A while ago I wrote an article about how „brands“ relate to „sales“ in social media marketing. But talking to some entrepreneurs and business owners about social media marketing I realized that there is a gap in the conception of social media marketing and sales.
Either people want to do direct sales like a social media post „here is my product, buy it“ and then measure how much money they made from it– or they do not understand why they need social media marketing at all – because the relationship between social media marketing and „sales“ is not clear.
People who do not instantly see the benefits of social media marketing have a hard time to understand why it is good for their business to invest in building an audience, to increase brand awareness, and to build trust with their audience. And I admit that I often struggle to explain the benefits of social media marketing to people who are not aware of the benefits of social media for their brand.
Because sales is a process and not an event.
Understanding the benefits of NOT selling in social media is based on understanding the complete process of „sales“.
For lack of understanding the sales process, I often see business owners turning to advertising – and lose a ton of money with it. Because even with Facebook advertising it rarely is as simple as having an ad saying „buy my product“.
Advertising promises an easy relationship between „invest x$ and get yy$ out of it“. But the hard truth is that this equation will often not yield the best results if you try to use it as a short cut instead of seeing the advertising as part of the complete sales process.
A buying decision rarely comes on the spur of the moment (if it is not us women buying a pair of shoes).
Whether you generate awareness via social media marketing or ads – the conversion rate will suck if you fail to build relationships and trust.
Most buying decisions take time to mature.
Selling starts with interest, maybe even need. But the buying decision comes later:
- after some comparison with other offers
- after gathering more information on the offering party
- often it needs a reminder that there is an offer
- trust helps immensely
- and other factors like scarcity, endorsements or customer reviews increase your chances
And that is what a good sales process takes into account. And that is also where social media marketing may go a long way towards not feeling and tasting like sales at all.
A good sales process takes control of the branding, trust building and maturing! And social media marketing can play an important role in the sales process – but it is only one step in the process.
The Social Media Sales Process
Image Source: Slideshare of Carla Gates
Let me tell you a secret: All our great blog posts are part of our sales process. Do you feel sold to when you consume them? I hope not.
We try to be helpfull with the content we provide. The salesy blog posts are rare on our blog. We only do them when we have are launching a new offer. The aim of the blog is to provide value – but one reason that we do it is because these posts „sell“. They are part of the sales process. And we have to make a living, too.
Social Media Channels
The same goes for our social media channels. You will have a hard time finding sales speak on our Twitter or Facebook accounts. It may be one in a couple of hundreds of tweets where we directly speak about one of our products. And you will never hear us shouting out post after post about buying our stuff.
That is simply not how selling with social media works.
Still, our social media channels are part of our sales funnel as well. We use them to generate traffic to our blog posts by sharing links to the blog posts. And hopefully, you „like“ what you get on the social media channels, because that is what we aim at. We earn your attention on our social media channels by providing value and information that you WANT TO HAVE.
And that is how it should be: If you don’t provide value on your social media accounts, why should people follow you on social media and listen to you?
But, if social media marketing is about providing value, where do you make sales?
Creating content, posting on social media, generating traffic to the content: it is all part of the sales process. Getting people to your website is a very important step in this process.
And now, when you have people on your website it is up to you how to pursue: You can either let them see your products directly on your website, or you can keep providing value and tighten the relationship.
Nurturing and Building Trust
The first time a visitor comes to your website is often not the point where you can turn him/her into a customer. Even on your website, your sales process is not over. You want to make sure that you can keep in touch with your visitors and nurture the relationship. A first time visitor will often not trust you enough to buy – so make him come back and keep building the trust until the time is right to close the deal.
Image Source: LinkedIn Pulse
Taking Control Of your Lead Nurturing
Some lead nurturing and trust building can be done with social media if you provide enough value. If people listen to you on social media and get a ton of value out of following you, they will start trusting you. But „reach“ comes into the game here: No social media post will reach all people from your audience and it is extremely hard (or rather almost impossible) to control who sees your social media updates and who does not.
So you have two options here: either you repeat your (sales) message on your social channels until you most likely reached everyone from your audience – and risk destroying your hard earned reputation as being valuable instead of promotional. Or you take your sales efforts to another channel, where you have more control over who and how many people from your audience see your sales message and only repeat the message to the part of your audience that you want to repeat it to.
That is where your email list comes into the sales game. And your email list is where most of your sales will happen.
Building an Email List
A simple signup form is the first step towards turning your social media audience into email subscribers. The shared content will bring your social media audience to your content and there you can ask them to subscribe.
The advantage of email subscribers over social media audience is that you have a lot more control over them: You can see who opened your emails, who clicked on links you shared. You can also see who already got a sales message and who did not. You have control over your sales message and who you reach.
Social Media Marketing is a small part of the process
But the part is important. Social Media marketing is where you can scale this sales process as social media allows you to reach a huge amount of people and build an audience without necessarily spending more money on reaching this audience.
And the secret to social media marketing success is to let it be part of the sales process without making it taste and smell like sales. Promotional messages and sales speak rarely spread like wildfire – value does. And that is why being valuable can tremendously increase your sales!