The question doesn’t seem to be dying: Is social media really a beneficial mechanism for marketing?
Some laugh at the question as if it’s not even worth asking. Some have serious doubts about whether this social media thing is really going to stick. (yes, they still doubt)
If there is one thing we do know about social media it’s this:
Social media is not some new way of doing business. It’s a new machine that can help us do business the old fashioned way. The way that works.
The old fashioned way: Social!!!
ALL business is social. Somewhere at the top of the chain, there’s a person who makes a decision.
The single most important criteria to determine who that person will do business with – is a sense of trust for the other party. Trust, perceived or real, is a social component.
Whether you choose to leverage social media or not, to be successful you must do business the old fashioned way… socially.
The world of marketing both offline and online is changing at a rapid pace. For starters, they are melding, and it’s often difficult to tell if a business is truly an offline business or online business.
Regardless of the changes in technology, the abundance of information and advertising overload has placed a new dimension of skepticism in the market. People, more than ever, do not want to feel like they are being sold.
So how does a savvy marketer or small business owner overcome these new challenges to the market?
For years, marketers have used the FREE OFFER technique to entice their target market to fork over their precious information such as name, email, address, phone, etc. Let me assure you, this tactic is still alive and works very well. It is not be neglected.
Today’s consumer whether B2B or B2C is requiring far more than a simple free report. They require a deeper knowledge of the provider of such a report. They want to know you who you are and why you are worthy of their ear. The best strategy for marketers, sales professionals or business owners in these swirling times is to Be a Gift to Your Market. Don’t just offer a gift, be one. The knowledge and problem solving capabilities that you have within you is what your market is truly hungry for. It’s time you allow your market to see behind the curtain and see the wizard in action.
So, how do I Be a Gift to My Market?
Thanks for asking. I call it “Value First Marketing.” The only way to truly be a gift to your market is to continuously offer them helpful information that let’s them know you are on their side and fighting with them in their daily battles. To do this you must commit to a strategy of both development and delivery of the content. Here’s a basic strategy that will help:
1. Find out what you’re market is struggling with: There are many ways to do this but the simplest is to sit down and conduct an old fashioned focus group. These days, focus groups can be done on location, online or via teleconference. Social Media has provided grand opportunities to establish groups for this exact purpose. Industry forums are another great source to either participate or simply be voyeur to collect your data.
Either way, have a load of questions and gather information directly from your target market instead of assuming you know what they want & need.
2. Develop simple solutions to their problems: Most problems are not complicated and can easily be solved with some out of the box thinking and applying pressure in the right spots of a business. If you don’t have the answers, seek them out. Do the research that your market is unwilling or unable to perform. It’s not as if they could not figure it out, they are just steeped in the everyday grind of running their business. They won’t figure it out, but you can do it for them.
3. Deliver the information in easily managed ways: Several options are webinars, teleseminars, blog posts, video interview, audio interviews, downloadable files such as mp3, pdf, or spreadsheets depending on the topic.
Again, a great tactic is to find an expert in the field where their problem grows and do an interview. The expert gets exposure and props for their knowledge and you get a big thanks for being the provider of such great value.
Being a gift to your market is the best way of winning your target market’s trust and loyalty in these cynical times. Keep in mind, a one time free offer is still a great way to get noticed and earn at least one additional communication. Providing ongoing, value to your market will earn you the right to ask for the sale.
When it comes to business, there are basically three types of web sites to choose from. Each one is valuable in its own way and each one is worthless if not properly put to work. Let’s see which one you need…
A Sales Site
The purpose of a sales site is to sell. Not sell something later, not build a list, not show how great your company is. It’s designed to sell a product or products, on the spot, in the form of an actual transaction.
Sales sites employ a shopping cart at some point in the process. They ask the visitor to buy. Sales sites can be single page sales letters that cleverly pitch an individual product or they can be giant catalogs and categories of products. Amazon.com is a sales site.
The Lead Site
The purpose of the lead site is to simply generate leads. This type of site does not ask the visitor to buy anything; rather it usually offers something to the visitor in exchange for their personal information such as name, email address and maybe even a phone number.
