Posts Tagged ‘Social Media Marketing’
The old days when SEO meant writing key-stuffed copy and then begging for or buying as many links as possible, from any willing website, are long gone. That’s clearly good for searchers, as search engine results have become more relevant and useful. But it’s also good for marketers, as it forces a focus on understanding buyers and providing them with value rather than manipulative gaming of search algorithms.
In Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing, Lee Odden provides the definitive guide to SEO and its extension into social and content marketing for the new, more sophisticated world of search and web presence optimization.
Divided into three sections—Planning (tactics, audience research, content), Implementation (persona development, keyword research, content optimization, measurement) and Scale—the book provides a comprehensive roadmap for using integrated digital marketing tactics to drive business results.
Among the specific pieces of wisdom Lee shares in the book are:
- • Search is a moving target. “Search results have evolved from 10 blue links to situationally dependent mixed-media results that vary according to your geographic location, web history, social influence and social ratings…at any given time, there are from 50 to 200 different versions of Google’s core algorithm in the wild, so the notion of optimizing for a consistently predictable direct cause and effect is long gone.”
- • You need to know where you are before you can know where you’re going. “Audits are a key part of search engine optimization, allowing marketers to access the current state of the website in ways that identify any conflicts or inefficiencies for search engines.” Audits also help establish baselines—the starting points from which progress can be measured.
- • Five different types of SEO audits are vital for establishing baselines: keyword research, content audit (“a website must be the best resource for a topic, and content optimization takes inventory of all content and digital assets that could be a potential entry point vis search and recommends SEO copywriting tactics to showcase those pages as most relevant”), technical SEO audit (making sure the site is easy for search engines to crawl), link footprint and social SEO audit.
- • PR is now a vital component of SEO. “The public relations function within a company often produces nearly as much content as marketing in the form of a corporate newsroom with media coverage, press releases, images, video, case studies, white papers, and other resources…Each of those assets is an opportunity for journalists to discover the brand story through search engines or social referrals…Companies that optimize and socialize their press releases give new life and extended reach to their news by making it easy for bloggers and end consumers to find and share press release content.”
- • Content isn’t just the job of marketing and PR. It’s also crucial to optimize content produced by customer service (FAQ’s, common how-to guides), HR, and subject matter experts in field consulting, engineering and sales for search. Marketing may have to scrub and polish some of this content for public consumption, but it’s vital to tap expertise across the organization.
- • Your online competitors aren’t always your real-life competitors. “In the search and social media marketing world, the competition isn’t always who you think. Companies need to understand that online competition isn’t just made up of companies competing for market share in the business world, but also information and content published from a variety of sources that compete for search engine and social media users’ attention.” It’s not unusual for university websites, government agency sites, and reference sites like Wikipedia to “compete” with a company in search.
- • Monitor search results to spot new opportunities. “A trending story may cause news or blog results to appear high on the page, which might prompt you to comment on a high-ranking story or reach out to a journalist or blogger to offer your point of view…When you notice that the search engine tends to favor certain media, such as video, for one of your target keyword phrases, it may prompt you to focus on video content and optimization for a particular target keyword phrase.”
- • It’s vital for a business to “be seen” in different places. “48% of consumers are led to make a purchase through a combination of search and social media influences.”
- • Search visibility isn’t important only for prospective customers. “95% of journalists use search engines…89% of journalists use blogs and 65% use social networks for story research.”
- • Develop content for your prospects, not for search engines. “Write down some of the high-level characteristics of your best customers. What motivates them? What do they care about?” I would add “what keeps them awake at night?” and “what will compel them to take action” to this list. The answers to those questions will be crucial in developing your content strategy.
- • Make fact-based, data-driven decisions. “Keyword research tools are designed to override the false assumptions often provided by the two most flawed tools that you can access—your gut and your brain.” It isn’t that you aren’t smart, but rather the words used inside of your company and those that your prospective customers use to describe the same product or service are often very different.
- • Think about blog post topics from a variety of angles to keep it interesting. “Typical categories for an editorial calendar can include breaking headlines, industry news, ongoing series, feature stories, in-depth product or service reports, polls, special promotions, events, tips, lists…the important thing is to be relevant: to your customers, your brand, and to search engines and social communities.”
