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In November 2016, CNN plunked down a reported 20 millions dollars to purchase Beme, the video-sharing app started by YouTube star Casey Neistat. CNN hoped to fashion it into an independently operated daily online news program that would appeal to today’s digital centric consumer. By January 2018, Neistat was out and the effort became a glaring example of a big content marketing mistake that many brands are making today.

Content is Not Marketing

Too many companies wrongly assume that that just because a person can make themselves famous though digital content, that they can replicate that fame/success for the company or its brands. To be fair, Neistat made his bones by doing just that for Nike. If you haven’t seen it, click the photo in this post to watch.

The story is Nike gave him a big budget to make a movie for their Fuel Band. They wanted something that would bring the tagline — Make it Count — to life. But instead of making their movie, Neistat and a buddy blew the budget on a 10-day around the world vacation, which they filmed of course.

Personally, I think the premise was made up… he always intended to create what he created and Nike likely knew that when they gave him the money. If you watch the video, it clearly was shot not as a “hey I’m on vacation” video but to be edited into what is an incredible final product that you not only love but definitely want to share.

Which seemed to prove that Neistat could turn content into marketing. So what went wrong with the CNN gig? Well, if you break it down, what went wrong was the same thing that goes wrong so often when brands hire influencers to create content marketing, especially the kind that is supposed to “go viral” or “make the brand famous” or any of the other hosts of reasons that brands turn to consumers to create marketing.

Influencers Aren’t Content Marketers

Stick with me… I’ll explain. First, it’s kind of easy to make yourself famous via digital content marketing on places like YouTube or Instagram. You don’t have pre-existing boundaries. You’re an unknown. A blank sheet you might say.

You’re also usually not selling something or facing revenue pressures. There is nothing for your fan to buy or even do outside of telling you they love you and sharing your amazing content with their friends.

When you’re goal is to make yourself famous, you’re selling you and a relationship with you. It’s a “like me or don’t” proposition so you just do your thing and hope enough folks will think you cool enough to follow.

And because there is nothing to buy, it’s relatively (vs selling products and services) easy to become loved and thusly “famous.”

The Difference Between Content and Marketing

Brands and companies, especially legacy ones have a lot more hurdles to jump over. To begin with, they’re known… they have established brands, histories, products, relationships with consumers, and thus consumers have expectations of the brand. So from the very beginning, trying to use content marketing to build a brand is a completely different ballgame.

Brands also need the consumer to buy something, preferably now. Creating content isn’t a hobby that the brand hopes will work out. When brands produce content, that content has to produce revenue.

Brands have to give folks a reason to connect and follow and seldom is that going to be “awww you just like me for me.” With the possible exception of Red Bull, it’s hard enough for brands to create content that not only captures the attention of today’s self-educating buyers, but also moves them to make an economic decision — to buy something. This economic necessity is a game changer.

The Key To Influencer Produced Content Marketing

So if Neistat could do just do it for Nike, what happened at CNN? In short, it wasn’t a good match.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Neistat spoke candidly about his inability to figure out a viable strategy for “Beme News,” which CNN had intended to become a central part of its digital business. Instead, Neistat said he slowly, and frustratingly, distanced himself from his own company, retreating into what he knew best — producing videos for his personal YouTube channel.

Neistat was really good at creating content that people loved. And that’s exactly what he did for Nike. He create a quintessential Casey Neistat video — one in which he the protagonist thumbed his nose at the establishment and “blew their money on a vacation.”

It was content… that succeeded as marketing.

But with CNN, he couldn’t do what he does. Instead, he had to create “marketing” or at least content that was marketable.

And that is the great mistake so many companies are making today. They don’t realize that creating content marketing that effectively works as advertising isn’t just an art, it’s a science. And not every artist can be a scientist.

How To Succeed With Influencer Created Content Marketing

If you’re trying to leverage this hot new space for your brand, I’d offer you two suggestions and one recommendation.

First, vett, vett, vett the content creator not based on virality or fame, but on their past performance creating content marketing for brands. Really ask yourself (and the Influencer) the hard questions about actual sales performance or achievement of marketing KPIs.

Second, view them through the same critical eye that you do your in-house or agency produced marketing campaigns. Ask yourself, can this person create content about us/our brand that will engender the same love and virality that they get on their own content?

Third, and this is the recommendation, maybe don’t go down that influencer created route. Maybe hunker down in a conference room with your marketing team and your agencies and do some good old fashioned advertising and marketing work. Figure out:

  • who your talking to,
  • what you should be saying to them,
  • where you should be saying it
  • and then the all important, how you should phrase it.

