Blogging, engaging, listening to customers on Facebook or Twitter. They’re all necessary components of being online. But doing these things won’t help your B2B company generate leads and convert sales using social media.
Converse in ways that solve problems
Following customers and prospects into social spaces is a smart idea. But an incomplete one. Grabbing their fleeting attention isn’t enough. Successful social marketers are capturing demand and converting it to sales. They’ve found the answer to selling more with social media.
Start conversations that are worth having. And converse in ways that generate questions that your brand has answers to. Connect those answers, ultimately, to your products or services. This is how to generate customer inquiries using social media.
For instance, global real estate firm, Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) is using social media to close leads on prospective and existing accounts more often. The strategy is successful because JLL is using short, compelling, relevant videos as a means to initiate conversations. But only those that are worth having. The firm’s strategy is certainly to influence. But for JLL influence includes behavior… conversations that lead to mutually useful outcomes.
The strategy works largely due to the provocative, insightful content within the videos themselves. But also due to how JLL’s account team uses them. The two to three minute videos are often used surgically. JLL is delivering videos to prospects within short email messages, prompting clients to quickly view and react. JLL is focused on process more than the content itself. Prospects are prompted to view videos in a personalized manner via a direct email. The videos directly connect to a sales process and lead management protocol.
Step 1: Question your consultants
Overzealous gurus say the social web has revolutionized everything. And getting attention is the answer. We’re told to listen first. Then engage customers. But when does engage connect to sales? As David Ogilvy himself reminded marketers decades ago “we sell or else!”
Why is managing your reputation and developing enthusiasts more important than generating sales? Because someone who sells social media monitoring software says so? Or why is the end goal for Twitter something called engagement or attention? Because someone who wrote a book on Twitter decided so? And who said you cannot use LinkedIn to generate sales leads? Research funded by an ad agency that sells banner ads?
It’s likely not your imagination. These questions are often being birthed by well-intentioned, social media experts. But they have something to sell your marketing staff.
Step 2: Align marketing to produce 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 and CEO, Hoffman Lewis. Read that again and notice how it flies in the face of what we’re being told to do by experts.
Businesses that sell with social media are reaching beyond attracting customers. They’re generating leads using these three practical success principles. They’re aligning social marketing with sales by:
- Designing marketing to produce behavior — always
- Translating customers’ evolving needs and prompting discussions worth having
- Publishing useful, relevant tools that get customers to ask questions that you can answer (and connect to products)
Consider your current social media marketing activities and everything you’re doing to join the conversation. Your tweeting, blogging, posting updates on Facebook. Are your activities talking with or “talking at” customers? Or are you truly interacting? Making marketing produce behavior is the first step. Make the call to action — or don’t use social media at all!
Step 3: Ask better questions
Press your marketing consultants, ad agency reps and employees to answer business questions first. And without using words like traffic, engagement or buzz. Make them squirm. Then turn the guns on yourself. Ask yourself: “Are we hiring employees and vendors based on tactical skills rather than ability to create strategic results? Do they ask the right questions of us — or avoid ours? Might the sales process itself be home to what we already know works?”
The answers may surprise you and prompt bold actions.
As an example, in a staff/vendor meeting make a point to understand if you’re using the social web to interact with customers intimately –- or if you’re blasting and tweeting into the ether. If you’re interacting, is it organized? Or do tactics work apart from, or compete with, each other? What actionable information does each interaction produce and where does that information go? What’s done with it, or not? Do interactions even produce actionable information? Does it connect to a lead nurturing or follow-up process?
Finally, ask yourself if there’s room for each social strategy to cooperatively push customers down the sales funnel… like a musical symphony… using the collected information. Task your social marketing team to organize around logical customer behaviors and prompts.
Social media marketing is a necessary component of being online. But being on Facebook and Twitter won’t generate leads and convert sales unless you design them to. What can you change today to drive leads and sales with your social media marketing?