The idea is that the free information offers value to the visitor who is usually seeking such information to solve a problem or advance an agenda.The lead site can be a site that is loaded with multiple pages or posts that are full of targeted information to the visitor. Another option is a simple landing page, also known as a squeeze page that gives a basic and enticing pitch to the visitor to opt in and receive some special information and offers no other content to compete.The basic concept of a squeeze page is to force the visitor to do one of two things: Give up their information to get a solution their problem or get off the page all together and move on.
The Credibility Site
The purpose of a credibility site is to demonstrate how credible your company is to the visitor – imagine that. It should not attempt to sell something, it typically is not very good at gathering leads. The credibility site is to bolster the quality of your companies image and stature in the mind of your visitor.
Many business owners struggle with which site they should choose so they attempt to incorporate all three purposes into one site. There are all sorts of problems that this creates but the most important problem is that it just doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work… don’t try it.
The simplest way to decide on which type of site you need first is to ask yourself: “What is the single goal of this site?” Choose either to sell, to gather leads, or to lend credibility.
Then call your designer and hold his or her feet to the fire to produce the best site to match your goal.
As a short caveat, there is one other type of site your company should consider but it’s not truly a site so I’ve not included it in the short 3 site list. Social media profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on. Most companies should make use of such web properties but for very different goals than the 3 listed above. There are also several hybrid models that attempt to meld two of the three site types into one but this author is unimpressed with the effectiveness of such dribble.
Most companies both offline and online will do well to have at least one of all three types of sites and spend the rest of their money driving targeted traffic to those sites.
Just remember, traffic is no different than a site itself. All traffic has purpose so make sure you drive the buyers to a sales site, the information seekers to your lead site, and your “almost closed but need a little nudge” people to your credibility site.
As always, I’d love your feedback. Please visit my blog, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter to let me know!
Name that store:
A man only zone. The unyielding smell of grease, no-frills white linoleum floors displaying craftsman tools as far as the eye could see. Selling off Carhardt jumpsuits and dickies jeans with a quickness only rivaled by a border town thrift store outlet.
How you might ask did such a place, created by and for the American flannel clad male handyman suddenly become a new beacon for current women’s fashion? Creative marketing, which not only maintained a tight grasp on their current demographic but simultaneously extended a well manicured hand towards their new potential female buyers.
“Come See the Softer Side of Sears”. After a failing market share and a much needed revamp of the store’s product production, available and exclusive brands, and location layout and design the company unleashed a direct invite to a new consumer. Women between the ages of 25-54.
Simply inviting a new type of person (who is already familiar with you but doesn’t think you have anything to offer them) to check out how you’ve changed for them is passive and nonthreatening yet very aggressive. It drove traffic into the stores, and by focusing on women and letting them know Sears had the fashions that were right for her, it changed a woman’s perception of sears to include her and demonstrated a commitment to stay that way.
If you’re looking to expand your target market, do just that and expand and add to it. As long as you have specifically marketed campaigns towards all of your target markets you can be successful. The key is to build your brand one target market at a time and not try to jumble it all up in one campaign. Doing that feels fake and pushed. It makes you seem too desperate to reach everyone at once, and it doesn’t help to capture the attention of a specific niche.
Sears was successful at first because they had a very specific target market and men knew that Sears wouldn’t fail them. They wanted women to feel the same way without abandoning their men. So, they kept their male population happy by maintaining their strong manly aura, and then inviting women to see their softer side, not the new softer them.
While they were successful, they didn’t add their new target market until they were slapped in the face by their competition and lagging in profit margin. Had they opened their eyes, made realistic predictions about the future of the market, and marketed towards new audiences earlier they could have avoided a downfall in sales.
Too often businesses think that they must help everyone right away because they don’t want to miss out on potential clients. Sears shows that having multiple target markets does increase your profit margin, but to thrive you must master them each individually.
Contributed by: Elizabeth Erkel
I make a big deal with folks about learning to fish in Ponds vs. Oceans. The basic concept is that there are more fish in ponds than businesses can usually handle but they’re wasting their time blindly swimming in a giant ocean where it’s hard to find fish, hard to grow and easy to get crushed in the jaws of a shark.