You’d be surprised. You might find out that your brand team may not be the best at creating content. But they’re damn good at creating marketing.

Need Help Creating Content or Marketing?

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Recently I participated in an interesting discussion on the #Digital360Chat Twitter Chat hosted by Bernie Fussenegger around the idea of sales & marketing automation, specifically about automating the connection process on social media. It’s hard to really go deep on a subtopic in a Twitter Chat, so today I thought we could explore this key social selling concept a bit more.

Why Should You Invest in Sales & Marketing Automation?

Simple. Sales & marketing automation software lets you scale your lead gen efforts efficiently. By putting forth a bit of preplanning, you can automate things like drip email and social messaging campaigns. For instance, you could automate a behavioral marketing campaign designed not to sell or create connections pers se, but instead, to uncover sales signals that you can then use to help you target your sales connection and nurturing efforts.

You can leverage sales & marketing CRM software to not only keep a database of leads, but more importantly, by utilizing intelligent tagging strategies, you can make it easy to share relevant content with a short message and a few mouse clicks.

For example, one of my most engaged email lists isn’t really a list but an approach. When I find a great piece of content that would be relevant to one of my sales prospects, I search my database by the appropriate tag associated with that kind of content. Then I use a simple personalized email template titled, Thought You’d Find This Interesting, include a short synopsis for this curated content, and send. Presto, somewhere between 1 and maybe a 100 of my sales prospects now receive something they should welcome into their inbox and be grateful I sent. Is it automated? Absolutely. Is it personal and helpful? Absolutely. But again, it’s not connecting as much as it is reaching.

And that’s the true power of sales & marketing automation software. It helps you reach more folks more often. But if you want it to help you do a better job of connecting at scale, you have to track their interactions. This tracking data will help you discover the best way to connect with them to start a real conversation. A conversation that can convert to a customer.

Why You Can’t Automate Connections

The main reason you can’t automate connections is because most humans have pretty good built in bullshit detectors. And for those folks whose detectors might be on the fritz, social platforms make it really obvious that you’re automating.

For instance, right now everyone is very pro “use LinkedIn messenger for prospecting” and there are scores of companies that have software to help you automate that effort. The problem is LinkedIn, like pretty much every messaging service, threads conversations. So the second, third, fourth and fifth message a person sends you is threaded right there together. And because the automation software ensures you get those messages every X days, the reader can easily scroll back and figure out these messages are just spam. The person is automating the connection effort.

You might be asking yourself, but Tom, how is that different than what you just wrote above? The answer is – it isn’t! And that’s the point.

You can scale reach but not connection.

But you can use technology to help you create better connections and do so more efficiently. And in the end, that will translate into more deal flow.

Using Technology to Make Better Connections

For instance – birthday messages are great ways to connect. Most folks just drop a note on their connections’ Facebook or LinkedIn page like Pavlov’s dog when they see the “Your friends are celebrating birthdays” email. And you can certainly do that or you could use the opportunity to truly connect or reconnect. In this instance, let the tool (Facebook/LinkedIn) automate the reminder but then take the opportunity to actually connect.

It takes just as long to type a note on someone’s Facebook Newsfeed as it does to type the same note on your phone in the form of a text you send. Better yet, call them. Or if you’re trying to scale your connection efforts – send a recorded audio message via text or email.

And if you really want to connect and rise above the crowd – send a video message. Go ahead. Try it. You’d be surprised how fast you can record and send a half dozen or more personalized video birthday greetings where you can highlight something special about the person or reference a shared passion or experience. And you’ll love the responses you get. In fact, unless your experience is markedly different than mine, most folks will be amazed and appreciative of the effort you put into it — even when they know it was Uncle Zuch that reminded you of their special day.

You’re using technology to help you scale your connecting time, but you’re doing something that is actually meaningful. And that’s the difference between mass personalization and personalizing en mass. The former is mechanical and easy. The latter is personal and requires commitment. And that’s they key to personalization. It’s not about using someone’s name in an email. Personalization is when you send someone something that was specifically created or sent based on the recipients’ likes, dislikes, life moments, or needs. It’s this intent behind the message that creates the opportunity for connections to form or grow.