- • You don’t have to do it all yourself; content curation is as important as creation. “Pure creation is demanding. Pure automation doesn’t engage. Curating content can provide the best of both.”
And there’s much more, including several useful lists such as analytics tools, “20 different content types” and “sources of news to curate.”
Even in books I really find valuable, I usually find at least a few points of contention, or things the author just plain got wrong. But even though I wore out a red pen highlighting passages in this book, I didn’t find a single point where I think Lee missed the mark.
The only thing I would add is an over-arching framework to fit all of this into. “SEO, social media and content marketing” is descriptive, but a mouthful. Add PR and online advertising to the mix, and it gets really awkward without that model. Optimize fundamentally provides an excellent how-to primer for utilizing the web presence optimization framework. As Lee notes:
“If a company doesn’t see the bigger-picture synergy of how to break social media, content, and SEO efforts out of departmental silos and approach Internet marketing and public relations holistically, how can they grow and remain competitive?…Integrating social media marketing and engagement with search, content marketing, email, and other types of online marketing tactics can results in substantial benefits.” But “For many companies, it can be very difficult and complex to implement a holistic content marketing and search optimization program.”
Recent research makes clear that, for high-value consumer purchases as well as b2b procurement, being as “findable” as possible online is critical to winning the business.
Of course that means it’s imperative to produce relevant, compelling, optimized content for your company’s website and blog, but online visibility goes beyond that. It also requires an active presence and network of relationships in social media, coverage in industry press, and carefully targeted online advertising to be where your prospective buyers are looking, when they are looking.
Optimizing online visibility then requires the coordination of public relations (PR), content development, social networking, SEO, digital advertising and marketing communications efforts. Without coordination, the efforts of these different individuals or groups are like the blind men and the elephant; none of the experts are wrong, but none get the big picture either.
We refer to this maximization of online visibility as web presence optimization (WPO): the combination of PR, content, SEO, SEM, marcom and social media efforts to make a company as ubiquitous as possible, with relevant content, everywhere online that prospective customers are looking when they are searching for what the company offers.
As a practical matter, the WPO process includes:
Research: a number of questions need to be answered before a tactical WPO plan can be roughed out, such as: where are your prospective customers congregating online? (e.g., are they more likely to use Facebook or a specialized discussion forum? What online publications do they read? What groups do they belong to?) What topics are they most interested in exploring or discussing? How are your competitors approaching the market?
Execution: this includes multiple avenues of content creation, distribution and follow-up. For example, a news release may be written, search-optimized and then distributed through wire service like Marketwire or PRWeb. But it may also be sent to specific journalists and bloggers, who need to be followed up with, shared socially, and have any questions or comments responded to.
Measurement: What was the result—how much online visibility was achieved with a particular piece of content? How much website traffic did it drive? How many conversions? How does this compare to other activities? Lessons learned and intelligence gleaned from these metrics feed back into the execution phase, driving and refining additional projects.
(This is the essence of the web presence optimization strategy and approach we’ve been using at KC Associates for the past year. We research a client’s current competitive and digital landscape, develop a WPO and content strategy, execute, measure and refine.)
The WPO framework has evolved over the past 34 months from the spaghetti-ish original WPO model to the refined definition of web presence optimization a year ago to today’s streamlined version focused on the five broad areas of presence:
Content strategy is developed based on market interests, competitor moves and company or product differentiation then shared through one (or more often a combination) of channels. Content creation, optimization, distribution and sharing results in five types of measurable online presence:
Press Presence (news release pickups, news articles, product reviews, publication-sponsored directories, etc.)
Social Presence (tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, social bookmarks, videos on YouTube, presentations on SlideShare, etc.)
Website Presence (content published on a company’s own website, blog or microsite which ranks highly and attracts organic search traffic)
Industry Presence (trade association articles, association membership lists or directories, trade show exhibitor lists, industry analyst coverage, etc.)
Paid Presence (search engine ads, banner ads on trade or publication sites, social network ads)
To learn more about the WPO framework, check out this free whitepaper.
