Have you ever said, “That salesperson really saw me coming. He wasn’t letting me out of there until I bought.” All of us feel that we’ve been sold something in our lives that we didn’t need or think we wanted. We think we’ve been persuaded to buy. That idea, in turn, influences our thoughts about what sales is and how it works.
In fact, none of us – no customer – ever buys anything that they’re not ready to buy. The reason is simple. If we’re not ready to buy something on some level, we don’t notice it. Among the millions of messages bombarding us at every second, a message for which we have no use doesn’t get through. So while we may later regret buying something, we were in fact ready to buy it.
This vital point is essential in understanding the role of marketing. It is not the job of marketing to sell. It’s the job of marketing to create an environment in which sales can occur by making sure that your product or company comes to mind at the moment that the buyer is ready to buy. This can be accomplished by making your message so compelling that it lingers in the back of the mind until the moment of need arises. Or, marketing can simply make your message so ubiquitous that the buyer sees it when they’re ready to make a decision.
You can argue that you remember the AFLAC duck even though you’d never buy the product. No, you like humor and funny animals. That’s what you bought. But if you ever need that kind of insurance or have to recommend to a friend, guess who will come to mind?
If we can get out of our minds that it’s our job to “make” people buy stuff, then we can let marketing do the job for which it was conceived.
Everyone talks about social media engagement. They describe it in terms of metrics. How many people liked, shared, replied, or otherwise responded to a given post? It’s important to track these metrics, but the truth about social engagement, is right there in its name – engagement. You don’t get engaged to someone who treats you like a number. Here are some thoughts on social media engagement –
- Many people parrot the idea that “social media is social.” That statement is very misleading. It makes companies shy away from social media as a critical tool in their communications program thinking it’s really for people taking pictures of their dinner, or their dog. But social media isn’t social. It’s personal, and personally is how products and services get sold. This is especially important as many potential customers live in remote areas of the world and social media provides them with a way to reach out and touch a brand’s representative in a very personal way.
- Customers want to interact with the brands they value. A few customers may have sales people who cater to their particular needs, but for the most part they’re the lucky minority. Social media provides customers with a ready channel for interaction – questions, ideas, complaints, praise. And being there as a company in a responsive, meaningful manner has long-lasting effects! It’s not about chalking that question up to a metric. It’s about creating a happy, satisfied customer or interested consumer. Any interaction is an opportunity to solve a problem, demonstrate expertise, create trust, and become a preferred source. How you solve the problem is more important that the number of questions a post generates. Solve one problem well – and you’ll earn more.
- How “engagement” is handled after its received is the key question. Yes, great posts tend to generate more interactions, but if no one with real knowledge and expertise responds to a question or comment for a couple days (or never), guess who will engage next time? No one. It’s amazing how many social programs end at collecting the respondents name and email, rather than making the reply even more exciting and satisfying than the post.
- You have to romance your prospect before you get engaged. Expecting someone to see one good post and leap on your company’s bandwagon is unrealistic. Post regularly with interesting, challenging content that people actually want (we’re talking product, technology, delivery, service, solutions – not dogs. Well, sometimes dogs!). Reply, respond, and solve every interaction you’re fortunate enough to receive. Your followers will see those responses and come to learn that your social channels are great places to meet you and get their problems solved.
- Don’t succumb to fear. Companies get so spooked about the necessary speed of interaction on social media, they pull back, over-analyze, over-approve and consequently, miss the interactive nature of engagement on social media. No company has ever approved or controlled all the questions and answers in a sales channel or support call. It’s more important to respond quickly than to be perfect.
Social media engagement is like your sales channel and call-in support center together, but faster, more cost effective at times, and more accessible to customers, prospects, and those who might someday be both. It’s a vast person-to-person interaction the likes of which we’ve never had. Yes, measure the heck out of it, but don’t overlook the actual opportunity in front of you. It’s time to get engaged.
People often ask us how Strategies, as a boutique agency, can get such impressive results in PR. You may be aware that we’re well known for positioning our clients and helping to create effective brand promises that resonate in the marketplace. Very often, understanding positioning makes all the difference in creating a brilliant PR pitch that’s irresistible to an editor or reporter. It certainly impacts the creation of news releases and white papers, letting members of the media know that you understand the market you’re in and how your technologies fit into it.
But once you’ve done these things – positioned brilliantly, created the informed, content-rich news release, offered the subject matter expert as a spokesperson – what happens next? What if the editor doesn’t respond?
This, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road, because this is where the secret to success is – persistence. No, you don’t become an annoyance – well, maybe just a little. If you’ve done your job, you have a great story for the editor or reporter or blogger that they need to know about. It’s their job to get your news – so you really are an important part of their job. They’re really busy – often seriously overburdened and understaffed. They don’t have time to dig your story out of the heap. You have to make sure that your story rises to the top.
You do that persistently, reminding your contacts of the value of the story you have to offer, being aware of what they’re looking for and showing them how your story will give them what they need. Base your approach to them on value (never on things like your ad budget!!). This is not “click it and forget it” PR. Over the years, Strategies has been hired and rehired because we “get results.” The willingness to go that extra mile – after mile – is one of the secrets to our success. Make it one of yours.