Hey if you are lucky enough to sell a bomb-dot-com kind of product or service that everyone can’t wait to buy, then scaling reach is all you need. But if you’re like the rest of us, selling something that can certainly be purchased elsewhere, or fulfilling a need that a sales prospect may not even realize they have, then you need to invest in connections over reach. You need to break through the noise and become signal. You need to build a relationship that over time results in a new customer. And that my friend, that starts with making an initial connection.

Do You Want to Connect?

If you like what you just read and think you’d like to keep the conversation going… connect with me on LinkedIn.

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Whenever you read about Social Selling, everyone spends a lot of time talking about creating content. It makes sense, because content is at the core of a successful social selling program. But you shouldn’t be paying your salespeople to create content. Instead, teach them how to properly curate content to create awareness, entice interest and convert sales prospects to happy new customers.

And that’s why today we’re going to spend a few minutes talking about the four key social selling roles of content curation for salespeople.

Content Curation vs Content Filtering

First though, let’s talk about the difference between Content Filtering and Content Curation because most folks use the latter term as a generic.

Specifically speaking, most of what you see in today’s Social Selling efforts is Content Filtering — folks finding and sharing “helpful” articles, research, etc., on social media or via direct channels such as text and email.

Content Curation takes Content Filtering one step further on the helpfulness meter. When you curate content, you don’t just find and share. You find and share along with some kind of contextual information you add. It’s this context that helps your reader understand why they should pay attention to the content you’re sharing and what it should mean for their business. It’s what converts the content you share from noise to signal.

Anyone can filter and share. But when you truly curate, add that additional contextual information or frame of reference, you begin to craft an image in your prospects’ mind. Now you’re not just the human RSS feed for (insert topic here) but instead evolve to the known expert in a particular vertical, category or field.

But at a more basic level, content curation helps salespeople achieve four key sales KPIs.

Name Awareness

At its base, content curation creates awareness of your salespeople, your brand(s), product(s) and your organization. While your sales & marketing goal is to achieve TOMP, you can accomplish a lot of that preference building simply by curating vs always creating new content to share. More importantly, because your salespeople can easily curate far more content then your marketing teams could ever create, they can share more often. Remember, out of sight is out of mind — so when it comes to building name awareness, frequency is your friend.

Ultimately though, when your salespeople consistently link themselves to appropriate, helpful content coupled with their own added context, they not only begin to create baseline awareness, but more importantly, maybe even a little bit of preference – the kind that gets their proposal top-of-stack status.

Invisible Sales Prospects

When your salespeople are constantly pushing targeted content out into the world at their key Propinquity Points , they give people a chance to send them a sales signal — especially the invisible buyer. No, not the one you can’t see, but more importantly, the one they can see but they’re not aware that person moved from contact to prospect.

When salespeople share content and people engage with that content, those salespeople can see and track that engagement. That’s huge from a sales prospecting point of view. Think about how many voicemails are left every day by salespeople and none of them will ever know if the voicemail was listened to or ignored outright. BUT with social sharing, you can see who engages with the content you share.

If a current contact all of a sudden begins engaging with certain types of content, say content about sales prospecting, that’s a signal. If your salespeople follow those signals, chances are they’ll find a willing sales prospect that will welcome their outreach.

Lead Nurturing

Content is the ultimate lead nurturing tool. Maybe a salesperson has a stuck lead. Someone who has gone radio silent. Instead of blowing up their email and phone with “did you receive” or “how can I be of service” messages, teach your sales teams to send the prospect an appropriate piece of content. I do this all of the time and it never ceases to amaze me how often it entices some kind of response or action.

Or if your sales team is working with a lead that has a long sales cycle or is trying to convince colleagues they need to buy what your company sells, content is a great tool in a nurturing process. Teach your sales teams to find great content, preferably from media or content sites vs competitors, that speaks to the issues, hurdles or possibilities associated with what the prospect is buying. Then send that along periodically via social, text or email to your sales prospect. It’s easy, and it works.

Networking

There is really two ways to use content curation as a networking tool.

If there are people (prospects or influencers) your sales teams want to stay in touch with, meet, etc., and those people publish content, republishing their content and tagging them reminds them that your salesperson respects and values the person’s contribution. It also reminds them that your salesperson is doing his or her little part to help the person gain a wider audience. It’s a very effective way to make friends and gain meetings — virtual or in the real world.

Additionally, curated content is excellent for staying in touch with sales prospects. Teach your sales teams to find good studies, articles or presentations. Then, put in a system that makes it easy for them to look back in their CRM for all of the sales prospects or influencers that would be interested in what they’ve found. Hint: if they’ve properly tagged everyone in the company CRM, this should be pretty easy. Then, teach them to create a quick, personalized, merge email that explains what they’ve found and why they’re sending it along. All that is left is for them to hit send. Presto, they just networked at scale with multiple people and it took them just a few minutes to create the email.

