Stop Engaging, Start Selling: Get Social Media ROI in 2012

Sales is not a dirty word. Selling on social media does not exclude the idea of having some fun. And no, success is not as easy as being engaging and having personality—stop saying it is!

The global economy and financial markets are about to collapse, jobs are scarce, and consumer spending remains weak. Enter the promise of social media. We’re nearly five years into the social media revolution, but most businesses are agonizing, not revolutionizing. If you are one of them you’re not alone. Yet despite what all the marketing experts and research companies keep telling us, there are proven cases of social media marketing generating a direct and measurable return on investment (ROI) for businesses. What’s their secret? They’re defining ROI as S-A-L-E-S generated from social media marketing, not engagement. And you can, too.

The Problem is Engagement

Want to remain in your current job forever or watch your business struggle to profit? Keep on engaging passively, without defining a worthwhile outcome. The truth is there are two schools of thought on how to use social media to generate ROI:

  1. Social media is a better way to influence, not sell. Hence, we work to create “brand preference” through repetition (reach and frequency) and engagement.
  2. Social media is a better way to create and capture demand, leading to a sale. Logically, this involves using relevant calls to action and direct response tactics when it is appropriate.

As Barry Silverstein recently pointed out, eMarketer reports “60 percent of respondents (marketers) [say] the leading way to measure social media marketing success was followers, friends and likes. Only 25 percent of marketers were using incremental sales attributable to social media (which is basically ROI) as their primary measurement.”

The viewpoint of marketers who are selling with social media is simple: social media is a better way to create and capture demand for products and services—not a better way to influence or engage.

Whether a customer’s need is in early stages (latent) or advanced, social media can help bring sales to fruition faster because it is inherently interactive. The trick is to avoid wasting time influencing people (in hopes of earning purchases) and begin designing to sell.

For instance, ask yourself, “Are we developing ways to help customers’ understand their problems, goals or needs more clearly?” Take this simple step to assess your own perspective. Continue to explore your own, personal context by recalling a time in your life when you became more clear on what it is you really needed after doing some research. Consider how you suddenly felt better equipped to navigate toward answers, products, and services that met your needs. This is how social media can shine for your business.

The Solution is Simple: Sell

UK-based Fournaise Marketing Group offers the latest bad news in its 2011 Global Marketing Effectiveness Program where it states marketers have lost credibility with CEOs. Executive leaders say marketers over-focus on the latest trends, “because they believe they represent the new marketing frontiers. However, they can rarely demonstrate how these trends will help them generate more business for the company. Worse, Omnicom’s Kern Organization released a study revealing marketers believe their biggest obstacles are the goals themselves. For instance, marketers state their top marketing challenge is “acquiring a large number of new customers.” Next is “increasing retention rates and revenues from current customers,” followed by “increasing the quality and quantity of leads for field sales forces.”

If these are the challenges, then what are the goals? More importantly what does this say about fixing the problem?

Want to stand out from this crowd and demonstrate tangible ROI? Get back to basics. Sell!

Get Started Today

I’m constantly meeting successful social marketers that are using a simple technique to create social ROI:

  1. Defining sales as the goal, not engagement
  2. Earning insights on customers’ pains or goals using tools like Facebook and blogs
  3. Answering very basic, common questions in ways that drive more discussion about that pain or goal to reveal and sometimes nurture purchase intent.

Remember: when customers understand their problems more clearly, they’re more equipped (and willing) to be gently escorted toward the answers they need—your products and services. They’re more prone to see a purchase as a pain reliever or means to achieve a goal.

“Our approach to getting going—attracting local customers and netting leads with our blog—was simple,” says River Pools and Spas chief marketer, Marcus Sheridan, who says this is a great way to get started right now.

“We’re successful at generating leads because we wrote down every question that’s ever been asked to us by customers. We didn’t care how generic or broad the questions were. These quickly became the titles of blog posts that continue to pay sales dividends over time when matched with calls to action for tools that solve even more problems.” Sheridan, like others using this technique, is leveraging how customers use search engines in early buying stages.

Join the Social Media Evolution

“It’s all about the relationship.” Phooey. It has always been about the relationship, trust (“social currency”), and listening. These concepts aren’t new. Let’s stop pretending that they are and earn the respect of CEOs again. Selling someone something does not require engagement, conversation, and a relationship. These things are all created by selling them something first!

Yes, the reason most businesses aren’t achieving sales with social media has a lot to do with all the hype. Most of us are reacting to social media, getting sidetracked by the excitement of a false revolution rather than focusing on evolution.

The rush to “just do” social media has served to redefine our goals away from sales and toward tactics like retweets, friends, fans, and likes. I say false revolution because I see so few examples of social-media-revolutionized businesses and because those who are innovating and thriving are evolving, not reinventing.

Have you designed your 2012 social media strategy to sell by focusing on translating customers’ needs into problems they need to have solved? If so, when giving solutions, do you compel customers to take action in ways that give insight and allow you to nurture need to fruition?

Photo credit: Gerard Stolk vers Noël

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.

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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.

2 Responses to Stop Engaging, Start Selling: Get Social Media ROI in 2012

  1. [...] admin Category: InternetMooLa, Social Networking Great article written by Jeff Molander at revenews.com. We thought it was right in step with the social media [...]

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great post Jeff. do check out http://www.performancehorizon.com who have this nailed with their product ExactView. Including social media spend ROI.
    Best for 2012,
    John

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