Why is it so difficult to generate actual leads and sales using social media? At the risk of my wife divorcing me, I decided to take a year off and find out how businesses who were quietly succeeding with social media were doing it. A year's worth of research confirmed my suspicions about the so-called “social media revolution” and revealed an exciting opportunity: A chance for more B2B and B2C marketers to generate tangible business leads and sales using tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs and video.
The secret sauce is now revealed: Selling with social media requires shifting the paradigm away from being thought leaders and toward being thought provokers.
These Brands Are Making Social Media Sell
My research revealed how people like Laura Messerschmitt of Intuit are convincing more and more customers to sign up for their online payroll product. I learned how investment and property management firm Jones Lang LaSalle is generating tangible leads on seven-figure commercial real estate deals using YouTube. I discovered how Wisconsin's AnchorBank and the Queensland Teachers' Credit Union are increasing share of customers' wallet and acquiring new customers at record pace.
This Is How They're Doing It
What's their secret? Turning friends, followers and content into sales, leads and subscribers means solving customers' problems in ways that nurtures demand for larger solutions. These companies are helping customers gain clarity on complex problems and then leveraging that clarity. How? By answering questions in ways that make it increasingly rewarding for customers to take action, identifying themselves as a lead.
Selling with social media demands brands become thought provokers, not just thought leaders.
Design to Sell, Become Addictive
Successful social B2B sellers know: Engagement is not an outcome. It's a chance to create response—but not by chance. Engagement must invite customers' questions and respond to them in a deliberate way, as part of a social media-driven direct response marketing plan. This design gathers up customers' itches (problems) and scratches them (gives answers), but in incomplete ways. Holding back on providing the full solution is key.
The formula is incredibly close to the illegal narcotics trade. You give customers a sample providing momentary satisfaction, but not enough for the desire to be completely sated. In other words, here... have a little bit. You will feel something that you'll enjoy, but it won't be enough. You'll want to have more of it. In order to have more, you're going to have to talk to me—and you may even find yourself wanting to buy some from me!
Today's true thought leaders are thought provokers. They are putting interesting, valuable, addictive thoughts “out there” in ways that prompt customers to ask for more, more often.
Make social media sell. Ask yourself: Are you giving customers a reason to talk to you on LinkedIn? Are your blogs so bold they provoke action? Does your content marketing strategy show customers ways to avoid risks they don't yet know they have? Do your YouTube videos or white papers reveal hidden opportunity? Are your campaigns designed so that customers will contact you—so that your team can help them more clearly understand what you just provoked?
About the Author
Jeff Molander is author of Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell, adjunct professor of marketing at Loyola University Business School and a social media keynote speaker.
Recently, Jeff spoke in an InterCall webinar that is related to this article and his book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You. He blogs at www.offthehookblog.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.