But remember, the key here is the curation — that added context that your salesperson provides. That’s what makes their content not only stand out, but also helps them to build a relationship with their sales prospect.

Social Selling Training

Need help with all of that teaching we just talked about? You’re just a webform away from all the help you could ever need. Go ahead. Your sales teams will thank you after their next bonus.

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Have you ever received a LinkedIn Cold or Warm Message like the one above? You know, where someone makes a sales ask via LinkedIn’s Messaging system either as a first or second touch? Arggg. I hate those. Folks just don’t realize that you only get one chance to make a LinkedIn impression. But beyond that, it shows that so many of today’s sales teams still don’t understand the difference between Reaching and Connecting with sales prospects. More importantly, they don’t understand how the difference is costing them potential sales. So let’s dive into that today.

Reaching vs Connecting With Sales Prospects

When we’re delivering social sales training workshops for clients, we spend a lot of time teaching sales teams that social selling isn’t about selling via social media platforms. It’s about selling by being social – regardless of the platform (social, email, text, phone and in person). The first is great for reaching lots of people very quickly and at ridiculously low cost-per-person-reached number. The person who sent me the message above, who must be using his/her fancy pants software, has reached me five times in the last month. But he/she hasn’t connected with me even once. Which begs the question, what do you really get when you reach someone?

Nothing. Well maybe not nothing, but primarily nothing. You get to check a box in your CRM. You get to report that you reached someone. But if you reach them and they don’t respond, did you really reach them? Did you make an impression? Did you start moving them down the Propinquity Pathway? I’d argue no. Chances are you accomplished little to nothing and may have actually set your sales efforts back a step or two by annoying the person.

So now you’ve reached them but your no closer to selling them anything.

What if instead, you didn’t just reach them, but you connected with them? And no, I don’t mean connecting in the LinkedIn “Congrats. You’re now connected to [person name]” message you get every time you accept a connection request. Sure, technically speaking you’re connected to the person but not in any real or emotive manner.

No, when we talk about connection in our social selling at Converse Digital, we’re talking about actually making a real, memorable and hopefully lasting connection. To us, that is where you really set the stage not only for the current selling effort, but more importantly, future efforts too.

What’s The Most Important Part of The Sales Prospecting Process

I was reading an article recently about automating your LinkedIn outreach. I won’t name the author or company to protect them — yes it was that bad. Mainly because it was talking about social selling but framing the concept in traditional “it’s a numbers game” psychology.

As the largest social network, LinkedIn can become an intimidating place. By automating at least part of the process, many sales teams and leaders find that they have more time to spend on more important work.

So what’s the important work?

Well according to their article that is:

Instead of wasting time on cold emails or calls, using Linkedin automation tools means that your sales team will have more time to concentrate on actually selling. Your sales team will be spending their time chatting with people and building relationships instead of desperately trying to reach out to potential leads.

Hmmmm, well I guess if you think folks will respond to spammy automated messages that find me via my LinkedIn Messages box vs my email inbox… but seriously, are sales prospects really more willing to be cold called on one platform vs another? Me thinks not.

Quantity vs Quality in Sales Prospecting

If you approach your sales efforts from a failure mindset then yes it is only a numbers game. If you expect to fail more than you succeed with your sales prospecting, then yes, you have no option but to consider sales as a numbers game.

Here’s what I mean. If you need to gain 10 new clients a month, and your average conversion rate is 10%, then you expect to fail on 90% of your sales efforts. That means you’ll most likely have to fail 90 out of 100 times to get those 10 new customers. So you and your sales program must focus on quantity. You have no choice.

And, you certainly won’t be alone. Sales is one of only three jobs I can think of where you’re expected to fail more than you succeed — even the very best in the business are awesome because they fail less than their peers. Hit me up on Twitter (@TomMartin) if you’re curious about the other two jobs.

But what if you flip the script?

What if you focused not on reaching but connecting? What if you decided you’d reach out to fewer sales prospects, but you’d spend more time with social reconnaissance researching them prior to reaching out? Maybe you’d even find a social vs professional touch-point around which to craft your initial outreach.

The point is, most sales people are just trying to reach sales prospects. But if you can go one step further, actually try and connect with your sales prospect, you can afford to focus on quality vs quantity and still end up with those 10 new clients each month. It will just be less frustrating and a heck of a lot more fun because you’ll call on fewer prospects to get those new customers.

Turning Conversations Into Customers

In our opinion, that’s the name of the game in social selling. Be social. Create meaningful connections and conversations that put you, not your competitor, in the unique position of turning that conversation into a new customer.

And if you need some help with that… we’re just a web form away.

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Companies today live and die by the KPI (Key Performance Indicator) metric of their choosing. They become slaves to the data based sales & marketing approach. And there is nothing wrong with that until there is, especially with consumer engagement KPI’s. Because what at first, seems to be a positive, could actually hide a huge negative that is going to hurt your brand in the long run. Here’s an example.

Your  Agency’s Social Media KPI Report Says Everything Is Great

A few years ago my firm, Converse Digital, prepared one of our first ever CIBER reports for a major liquor distributor. In it we analyzed over 26,000 posts from 25 liquor brands covering virtually every liquor vertical – shooter brands, tequila, vodka, whisky, etc.

One brand in particular stood out — Grand Marnier. At first glance the Consumer Engagement data was outstanding, especially for one campaign in particular: #BlendOut. If you evaluated the campaign “by the numbers” it was a huge success. And I have no doubt the agency that created it emphasized the great engagement KPI performance.

BUT — if you peeked beneath the data just a tad, you quickly figured out that all was not right in Denmark.

The Power of Qualitative Social Media Analysis vs Quantitative Analysis

The power of large scale qualitative and quantitative analysis like CIBER, especially at the category level, is that you start to discover thematics in the category data. In this liquor CIBER, there was a clear recipe (in the quantitative data) for producing a highly engaging social media post. If a liquor company wants to maximize consumer engagement, there were about 5-7 key visual and verbal characteristics they needed to leverage.

The problem was, Grand Marnier’s #BlendOut campaign violated every aspect of the recipe.

And that caught the eye of the data analyst writing the report. She was reviewing the #BlendOut creative and just couldn’t figure out why it was so engaging. So she dove deeper… moving past the purely analytical analysis to a more laborious, but ultimately, more insightful textual analysis.

By reading thousands of consumer comments on the various social media posts, she was able to understand the true story of this engagement.

Fans were engaging… but for the wrong reasons.

Fans hated the campaign.

And many were having a grand time making fun of it via the comments on social media, especially Facebook. If you feel like a good laugh, click the image to see it full size or the link you just passed. My personal favorite is the Smirnoff Ice comment — truly classic. But there are a host of gems – take my word for it.

But that wasn’t even the most interesting thing — at least from a competitive point of view. No, the most interesting insight was that Grand Marnier wasn’t responding back. Not a single community management comment back to any fan. And more importantly, the campaign continued to run over many months. This completely blew my mind, since I’ve never seen a brand continue to run a campaign that was obviously NOT connecting with their audience.

Ignore Social Conversation At Your Own Risk

And it gets worse for Grand Marnier. Prior to the campaign their average Instagram engagement rate was about 2.5% per post. After the campaign, that number dropped to about 1.5% and that trend continued for at least another quarter. It was as if their fans had written them off. Further, an even deeper analysis revealed that every time Grand Marnier tried to move from bottle images to lifestyle content, their engagement rates plummeted. Had they conducted their own CIBER, or similar study, they’d have known this and adjusted their social media content strategy accordingly. But I digress.

This was another key insight for our clients. It meant that if they wanted to try and break into the Grand Marnier drinker’s mindshare, they needed to act quickly and lead with strong bottle imagery vs lifestyle imagery. This kind of marketing insight is a powerful 1-2 sales & marketing punch that existed for one and only one reason (IMO) — Grand Marnier was listening to the numbers instead of the conversation.

Mindshare Precedes Market Share

Social Media is a great place to understand and win mindshare. Social Media, when designed to create conversation first and conversion later, is a powerful weapon in your sales & marketing arsenal. But it requires a bit of patience and plenty of attention. If you will focus your brand on creating conversations that lead to connections, you’ll set the table for the natural ending — conversions.

Everywhere you look today, you hear and read “the sales funnel is dead” but there is one place where it’s very, very much alive – Social Selling –  regardless of whether you’re targeting B2B or B2C prospects. In social media, you still have the opportunity to let prospective buyers discover you, and then pull them down the Propinquity Pathway with engaging content and conversations. Until, at some point they reach the end of the Propinquity Pathway (or bottom of the funnel) and move from Like to Buy.

