Generating Sales & Leads with Content Marketing and Social Media

My colleague, Allan Dick of Vintage Tub and Bath, told me Amanda Kensella, the one-woman marketing department for Ohio-based Logan Services, was selling heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and service contracts on Facebook. He said she discovered a practical way to generate a constant stream of inbound, locally-focused leads using an integrated approach to Facebook and blogging. I decided to call Amanda and document her story.Amanda Kinsella

Solve Your Customers’ Problems

Logan Services is selling HVAC hardware and residential installation services in a multi-state region. And its customers want solutions to very real problems. So Amanda blogs to solve them. Sure, content marketing is a way to get discovered in search engines. But it’s also a chance to earn insight on customers’ “state of need” when it comes to their furnaces and/or air conditioning systems.

For instance, Amanda publishes practical tips on what a homeowner must do to qualify for a $1,500 tax credit. Of course, earning a credit has a lot to do with replacing old heating and air conditioning systems with higher efficiency models. And if customers need it, Amanda’s website is right there with a call to action, offering free estimates for site visitors. It’s this kind of helpful, compelling advice that Logan Services’ customers need these days.

“We’re definitely not selling an impulse item,” says Amanda who points out that most of her social media-based leads are unlike those coming from traditional, local advertising partners. When customers find Logan Services on Facebook or its blog, it’s often not because they need her products or services.

“They need advice,” she says. “And our job becomes one of shepherding them… leading them on a journey to discover that we have valuable solutions to their problems.”

Become an Answer Center

The idea of being an answer center for prospective and current customers isn’t new to Amanda or Logan Services. It’s what they’ve been doing for many years offline. What works in social media is rooted in an old idea: trading answers to serious problems with customers for insight on their “state of need” as a way to nurture leads (not just relationships) to fruition. “Then we can be there when prospects need our products and services,” says Kinsella.

Think about it in terms of your business. Might you already be helping customers solve problems in ways that capture information on the prospect’s “state of need” in return?

This simple, practical idea is what Logan Services has been doing at home improvement shows all along. In essence, they already have a social strategy to implement on blogs and Facebook. Their specialists participate in shopping malls and dispense tremendous amounts of useful tips and information to “warm up” prospects. It’s how they’ve always earned trust. It’s how they form relationships that reveal urgent or latent needs from potential customers. It was simply a matter of “porting it over” to the digital realm.

Amanda says hammering away at calls-to-action and constantly asking for the sale won’t work. Because it never has. It’s not very sociable. What will? A more traditional, familiar tactic: answering questions that are important to the prospect, just as they do at home improvement shows. But they always provide information in return for insight on their prospect, details that connect to a lead-nurturing process.

Does it scale well? Sure, that’s a challenge to businesses like Logan Services. But it’s a familiar, workable one.

Ask Better Questions

While most of us are asking, “How often should we post stories on our blog, and on what day is best to get re-tweeted?” Amanda is asking a different question. “What problems do my customers need solved? What itches can I scratch for them today?”

How can she measure the value of a blog subscriber? How much engagement on her blog or re-tweets on Twitter is needed to have a positive effect? Amanda doesn’t know—and she doesn’t care. Because she knows it’s the wrong question. That’s why Amanda asks herself different, better questions.

I spent the last year researching my book, learning from people like Amanda. What I learned is most marketers are spinning wheels with social media marketing because they’re asking the wrong questions. Making social media generate leads and sales requires us to ask fundamentally different questions of ourselves. Here’s one you can ask yourself right now to get the ball rolling:

“What do customers need to get done? What problems do they have? And how can I use these priorities to apply social media in a way that solves problems and creates sales?”

It’s okay to wonder how often your blog should be updated or how many re-tweets are optimal. But Amanda and the others I interviewed insist that looking inward, toward customers, is a better way to use social media. This allows you to discover where prospects are in the purchase cycle and to apply this knowledge to increase your close rate. This way, social media marketing becomes your useful tool.

Sure, content marketing is a great search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for Amanda and perhaps for you, too. It’s a great way to get people to your site. But if all you’re producing is good, SEO and index-friendly content—but fail to prompt a user action—you’re leaving sales on the table.

Aligning Social Marketing with Your Sales Strategy

Whether it’s on Facebook or her blog, Amanda is always finding ways to align social media with lead capture and customer nurturing. She’s aligning social media marketing with sales processes that “close the loop.”

“A conversation is all we need to begin our sales process,” says Kinsella. “And I think we’ve found a new hook on Facebook.” She sees the social web as a chance for Logan to become an online advice center for residential heating and air conditioning.

As it turns out, the best “social sellers” are finding questions about social popularity and attention relatively irrelevant. Because they’re not practical. What is one to do with insight on “social graphs” or “influencers?” How can you apply that knowledge? The ideas themselves are overly-dependent on less controllable forms of influence.

What’s Worked for You

What are you doing to create behavior as the output of your content marketing and blogging? Or are you finding it difficult to break away from traditional success metrics, like counting tweets, and blog or Facebook status updates? Are answers to questions focusing on “how many” or “how often” still useful? If so, how useful are they in designing or measuring social campaigns that create leads and sales? Thanks for your thoughts.

About Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell and corporate trainer to small businesses and global corporations like IBM and Brazil’s energy company, Petrobras. He’s an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. He’s adjunct digital marketing professor at Loyola University’s school of business and author of Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.

Website: JeffMolander.com

Blog: Off the Hook Blog

Answers: AskJeffMolander.com

You can find Jeff on Twitter @jeffreymolander.