It’s all about “ponding” down to a target market where you can excel as a small business, grow fast and expand to other ponds.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to almost all small businesses is the ability to narrow their focus to a segment of their overall target market.
The reason that small business owners have a hard time “ponding” down is because they are not thinking critically about their target market and breaking it down to it’s most advantageous customer pool.
The best way to overcome this problem is to start asking some pointed and difficult questions. When answered in truth and focus, these questions can radically change your understanding of your target marketing and bring clarity and laser like focus to your marketing message. These are good things, by the way:-)
Start by “pondering” these questions:
Describe your overall target market. i.e. small business, medium sized business, consumers, young consumers, old consumers, etc.
Describe several (7-10( smaller segments of your overall target market that should be or have shown interest in your product or service. i.e. small business owners who are currently leasing space, consumers who are Mothers of young children, etc.
List 3 segments for each of these
questions in order of best, 2nd best, 3rd best.
Which segment most needs my product or service? (all segments need you, who needs you most)
Which segment most wants your product or service? (think of who is regularly using your competitors)
Which of these segments would give you the highest profit margin if you could sell your product or service to them directly?
Which of these segments would it be easiest to establish a strong value presence in? (Value presence is when you are a feeder of quality information to a particular group)
Which of these segments is your company most capable of servicing with the fewest number of changes to company infrastructure?
Which of these segments are you most familiar with and would take the lease amount of research energy?
Which of these segments are you most passionate about and can relate to the best?
Which of these segments would offer you the highest number of joint marketing opportunities? (teaming with other industries that serve the same segment)
Which of these segments is most likely willing to pay for your product or services?
Which of these segments do you have access to the highest level of decision makers or influencers? i.e. executives, owners, trade leaders, etc.
Okay… now for the fun part:
Take all of your best segments and assign them a value of 3
2nd best should have a value of 2 and…
3rd best should have a value of 1.
Add up the values and see who comes out on top. Confirm the conclusion with your gut instinct as a professional. Argue about it with your business partners and finally make a decision on who your best “pond” target market is.
Now… sell out on that market with everything you have. Dominate it! Crush it and win it over. Once you’ve done this, you will automatically be taken down stream to other profitable ponds that are eager to pay you money.
I have a pet peeve!
In all my years in sales I have sat through countless seminars, trainings & sales events. That’s not the peeve. My peeve is trying to recall the number of instructors that have done a truly great job and showing the listeners exactly why people make buying decisions. Here’s the normal speak:
Now don’t get me wrong; none of the topics on the list are bad – in fact, you’ll see a lot of that stuff on this blog. It’s not about good or bad, it’s about foundation.
The real secret to becoming a great marketer and in turn a great sales person is in knowing the real reasons why people buy. So I’ll wrap it together in one sentence:
“People buy because they feel good!”
That’s it. They feel good about something and that’s why they buy it. They feel good about someone and that’s why they buy from them.
Most people make the mistake of thinking that buying decisions are made through a critical thinking process that weighs the pros and cons, costs and benefits and on and on. This is not how the human psyche works.
People buy through emotion and justify their buying decisions with logic. You have to give them enough logic to justify the decision but mostly, you have to give them the right feeling.
How they feel about you, how they feel about your company, how they feel about your competition, how they feel about your product or services, how they feel about your industry, how they feel about their problem, how they feel about solving the problem, how they feel – how they feel – how they feel.
Different stimulation will make different types of people feel differently.
The way a person feels about something is tied to many different factors that are individually discussed in other posts on this blog.
The sales person who drives the Hummer sends a certain message that makes some people feel great about that person and others feel uncomfortable. A bad economy drives some to cower back and save to feel more secure while others start new businesses and take more risks so that they can eventually feel more secure. Same desire… different response.
The job of marketing is to advance a message that addresses the common truths about how MOST people feel about a given topic or circumstance. The job of sales is to pick out the specific and individual nuances of those common truths as a way of further bridging the gap and making the client feel even better about buying and buying from you.
Study all the sales tactics and strategies all you want but if you don’t know why people really buy… you’ll win fewer battles and may lose the war.