But you have to go beyond the KPI’s… they’re important and you should be monitoring them for topline social media health. However, when you’re ready to really find the golden nugget, dive deeper. Think qualitative vs quantitative analysis.

Need Help Turning Your Social Media Conversations Into Customers?

Drop us a line. We love helping organizations leverage the power of conversations to create customers in a host of verticals including, liquor, travel, hotel, pharmaceutical, insurance, banking and a host of other B2B categories.

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I read Gary’s missive this week and to be fair, I love the tactic he suggests but hate everything else about his recommendation because if you blindly follow it, you’ll fail. Let me explain.

Conversations Become Customers

I couldn’t agree more with Gary’s recommendation to create proximity with your sales prospects using events as a tool to initiate conversations between you and your prospects.

As the founder of an agency premised on the idea of turning conversations into customers, how could I not be?

But that’s about the only thing Gary and I agree on.

Overall, he’s oversimplifying the executional considerations of the idea by ignoring a few key underlying truths. But don’t just believe me. Let’s go through the three biggest misses IMO and you decide for yourself.

Gary V’s Best B2B Marketing Strategy Explained

In case you missed his post, the crux of Gary’s piece is based on a simple premise. Back in high school, “mid-tier” popular kids could become “dramatically more popular” by throwing house parties and inviting the popular kids. Those kids would come, bring others and by the principle of proximity, your garden variety mid-tier popular kid becomes or appears to become popular.

He calls this his “High School Party” Strategy.

And he says that if you throw modern day “house parties” and invite your prospects, you’ll find similar success.

And he couldn’t be more incorrect. Here’s why.

Sales Prospects Don’t Need Your B2B Social Event

… because the popular kids needed a place to hang out.

Here’s the first big failure of his analogy. In high school those popular kids “needed a place” to hang out. Heck we all did right? That need drove their willingness to associate with a less popular kid and risk their seat at the cool kids table.

In the post Gary uses the example of a dinner party for 20. Ok… so ask yourself, does your sales prospect really need another dinner party? Are your prospects at a place in their life where a free meal is worth more than their valuable time?

Where there is no need, there is no way.

If the cool kids had a place to hang on the weekends, they’d have had no need for the semi-cool kid’s house and thus would have ignored the invite just as your sales prospects will ignore yours.

Sales Prospects Don’t Visit Strangers

The second place the analogy falls down is the difference between high school and the real world we live in today.

High school is a closed, insular audience.

The real world is a huge, open space populated largely by unknown and sometimes invisible buyers.

I don’t know about you, but I went to a really big high school in Austin, Texas. My graduating class was something like 600+ kids. And here’s the thing, even in that large high school universe, everyone kind of knew everyone.

Sure you might not be friends or even know the other kids beyond a name or the social group they ran with (jocks, preps, goths, nerds, etc) but every kid was KNOWN at some level. In Gary’s example, he’s even sliced it more finely by focusing on the “mid-tier” popular kids, which means they were already a known commodity to the cool kids.

That same familiarity doesn’t exist in today’s B2B sales prospecting world. And in a world where time is consistently shown as one of the most valuable resources, people aren’t going to commit to spending a few hours over a meal or anything else for that matter with an unknown stranger. Even if that stranger made a cool, authentic video as Gary suggests.

Sales Prospects Are Cooler Than You

This is probably where the analogy or strategy as Gary calls it, completely falls apart.

The mid-tier popular kids didn’t vet the popular kids. There was no hurdle to entry. The offer was clear, concise and one-sided.

Mid-Tier kid UNCONDITIONALLY invites cool kid to party.

Cool kid agrees to share space with mid-tier kid in return for a place to hang on the weekend with the other cool kids and do cool kid stuff.

But in Gary’s example, he wants you to design the registration form (survey) with an open ended question where the “answer will give you an indication as to whether or not you can convert them.” Then you can “invite the people who give the ‘right’ answer to this question to your event.”

Please fill out the form and I will pick 20 of you to join us for a private dinner. Can’t wait to see you!”

He even suggests you call out this vetting process in your authentic advertising video ad you run on Facebook inviting your sales prospects to join you.

Call me crazy, but that seems like a CONDITIONAL offer, which is completely different from the one those semi-cool kids in high school made when they threw a party. Feels a little more like the invite a cool kid might have issued to a semi-cool kid when the semi-cool kid had something the cool kid needed doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong… I have a ton of respect for Gary V. I still remember watching his wine tasting show on my Tivo back in 90’s (I think…. maybe it was early 2000’s) and thinking how brilliant it was — a guy had created his own “network” by leveraging Tivo’s distribution platform and totally side-stepping the big networks.

But like many luminaries that have come before him, over time there is a tendency to over-simplify and reduce complex needs into silver bullets that raving fans can consume, share and discuss. This is one of those times.

The Three P’s of Sales Prospecting

Gary’s basic idea of using an event to create Proximity is excellent. One I highly recommend you follow. The fact that he suggests you create a social event vs a purely educational one is even better. Because at it’s base, social selling is most effective when you’re being social.

But Proximity alone doesn’t assure the development of Preference. No for that you’ll need Presence — before, during and maybe most importantly, after the event, to truly turn those conversations into customers. More on that last one in a future blog.

Need Help With Your B2B Sales & Marketing?

If you really want to turn conversations into customers and believe that the best selling is social, let us help you just liked we’ve helped countless other organizations.

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Everyone loves digital advertising for its tracking capability vs traditional advertising. It’s easier to prove digital marketing ROI vs traditional advertising because digital makes the invisible buyer visible. But is this focus on clicks causing you to miss conversions? Let’s talk about that today.

You Can’t Sell To Invisible Buyers

In our zeal to prove marketing effectiveness are we missing out on prospective sales prospects? As any reader of this blog knows, I’m a big fan of the invisible sale. We used to live in a world where we had to push our messages out via advertising because there was no other way to communicate with prospective buyers.

Fast forward to today, and that’s hardly the case. Or is it?

Take SEO for instance. Everyone loves SEO because it’s so ROI based. And we like to think that Google is the answer to all sales prospecting problems. Why? Because there are an infinite number of stats and blog posts produced every year telling us this fact ad nauseam. But ask yourself this question.

How can you search for something you aren’t aware of?

That’s the Achilles Heel of search and the primary benefit of advertising. So while yes, the consumers of traditional advertising are by and large invisible to us, those traditional ads can be the missing key to converting the invisible buyer into a very visible sales lead.

Sure you could run digital ads. Can anyone say banner blindness? And that banner blindness is going to extend to all forms of digital ads, including the current flavor of the week — video.

In an effort to drive ad spend, digital publications are creating ever more intrusive digital ads, up to and including ads that actually stand between the buyer and the content they want to consume. Think YouTube pre-roll that you can’t skip. Or just visit Forbes.com, probably the worst offender IMO.

Seriously? Can you even read the article?

Again, ask yourself. How would this make you feel? Does it make you pay attention to the ad(s)? Or would you spend your time looking for a way to escape this advertising intrusion in hopes of actually reading the article you want to read?

Seeing The Invisible Buyer

You’re far more likely to discover a new brand via traditional advertising then any other format IMO. Yes, there are numerous examples of “viral” successes… but if you need a million people to know about your product tomorrow, buy a few ads.

BUT support that buy with smart digital marketing. Ask yourself, upon seeing the ad, what will the prospective buyers’ response be? What will they do next?

Chances are that different sales prospects will react differently. Some will turn to Google and search for the product they just saw. Others might turn to social media to see if anyone they know has used or heard about the product or company advertised. Still others might ask their friends. And finally, a decent portion will do nothing. They’ll just file the information away in their brain basket to be retrieved another day upon exposure to the product or company.

Is your brand always located in close proximity to your sales prospect? Is your brand or content available in all of those places they might turn to? Are you ready for them to take the next step?

Converting Invisible Buyers

Is there a case where less traceable but more stumleable [yes I made this word up] media efforts strategically make more sense?

I think yes.

Certainly for brand new products… especially ones that introduce the sales prospect to an entirely new category of products. Think products like iPhone, or Alexa Speakers. Or services like XXXXXXX

You’re not going to Google these things because you don’t even know you need them. Thus you lack the search intent required to form a search query.

And yes, while you may eventually discover them via Word-of-Mouth or maybe Social Media, it’s going to be a pretty slow rollout.

So while it’s been in vogue to poo poo traditional advertising for some time now, keep one thing in mind as you plan next year’s marketing budget.

At the end of the day, it’s really not about clicks…. it’s about conversions. Make your marketing investments accordingly.

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Are you asking yourself, WTH is he talking about with that headline?

Well today’s post is all about making a point that in my not so humble opinion needs making – success today is more about conversations than content. This post is an effort to provide a bit of context so that you can evaluate the advice you’re reading and hearing on the social webs.