The coordination of the various specialties—PR, social, SEO, SEM, content marketing—depends upon having a clear, unified view of actionable metrics. This single, comprehensive (but not overwhelming) view of results keeps a team in alignment about next steps, what to do more of, what to drop, and what to do differently.
One of the most valuable features of Google Analytics is the ability to drill into detail on traffic sources; not just how much traffic came from search or social media, but how much came from each specific search engine or social networking site.
First off, by definition, direct traffic is all visitors who “arrived at your site directly (by typing the url) or via a bookmark.” Technically, there are other possible sources for direct traffic as well such as clicks on links within an Outlook email signature or Word document, but direct entry in a browser address bar or bookmark click account for the bulk of direct traffic.
Second, direct visitors fall broadly into one of two groups: let’s call them “old friends” and “new friends.” Old friends may include, among others:
- • Current customers (for example, clicking on a bookmarked link to your support page or user community area)
- • Partners (channel, technology, implementation services, etc.)
- • Vendors
- • Investors
- • Employees (accessing the site from outside the corporate network, e.g., from home or on the road)
- • Media and analysts already familiar with your company
“New friends” are (generally) predominantly sales prospects, but also include potential future employees, media who are new to your company, prospective investors and/or partners, vendors and other influencers. The “root” sources for this traffic may be online or offline.’
Online Direct Traffic Sources
PR / media relations: media exposure builds brand recognition. Visitors may type your URL into their browser address bars based on seeing a company profile, product review, news release pickup, subject matter expert quote or other mention in industry media.
Social media: social networking and content sharing also builds brand awareness and credibility. A click directly from Twitter, Facebook or another social media site will be recorded in Google Analytics as a social media visit of course, but there’s now question that some percentage of direct visits are inspired by exposure through social bookmarking and other social media activity.
Industry presence: listings in industry-specific directories, trade show sponsorships, industry association memberships and other similar industry presence links can lead directly to referral site traffic or build brand recognition that leads to direct visits.
Offline Drivers of Direct Visits
Face to face meetings and other “business card events”: the most prominent source of these direct visits is trade shows, but other venues may include Tweetups, conferences at which a company executive or subject matter expert speaks, social media breakfasts or happy hours, business networking events or anywhere a representative of your company is able to give out or exchange business cards with prospective buyers.
Printed media: yes, people do still use media like print advertising, direct mail and sales collateral. In fact, in a crowded online world, a well-crafted direct mail piece can make your company stand out–your prospects’ “real” mailboxes today are likely far less crowded than their email inboxes. An ad in an actual printed publication, a clever direct mail piece (more creative than a simple letter or postcard), or even a leave-behind or brochure handed out at a trade show can often lead to a “direct” website visit.
Old-fashioned word of mouth (WOM): while so much attention today is lavished on social media marketing (and not unrightly so necessarily), the fact is–people still talk. Particularly at the executive level. Whether at a breakfast, mixer, phone call, golf outing, conference or other event, executives and subject matter experts talk. If you’ve captured their interest and are relevant to someone else’s needs, your name is likely to come up. There’s no way to measure the effect precisely, but equally no doubt it affects those direct visit figures.
The segment of direct traffic worth optimizing for is of course prospective buyers. While it’s impossible to separate out this group with precision, it is possible to quantify and analyze the behavior of this group roughly be creating a custom segment in Google Analytics that excludes certain pages more likely to be visited by non-prospects (e.g., the media page, careers pages, and support area of the site) and known customers based on their network name.
Optimizing for direct traffic then requires a mix of online and offline tactics. Utilize best practices in social media marketing and online PR. Be active in industry groups, trade shows, conferences and local events where you can meet people in real life. And considering that paper production is actually up 180% in the past five years, don’t completely over traditional marketing channels like trade media advertising and direct mail.
Social media marketing has gone well beyond the hype stage and is now mainstream business practice. Still, questions remain: how do I use social media most effectively across the enterprise? Which social media monitoring tools should I use? What should I monitor for? How do I use my time and resources most effectively? What social media developments and trends should I be watching?
And of course, there’s the ongoing social media ROI debate: how do I measure this? Can social media ROI really be measured? Influential voices like Olivier Blanchard and Jacquie McCarnan present formulas and methods for ROI calculation, while Steve Goldman contends that social media ROI can’t be measured in isolation, and Jackie Cohen reports that more than a third of CMOs still have no idea whether or not social media marketing is producing any ROI.
What to do? Read on for answers to these questions and more from some of the best minds in social media in some of their best blog posts and articles of 2011 so far.
Social Media Strategy and Best Practices
9 Ways B2B Companies Can Use Location Based Services by Social Media B2B
The always-insightful Adam Holden-Bache contends that location-based services like Foursquare aren’t just for consumer marketers, and supplies ideas on how B2B marketers can capitalize such as through partnerships with non-competitive local businesses, incentives and rewards, and in event marketing (“Are you seeing a lot of your contacts attending certain business events? Whether it’s a local tweet-up or a major conference, this knowledge could be useful to help you plan what events you should sponsor or where you should set up your next booth”).
Is Social Media Really Living Up to Expectations? by B2B Lead Roundtable Blog
Brian Carroll talks with MECLABS Director of Research Sergio Balegno about the disconnect between social media activity and results in the B2B environment, and concludes that “marketers are expecting way too much too soon.” Social media adoption on both the buyer and vendor side is happening with incredible speed; the tools that we’ve developed to track other web marketing activities haven’t kept pace. As social media monitoring and integration with CRM systems improves, marketers will have the metrics and analytical tools to more accurately assess the value of various social media efforts and continually improve them.
The B2B Social Media Landscape: a portrait by Beyond
***** 5 STARS
The social media approach that nobody wants to hear by Hugo Guzman
Hugo Guzman explains the importance of listening and planning before jumping into social media (failures also noted previously here in the dirty dozen top 12 social media mistakes to avoid). He lists nine steps its imperative for companies to take in order to “build enough social karma (yes, I said karma) to facilitate things like guest posting opportunities, retweets, likes, etc.”
19 Social Media Best Practices [VIDEO] by Social Media Explorer
30 Ways to Use Social Media for Business People by SEOptimise
Citing a recent study showing that “94% of businesses actually do not use social media even for the most obvious task it’s good for: Getting feedback”–and another demonstrating that those businesses are less competitive–Tad Chef supplies a list of 30 ways businesses can use social media, among them to get feedback, get attention, debunk myths, forge relationships and build links.
5 ways to use social media to build a crowd for your event by Socialbrite
Tamara Mendelsohn of Eventbrite details five guiding principles for promoting events, including choose the right platform, publish your event to Facebook, and “define success metrics and don’t underestimate the effort required.”
Organizing Your Social Media Strategy by CompuKol Connection
Influence in social media: how to find the top bloggers by blur Group
The most underestimated social media asset by iMediaConnection
Noting that “the proper framework of enablement and empowerment can turn a company’s workforce into the most effective means of advancing the goals of the business through social media,” Lori Luechtefeld details IBM’s experience with transforming its business be empowering employees to actively engage as part of the company’s social media strategy.
It’s Not Your CEO’s Fault He’s a Social Media Moron by Social Media Today
Expand Your Social Media Mix: Twitter Alone is Not Enough by Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang
***** 5 STARS
Deftly weaving in a dinner analogy to social media, Jeremiah Owyang compares Twitter to shish-kabob (bite-sized morsels of information) that are tasty but need to be supplemented by “steak”–infographics, Slideshare presentations, blog posts–and topped off with online video for dessert.
26 Ways to Use Social Media for Lead Generation by Social Media Examiner
***** 5 STARS
Debbie Hemley compiles another brilliant A to Z post, this one focused on using social media for lead generation. Her list of tactics begins with Assets, Branding and Compelling messages and continues all the way through Word of mouth, eXcellence, adopting a Yes attitude, and demonstrating Zeal in your social media activities and relationship building.
Social Media Tools
10 Steps to Finding the Influencers in Your Market by Junta42
***** 5 STARS
The brilliant Joe Pulizzi details 10 steps for finding and cultivating relationships with the key influencers in your market space. For each step, he identifies the overall strategy, useful tools, and helpful tips for execution.
9 Social Networks Your Business Should Be Using by Likeable Media
The Social Media Strategists Power Tools [Consumption] by NewCommBiz
Social Media and Online Video
9 new rules for YouTube marketing by iMedia Connection
Greg Jarboe lists nine helpful rules for video marketing, such as “Rule 1: YouTube marketing is the new video marketing…YouTube gets more than 86 percent of visits to 77 video sites in this country.” (Hulu, at #2, gets less than 4% of visits.) And “Rule 2: You can’t make it on YouTube alone…even with close to 2.0 billion out of the nearly 5.2 billion viewing sessions in the U.S., only 38 percent of all viewing sessions occurred at YouTube.com…45.13 percent of viewers discovered videos by going to a video site (i.e., going to YouTube and running a search or clicking around the featured or related videos). But 44.24 percent of viewers discovered videos embedded on blogs or other websites.”
Social media: Adding video to your digital marketing plan by SignOn San Diego
Erik Bratt expounds on the popularity of video marketing (“video capability was the fastest-growing website feature for small-business advertisers in 2009, with one in five hosting website video by the end of the year”) and the different types of videos businesses can consider using, including screencasts, customer testimonials and video email.
7 Little Known Tricks That Will Get You More YouTube Views by SocialTimes
Social Media Case Studies
The Fantabulous Lists of Social Media Case Studies by Social Media Today
Looking for examples of social media success to emulate? Giedrius Ivanauskas supplies 17 lists of social media case studies such as WOMMA’s Case Study Library and 35+ Examples of Corporate Social Media in Action from Mashable.
B2B Social Media Example: GE MarkNet by Social Media B2B
Social Media Trends and Predictions
2011 Trends: Make Your Corporate Site A Social Media Hub by Business 2 Community
Pam Moore outlines a dozen ways companies can fail at social media marketing, from not understanding the social media “ecosystem” for their industry or hiring the wrong consultant/agency for help to assuming social media will fix a broken business (it’s won’t–it will expose it) and having unrealistic expectations in general.
Social media: What lies ahead? by iMedia Connection
Shelly Palmer predicts that Facebook will face increased competition from better tools, that smart phones will continue to advance and account for a higher share of online traffic, and more in this 11-minute video.
Are These Social Media Trends of 2011 Part of Your Strategy? by Social Media Today
It is the structure of social networks that shapes influence… and the structure is changing by Trends in the Living Networks
Ross Dawson delves into the concept of influence networks to explain why some tweets go viral and others don’t, noting that this is a rapidly evolving area and that research shows “professional blogs are the most influential news media in sports and the second most influential media in politics and national news, while personal blogs are the most influential in entertainment and the second most influential in technology. In general the influence of blogs tends to decay more slowly than other media.”
Social Media Policies and Regulation
10 Steps to Managing Employees on Social Media by Write Speak Sell
**** 5 STARS
Noting that “Well-written (social media) policies prevent public relations disasters and potential legal liability. In addition, when done properly, they also create environments that foster productivity and loyalty among employees,” Kyle-Beth Hilfer provides an outstanding 10-step list to use as a guide in writing a social media policy.
Social Media Policy Unites Social Media Initiatives by Social Media Today
Going down the same path as Who Should Write Your Social Media Policy?, Tim McCord emphasizes the need to create a team when crafting a social media policy and selecting monitoring tools.
NLRB Says Companies Can Not Discipline Workers For Posts in Social Media by iMedia Connection
In news that every company needs to hear thought most likely don’t want to, Chris Boudreaux reports on a recent case wherein the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that “companies can not discipline workers who post criticisms on social-networking sites.” Chris concludes with: “This clarification by the NLRB is a big deal for a lot of companies in the United States.” Indeed it is.
Social Media and SEO
Why social media optimization is the new SEO by iMedia Connection
Noting that many people now “receive the majority of their news on Twitter or via posts on Facebook and LinkedIn before resorting to a Google search on any given topic…How many times have you seen an article posted on Facebook or Twitter that has either made you click on it, or urged you to suddenly search about the topic? It’s a fascinating process,” Dennis Franczak explains why social media optimization (SMO) is now taking center stage in online marketing and how to go about it successfully.
Jennifer Sable Lopez offers a nine-step checklist to making social media activities SEO-friendly, such as incorporating keyword research and making sure your content is easily sharable across the most popular social networks. She uses the word campaign unfortunately, but otherwise it’s a helpful post.
Why Not Be The CMO Of Everyone? by MediaPost Search Insider
***** 5 STARS
Writing that “every person in an enterprise is potentially an authentic, invested content producer, networker or influencer. Very often, employees in large enterprises are actively evangelizing their brands or products and no one in the home office even realizes it,” Derek Gordon advises CMOs to solicit content from the broadest possible array of contributors within an organization in order to develop more valuable, search-optimized copy.
Social Media Monitoring
20 free, awesome social media monitoring tools by Socialbrite
Top 20 social media monitoring vendors for business by Socialmedia.biz
J.D. Lasica and Kim Bale review 20 powerful fee-based tools for professional social media monitoring, among them Radian6, Lithium, Alterian SM2 and Attentio. For guidance on how to evaluate these tools, check out 9 Criteria for Selecting a Social Media Monitoring Tool.
Top 10 analytics tools for social media by iMedia Connection
Pam Sahota provides helpful mini-reviews of 20 free social media monitoring tools worth checking out, from Twilerts and Backtype through Proxlet (which, among other features, helpfully filters out those annoying Foursquare checkin tweets) and Trendrr.
Social Media Dashboards by CompuKol Connection
Neil Glassman raises a number of questions to help focus social media monitoring activities (e.g.,”Does your query language mesh with your consumers’ language? Or is it industry language?”) then makes three key recommendations to help organizations really get value out of social media monitoring.
Social Media Metrics and ROI
6 Critically Undervalued Social Media Success Metrics by Convince & Convert
Jay Baer details the half-dozen social media metrics and tools he views as the most meaningful yet undervalued, from the Klout scores of your Twitter followers (rather than just number of followers) to share of voice and inbound links.
Social media metrics: 5 things to learn in 2011 by Ragan.com
Social Media Strategists Look Hard at ROI this Year by eMarketer
According to research from The Altimeter Group, “when it came to social media programs, 82% of respondents reported they would be investing in brand monitoring in 2011, while 77% cited staff budgets and 78% training budgets…Creating ROI measurements tops the list of internal social strategy objectives for 2011, with 48.3% of respondents highlighting that goal.”
3 Ways social media market research can impact your business by ListenLogic
Noting that “Market research is now beginning to leverage social media in a revolutionary way that provides insights and impact across the organization,” Chris Karnes explains how social media listening can be used to measure marketing campaign effectiveness, drive purchasing decisions and inspire product innovation.
6 Buckets of Social Media Measurement by Take a Peck
Jason Peck details six “buckets” of metrics companies should use to evaluate the success of various social media initiatives, including business metrics, awareness (e.g. website traffic, searches for brand terms) and engagement (Facebook likes, blog comments, retweets, etc.).
Social Media ROI for Idiots by Social Media Today
Hmm, not to sure about the title of this post, as idiots are unlikely to get social media ROI. Or even to get social media for that matter. But regardless, Jacquie McCarnan helpfully provides several different formulas for calculating social media ROI, based on different factors such as qualified leads, employee retention, and customer engagement.
Measuring the Stages of the Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel by SocialSteve’s Blog
***** 5 STARS
Contending that social media ROI can’t be measured in isolation, Steve Goldner recommends instead measuring its contribution to the business through key performance indicators (KPIs) including awareness, consideration, loyalty and advocacy. His brilliant “Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel” graphic makes the post worth a look in itself.
Social Media ROI business measurement by Slideshare
***** 5 STARS
Social Media Research, Facts and Statistics
Gordon MacMillan reports on research from McKinsey showing that “companies that are starting to do it (social media marketing) well are being rewarded for their efforts (e.g., with higher operating margins and market share). More than that, it says those that fail to implement social media could be making a ‘critical mistake.’” He also shares four key steps McKinsey suggests executives should take to move their organizations forward.
