Thoughts from the Founder of a leading social media agency.
Ask any entrepreneur and they'll tell you that the simple act of being able to consistently attract quality leads completely transforms the value of your business and your enjoyment of owning the business (as does the ability to then convert those leads into sales).
So the key question is then how do you turn on the taps to bring a flood of leads into your business?
You may well be one of those business people who's actually finding it harder to generate new client leads. People seem increasingly less responsive to email marketing don't they? Whilst sales calls just aren't as effective as they used to be. Pay-per-click marketing is becoming ever more costly ... and getting your website to rank highly on search engines is a constant battle. A lot of this sound familiar?
If you're keen to boost the flow of new leads into your business, social media may just be the secret sauce you've been looking for. You see one of the most exciting aspects of social media is the way it can bring a flood of new leads into a business - and in a manner that is consistent and replicable. What's more, small businesses can generate leads through social media marketing every bit as successfully as global mega-brands. I can say this with such certainty for the simple reason that we're doing exactly this in our own business and on behalf of numerous clients we work with.
Making social media marketing work for your small business
Let me share with you a few things you need to know in order to start successfully generating leads on social networking sites. This should help you picture how social media can start to strengthen your own local business:
- No matter what business you're in, it's likely that people do not buy from you the moment they first find you. They will probably not even share their details with you the first time they come to your website. So the first challenge with social media is to figure out a social media strategy that makes your ideal prospects want to follow your business on social media - and therefore open themselves up to receiving your messages on a regular basis. Winning the right to remain on your prospects' radars is the 1st step in your social media journey.
Key takeaway: determine how you can make your social media profiles valuable, insightful or entertaining to your target customers.
- Building tons of fans and followers on social networking sites is a great asset for your company, but the real magic happens when other people start sharing your updates with their contacts. Imagine if your company started to appear in the Facebook feeds and Twitter streams of a million people in your local area or in your target industry. An exciting prospect right?! The key to making this happen is to figure out a strategy for enticing people to share your updates. Maybe that's through relationship-building with key influencers in your market. Maybe it's by running a viral competition. The strategy will be different for each business, but the key is to figure out how you're going to take advantage of this viral sharing effect in your business and therefore reach a mass audience.
Key takeaway: don't be overly focused on your own follower and fan numbers, but instead look at the number of people your business is reaching on social networking sites.
- Engagement as opposed to promotion is often where the real business value lies. There's no "one size fits all" when it comes to getting a great return on your investment in social media. However, one of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make is counting on promotion as opposed to engagement to drive business results. If you're selling something cheap to a mass market audience, it may be that pure promotion campaigns on social media can produce results. But for any business selling higher priced goods or services, the reality is that people are much more likely do what you want if you've engaged with them rather than promoted something to them. A massive mistake businesses make is to take the shortcut of running paid promotions on social networking sites when the harder graft of finding and engaging with prospects would have been more likely to produce results.
Key takeaway: determine whether your business is transactional (people will usually purchase from you without speaking with anyone) or relations-based (customers typically speak to you before buying) then afterwards formulate a strategy based on promotions or engagement accordingly.
- One final key element of success is figuring out how to convert fans and followers into actual prospects for your business. Having a large and growing audience of prospects is all well and good, but we need a portion of these people to actually place an order if we're to really be successful. The trick here is to think about what you could offer of value to people that they would want to subscribe for and that allows you to flush out the most serious prospects amongst your followers.
eg. if you run an event management business for weddings, you might offer a free consultation for people to have their wedding preparations checked. Those who register for the offer clearly have anxiety around the planning of their wedding - and hence are amongst the most promising prospects for your business.
eg. if you run a software business, you might offer people a sneak preview of your latest new tool on a live demo. In signing up you may seek to collect a few bits of information about each person so that you have a richer prospecting list to follow-up with after the call.
Two things are essential here. Firstly, you need determine what you can offer that people would want or would be intrigued enough about that they would not choose to miss. Secondly you have to be constantly challenging whether that is the offer that converts your audience most effectively. Always be running tests where your current approach is being challenged by an alternative offer, so that you're constantly refining how many leads you can extract from your social media lead funnel.
Key takeaway: don't count on your audience choosing to find out what your business does or how you could assist them; instead entice them to reveal that they are prospects for your business by subscribing to something that would only be of interest to a prospect.