The World Doesn’t Need More Content Marketing

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Digital marketing tools make it so easy to publish anything, anytime, anywhere and for next to nothing. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

The world doesn’t need more keyword rich, epic, newsjacked, trend-jacked, whatever-jacked content designed to win the war with Google and gain more eyeballs on your website by winning the SEO battle.

The world DOES need more conversations. Because today’s world is moving so fast your customer is being asked to do more with less. That means your customer has less time to make the right buying decision and thanks to the Internet, has infinitely more options to consider. So rather than making the customer’s job easier — the Internet is actually making buying harder. Your sales prospect can find a tsunami of potential answers, but in fact, all of that content tends to just cause more questions.

Why?

Because most of today’s content marketing isn’t designed to provide an answer. It’s designed to generate a lead. And a lead, to most sales people is a person that has to reach out to you in order to get an answer.

Start Being Helpful.

I get it. You’ve been told to be awesome. To create epic content. Because if you do that your content will go viral and you’ll crush it. Who doesn’t want to go viral and crush it? But outside of ensuring you a spot on page one of Google, all that awesome content doesn’t necessarily translate into more sales.

Sure you may get a lot of eyeballs… you may even get a lot of lead forms filled out — though, admit it, most will be ttt@ttt.com because the sales prospect really doesn’t want to be a lead. They just want some free information or an answer to their question. At this point, they prefer to remain an invisible sale. They haven’t yet decided if you’ve earned the right to have a conversation.

If you want to fix that… it’s a pretty simple mindset shift.

Awesome gets shared but helpful gets bought.

So just be helpful.

It’s a heck of a lot easier and you’re far more likely to succeed.

Just ask yourself what your prospective customer needs to know in order to make the best buying decision – even if that decision isn’t buying your product. Then give them the information. That’s right… educate them. Because make no mistake, they are going to self-educate. The only question you need to ask yourself is would you rather that self-education happen on someone else’s site where the prospective buyer will remain invisible or would you rather it happen on your site where you can track the prospect and collect buying signals that you and your sales & marketing teams can use to grow market share and shrink sales cycles?

Helpfully Epic Content

The best thing is that you don’t have to look very far to find examples of  helpfully epic content. Here are just a few to get you started:

Every day client side marketers need to justify their investments in social media, content marketing and social selling efforts. They struggle to effectively make the argument to their CEO and CFO’s.

Enter posts like “How Long Before a Social Media Campaign Shows Results” where we shared proprietary data that answered a common question we were hearing from clients and prospects.

This may not seem like epic content to you, but if a Brand Manager can use this post as an outline for a discussion with their CEO or CFO and at least get their boss to relieve them (brand manager) from the weight of proving ROI immediately for investments in social selling and content marketing tactics… that is a HUGE benefit to them. And I’m betting it predisposes them to think of Converse Digital the next time they plan a content marketing effort.

Twitter chats used to be an incredible help asset. While not as popular or numerous as the used to be, they’re still an incredible help tool. Wondering what is a Twitter Chat and how do I get involved in one – just click here. Once you learn how to play along, you can start participating, or you might decide you want to take the next step and host a tweet chat for your brand.

Enter Mack Collier, author of Think Like A Rockstar and host of the incredibly popular #BlogChat. Mack’s a helpful guy so I’ll give him a pass on the headline of his very helpfully epic post Your Brand’s Guide to Creating an Amazing Twitter Chat, where he gives a brand manager a step-by-step guide to recreating his success for their brand.

And lastly, any inbound marketer worth their salt is interested (or should be) in how to apply A/B split testing to their blog, website and landing pages to create more sales conversions. Enter Joanna Wiebe’s super helpful (read Epic) post 6 Proven Ways to Boost the Conversion Rates of Your Call-to-Action Buttons (guest post on Copyblogger) that is seriously one of the most detailed, helpful and educational A/B split testing posts I’ve read.

Epic Content is Like Porn

You can’t always describe it — but you damn sure know it when you see it.

So don’t get caught up in creating content that others define as epic — i.e., goes viral, gets lots of likes, shares, tweets and retweets. Focus on creating content that your customers and prospects will consider epic — content that is so friggin helpful that, as my friend Jay Baer says, your prospective customer would pay for it.

Because when they’re ready to pay for it, they’re ready for a conversation. A real one. A conversation that turns into a customer. And that, after all, is kind of the goal right?

photo by marcberryreid

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