Chris Boudreaux cites a study concluding that nearly 9 in 10 large-company CEOs believe social media is important to their business strategies, and that “43% of CEOs say they will ‘significantly change’ their strategies in the next three years to respond to customers’ increased use of social media and mobile devices.”
STUDY: Return On Investment In Facebook Eludes CMOs by All Facebook
Jackie Cohen summarizes and comments on a recent Bazaarvoice / CMO Club showing that “Nine out of every ten Chief Marketing Officers participate in at least three forms of social media promotions, yet many don’t know whether these efforts yield a return on investment…(while) 15.4 percent have a significant return on investment and 20.6 percent have an average return…34.9 percent said they don’t know whether they have an ROI, and 8.6 percent have none.”
How much does Social Media cost companies in 2011? by MackCollier.com
***** 5 STARS
Mack Collier very helpfully provides social media consultants, and companies looking to hire them, with pricing benchmarks for common types of projects. For example, ghostwritten blog posts cost anywhere from $50 to $500 per post, with most providers charging $100-$250.
According to a recent presentation from HubSpot, “selling is 10X easier once you have established trust.” Other than having something of value to offer, trust is the most essential element for business success. It removes psychological barriers and objections to buying, and makes people want to do business with you because they are comfortable.
I was talking to a client not long ago about some travel she has coming up that will take her away from the office for several weeks. Half-jokingly, I told her not to worry, I can build her business without her. She laughed, then said, “You know what’s amazing? Even though we’ve only been working together for a few months, I completely trust you to do it.”
That is amazing, and it is treasured. Particularly for consultants like me who work mostly out of sight of our clients, but really for any business, trust is absolutely essential to maintaining long-term client relationships and generating referral business.
Trust is precious yet delicate, like a work of fine art, such as a Ming vase:
- • It’s extremely valuable.
- • It’s difficult to obtain.
- • It’s fragile and easily broken.
- • Once broken, it’s extraordinarily difficult to repair.
But trust is unlike that vase in one critical aspect. Once you’ve obtained a Ming vase (or any other physical thing of value), assuming you take reasonable steps to safeguard it, it’s yours. Trust, on the other hand, can never be taken for granted and must be constantly and vigilantly re-earned. It cannot be, like civilization in the words of Kipling, something “laboriously achieved” but only “precariously defended.”
Most high-value purchases now begin online. Your first opportunity to build trust comes from what you say online and what others say about you. That’s why blogging is important (as a way to educate, inform and even entertain, without blatant selling) as is social media (for answering questions and building online relationships that lead to positive third-party coverage and comments).
But the process of building trust is even more fundamental than that. Blogs and social networks are just tools. They can be used productively, or clumsily. What matters most is your approach to business.
Before the Sale
- • Explain (without hype or a sales pitch) what you do, so people understand if you are offering what they are looking for.
- • Demonstrate knowledge (through blogging, guest posts, comments, interaction on social networks, presentations, etc.).
- • Differentiate yourself, with disparaging your competition. Walmart (“Always the Low Price”) and Lexus (“The Pursuit of Perfection”) are effective examples in the consumer world. The agency I work with, KC Associates, is a full service marketing and PR agency (of which there are zillions) but focused exclusively on b2b technology clients; the focus sets the agency apart.
- • Be transparent. Buyers can smell BS from a great distance. Better to give an answer that is less than ideal but honest than one that is just what you think the prospect wants to hear but is an exaggeration (or worse).
After the Sale
- • Do what you say you are going to do.
- • Be as responsive as possible.
- • Set realistic expectations (then work hard to exceed them).
- • Be forthright. Your customers don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do you expect you to be straight with them. If something doesn’t work as well as planned, tell your customer, as precisely as possible, why. Then make recommendations for what to do differently next time.
Particularly with the explosion of social media and online content, buyers are more informed than ever before. The shady, fly-by-night operators will be exposed more quickly—while vendors who deliver value and engender trust will thrive.