaging or people log out. This means that having engaging posts will be seen organically (if you are not aware of this term, it means that the posts will be seen without paying to promote the post.) As with organic search results, you “pay” with time and effort.

Facebook must also ensure that ads create reasonable return on investment. When people invest dollars in creating a page, building a fan base and developing a system to generate leads from that fan base, they must see a return on that investment.

What You Must Do

The very first and most important step in Facebook marketing is to connect with your fans through the content that you share. It needs to be so engaging that people will seek it out. Create posts your fans identify with and want to share with their friends as a statement of who they are.

Put simply, to succeed at Facebook marketing, you need to understand why your fans engaged with your page. What were your fans saying about themselves when they clicked like? They were certainly interested in your page, but it is more than that. They shared that interest with all of their contacts. They were making a statement. Something about your page represents what they want to be (or become.) To succeed at marketing with Facebook, you need to figure out what those things are and align with those desires. After considering your fanbase, consider reading Jon Loomer’s has some thoughts about when and how you can post.