Today marks the start of an article series by Jeff Molander that highlights case studies and research focused on real businesses using social media to create leads and sales. Over the next few weeks, Jeff will take us beyond Likes, friends, and followers and show us what’s required to build lasting loyalty and earn repeat customers with social media.
Knowing how to update your Facebook page, write an engaging blog, or create a viral YouTube video is, commercially speaking, worthless without knowing how to make them produce sales. Right? The truth is this: social media’s sudden arrival and instant popularity is causing most corporate marketing managers, executives, and small business owners to lose perspective on the ultimate goalâ€”selling. In this struggling economy, putting bread on the table trumps being most “liked” or highly “engaged with.” Doesn’t it?
Donde Esta El Revolution?
The jury is out. Most businesses dipping toes in social media waters are not experiencing a clear, focused understanding of it, let alone netting customers. Most of us are enthusiastic about advances like Facebook but we’re rarely seeing them in a useful, practical way. Yes, social media gives us the ability to instantly and ubiquitously observe and react to customers like never before. But for most of us, the social media revolution has yet to reveal a clear path forward beyond running out and â€œjust doing it.â€
A year ago, my frustration finally piqued. I could not find a practical resource explaining how social media could be applied in ways that generate sales. There were scads of books expounding on the importance of things like Twitterâ€”and how to use themâ€”but none clearly explained how to sell goods and services with social media. Even more perplexing, more experts were claiming social media’s arrival represented a revolution. Yet in practice, most businesses were experiencing the same, mediocre results from social marketing that traditional advertising was producing. At best, most of us were grabbing at the fleeting attention of customers.
I kept wondering, beyond the hyped-up keynote speeches and sexy YouTube videos comparing Facebook’s population to that of countries, shouldn’t we be seeing more “socially revolutionized”Â businesses? Where were they?
The Adventure of a Lifetime
I decided to set out and discover exactly how those who were quietly selling using social media were doing it. I realized these businesses, and the people running them, knew something that we didn’t; they likely had common practices powering their success. I also committed myself to examining a personal hunch: that the so-called social media revolution might be a lieâ€”a false â€œparadigm shiftâ€ foisted upon business folks by charlatans looking to make a fast buck. I would find out if my instincts were right. Thus began my adventure.
A year’s worth of research confirmed my suspicions. While doing the leg work for my book, I discovered an exciting opportunity. There’s a chance for more of us to generate tangible business leads and sales using social media platforms. It took me a while but I found people like Amanda Kinsella who is selling dozens of heating and air conditioning systems and service contracts each month on Facebook.
Then I met entrepreneur, Marcus Sheridan who is busy selling big-ticket luxury items, at record pace, in a down economy. River Pools & Spas is selling more in-ground, fiberglass swimming pools than any business in North America using a fiberglass pool resource blog. Marcus is even increasing his profit margin, shortening his sales-cycle, and creating a new revenue stream using that same blog.
I discovered large corporations cracking the nut too. Software and services giant, Intuit is convincing more customers to sign up for its Online Payroll product using social media. Investment and property management firm, Jones Lang LaSalle is generating leads on seven-figure commercial real estate deals using YouTube. I also found examples of banks using social media to increase customer share-of-wallet (diversifying product portfolios) and acquiring new customers at record pace. Retailers like rural lifestyle stores, like the Tractor Supply Company, are using video-driven educational approaches to acquire new customers and grow purchase activity, too.
The Truth About Social Media
In doing this research, I uncovered the surprising truth: Selling with social media didn’t just happen as part of “good engagement” and had little to do with fluffy concepts like “positive brand sentiment.” Selling with social media requires ignoring the over-hyped â€œwisdomâ€ of popular business gurus and returning to basic, rather un-sexy marketing principles.
For instance, my research revealed direct response marketing is at the heart of successful digital marketing campaigns that sell. All of them. The practice itself is not being revolutionized; instead, it’s being applied on the Internet using innovative tools like Facebook. The core principles behind â€œwhat’s workingâ€ is what has always worked. There was no revolution, only the chance at evolution.
Best-selling author, speaker, and conversion specialist, Bryan Eisenberg says there’s no question the impact social media is having on peopleâ€™s lives. From breaking news, political revolutions, and connecting to old friends, social media is touching our lives in meaningful ways every day.
“But,” Eisenberg says, “with all the stories you’re hearing about Facebook, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social networks, the one question you should be asking is ‘how [exactly] can my business make money with social media?’”
What do you think?
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 Brazilâ€™s energy company, Petrobras. Heâ€™s an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. Heâ€™s adjunct digital marketing professor at Loyola Universityâ€™s school of business and author of Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.