May 3, 2016
Optimal social media marketing strategies are a lot more involved than simply showcasing your brand. Content is key and targeted marketing, when applied to its greatest advantage, will incorporate what we know about the sales cycle to help you achieve maximum results.
Every brand and business needs to have a well-defined social media marketing strategy in order to compete and succeed in today’s marketplace. A growing number of transactions are generated and seen through to completion via digital channels and online shopping is becoming increasingly popular. In 2015, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to 1.67 trillion US dollars. In 2018, that figure is projected to grow to 3.02 trillion US dollars.
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It’s very easy to leverage some of this sales success for your business. All you need is a clever social media strategy. Once you have that in place, you can use targeted content within that strategy to drive more sales and achieve your business goals!
The sales cycle, or the buying cycle, describes the process between identifying a potential customer and having them complete a transaction. In other words, it’s a process by which leads are captured and nurtured.
Market research shows that half of all leads generated are not immediately ready to purchase; with clever marketing, these leads are nurtured and encouraged to complete the process.
The sales cycle, or buying cycle, comprises the following stages for the consumer:
The consumer first gains awareness of your product or service. This is usually achieved via word of mouth, product placement, advertising or a targeted search on the part of the consumer.
Otherwise known as a selection process. With a vast array of products and services to choose from, consumers explore their options to come to a personal preference and closer to a decision about whether they will buy and which product or service they will choose.
This is the most extensive phase of the buying process for consumers. The product or service they have chosen will be validated in a number of ways:
Consumers educate themselves about the product, how they intend to use it, and how it will work for them. This may be achieved via watching YouTube videos, for example, or exploring company websites.
In other words, approval of friends, family, and colleagues. This is where the power of branding comes to the fore. Particularly for those consumers who are brand-driven, approval can be based on the brand alone rather than the pros or cons of the product itself.
By reading online ratings and reviews, consumers gain further validation that the product that interests them is right for them. Positive online reviews are a powerful driver in the sales process for everything from cars to books, and even for considerations such as customer service. Reviews can make or break a sale.
Here the consumer is ready to finalize their purchase. It needs to be easy for them to do so! Once a purchase has been completed, the way is paved for future sales and further leads to be generated.
Social media helps a business or brand to drive sales by engaging with consumers earlier in the sales cycle, as well as by fostering, maintaining and growing consumer-brand relationships. It’s also very valuable for demonstrating a brand’s insight into the market and who its customers are.
Research has shown that 87 per cent of B2B customers research both products and services on social media before making their final decision. 20 years ago having a website was the benchmark for a legitimate organization; today, having a social media presence is crucial and businesses are judged on how their brand is presented online.
It’s not enough to simply set up some accounts on social media networks and expect to instantly start generating leads and closing sales. All the followers, likes, comments and shares in the world aren’t going to translate to profits for your brand unless you capitalize on this engagement!
So how can you do this?
When you bridge the gap between the consumer, the social media platform and the sales cycle process, the value of social media marketing is enhanced.
In the grand scheme of things, relatively few purchases are made based purely on social media posts. So what’s the point?
Social selling is simply an additional tool you can use to expose the needs and wants of your customer, show value in your product, give your brand identity and exposure, and differentiate your brand from the pack.
For the vendor, the selling process is a little more involved than it is for the consumer:
All of these steps can be enhanced via your brand’s social media channels. The idea is to capture your lead and guide them through the sales process to completion. Ideally, they will then leave positive feedback and help generate new leads.
The traditional sales model involved generating leads and funneling them through the process to closure of the sale. In today’s digital age, the customer-decision journey has changed, to a cycle of experiencing, advocating, consideration, evaluation and buying, with bonding with the brand being a very important step. The consumer is so much more in control.
So how can you use your social media presence to complete the sales cycle? Through considered and effective content.
The approach to content has to be based on the stages of the sales cycle. You need to provide content that is applicable to the stage of the process the buyer is in. This means providing posts that incorporate each and every stage.
Content should be light, concise yet informative, appealing and eye catching to generate leads. It should be relevant to your industry as opposed to a specific product. It shows consumers that they need what you are selling. Content may include videos, infographics, images, tips or blog posts – all with the purpose of increasing engagement!
Your leads are now aware of your brand and product. Content should showcase the advantages of the product, as well as the disadvantages of not having it. Build brand credibility via valuable content – links to informative blog posts, for example. Post surveys, ask questions, run polls and ask for feedback: The aim is to encourage engagement and response.
Reinforce the benefits of your product. Include comparisons, free trials or prize giveaways. Events can be very effective as well. Consumer-generated content can be extremely effective and this all contributes to brand familiarity.
Include reviews, success stories, tips for use, testimonials, etc. Engage with your followers to create a personal relationship. Thank them for their purchase and where appropriate, up sell.
Encourage loyalty and repeat purchasing. Ask for feedback and show that you value your customers’ opinions. Reward continued loyalty in a tangible way. Reward for referrals and respond to all requests for customer support via social media.
An engaged audience will visit your social media profiles more, share them with others, and remember your brand when the time comes to buy.
Great social media storytelling will identify and sharpen your brand’s identity to delineate it from your competition and improve your bottom line. It builds a relationship with the consumer. So choose a relatable and coherent message to deliver to your target audience, be creative in how this message is conveyed and select the social media storytelling platform that works for your brand. Use words, images, sound bites and videos. Be authentic, universal, and clear and enjoy telling your story!
Social media’s influence has sky-rocketed over the past few years. It’s time to get on the bandwagon and learn how to use it to your advantage. If you’re a B2B marketer, LinkedIn should be your go to platform, for example. We can show you how to create and execute a social media strategy tailored to the needs and objectives of your business here.
To an extent, the process will be trial and error when you first begin, and learning from your mistakes is a valuable and important part of that. Apply the above mentioned guidelines to your own social media engagement strategy and track what works best for you and your brand. The very best social media marketing strategy will facilitate high levels of audience engagement and generate meaningful, measurable results. Before you know it, you’ll be a social selling pro! Learn how to make more sales faster and easier using social selling techniques.
About Adam Houlahan
Adam is the author of Social Media Secret Sauce & CEO of Web Traffic That Works. His aim is to help you create a powerful online presence that grows and accelerates your global foot print.For valuable social media strategy insights, you can connect with Adam on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter.