Social Selling: LinkedIn for Sales Prospecting – Part One

Social Selling: LinkedIn for Sales Prospecting – Part One

 

 

Yesterday I was giving a full day Advanced Workshop/Presentation to the Sales Institute of Ireland on Social Selling Through LinkedIn.  It was being run in the absolutely gorgeous newly renovated rooms in the National Concert Hall in Dublin.  Lots of light, huge airy room, massive screen, great coffee and pastries and then I had to teach Top Sales People with enormous monthly quotas how to Sell through #LinkedIn.

Here is my problem – I have been training companies for years in how to use LinkedIn through NOT selling!

However, I am so convinced of the power of doing business through LinkedIn that I decided to bring that knowledge to the table and turn it slightly on its ear. So, instead of “Selling” we worked on how to focus on warm introductions and recommendations and on how to get these prospects to arrive in your sales funnel at a much higher lever than the normal entry point. Here’s a little bit of what we covered.

People Do Business with People

It is human nature to chat, hang out or even do business with people you can personally connect with. Research shows B2B decision-makers count their interactions with salespeople as the major determinant of whom they choose – more than product quality, brand reputation and pricing combined! That means that if you, as the sales person, can give your buyer a personal hook to connect with you’re already ahead of the game.

I asked all the participants to tell me a bit about themselves at the start of the course yesterday. No one had ever met before. Everyone told me who they worked for, their title and what their company was famous for supplying. I asked each one again “Anything else you want to tell us?” Again, they told me the company had been operating for X years and employed X number of people. I was nearly dying inside!

Finally someone told me they were building a house… The room erupted…  “Oh My God It;’s SO stressful!” “Do you have a good electrician?” “Where are you getting your bathroom?” “My brother has just finished here’s what he learned” “Here;s the number of a great painter”…. We had noise and conversations and numbers being exchanged.  Simply because there was a Personal Hook people could easily relate to. How easy was that? We were having conversations, advice and information were being exchanged, everyone was engaged.

Now… How is that any different to LinkedIn? You MUST create Conversations, Exchange Information and Advice and Be Engaged! That is the core to any successful Sales Funnel. Give me something to connect with, show me some personality in your copy, some flair.  That personal engagement will ensure that you are personally connected to your contact. That in turn means that they will come to you for information and advice, engage with your posted content and become the solution to their problems.

There are many ways you can do that on LinkedIn.  The first, is to ensure your profile and the Summary piece especially are full of personality, watch your voice in your writing. You want them to be able to hear you speak when they read your Summary.  They’ll only read the first couple of lines though (no time!) so make sure it is clear – What you do, who you serve and your value to them. All in the first 3 lines of your summary.

It is NOT a CV, do not mention that you’re experienced, motivated, a team player, self starter… these are all taken for granted now. Make yourself Stand Out. Show Passion. Tell Stories!

Make sure that you know very specifically who you are selling to, what their worries are and what solution they will value from you. Then fill the rest of your (2000 characters) summary with Keywords (Google Adwords, Tools – Keyword Planner) scripted into your key messages aimed at that specific audience with those specific problems (see below for campaigns). Don’t forget to put in a recommendation here. Use all the space. Show your personality!

I often change my summary depending on the specific work campaign Redstorm is running. So, I am often working to attract different target audiences with a different set of values. SMEs looking for an internal Marketing Department, websites and branding; Bluechips looking for LinkedIn Training or Personal Branding for their top tier executives –  I advise everyone to open and save a word/pages document and spend time writing a couple of headlines and summaries based on their main key targets so it’s then easy to switch between them depending on your business focus at the time.  I’m not suggesting you appear psychotic! Just tweaking the message and keywords to appear in different search results is incredibly effective.

The very first piece of real estate anyone sees in LinkedIn is your cover graphic and photo.  So why did everyone bar one yesterday have the LinkedIn blue graphic? You need to Stand Out – Change the graphic! Use Canva to design a header graphic with your company colours and message of the month or campaign message on it. Change it regularly! Here’s mine:

 

Social Selling LinkedIn

 

It makes it really easy to see what I do.  I have a clear smiling photo that shows my personality – you get a feeling for what it would be like to meet me face-to-face.

The next piece of real estate and one of the most high powered search areas in LinkedIn is your header.  People have an awful habit of putting their title here.  But that just means you’ll show up when a sales person wants to sell into “Business Development Managers”… Why not use this to give a shot of what you deliver? Keyword heaven!!! It doesn’t have to read well; it has to tell your potential connection what you will bring to the table. It has to tell the search engines to show you in their results. Be creative!

Can you see the difference between me putting “Marketing Strategy, Communications, Social Media, Digital Strategist, LinkedIn, Branding, Entrepreneur, Keynote Speaker” versus “CEO Redstorm”?

In Part Two of this “Social Selling – Linkedin for Sales Prospecting” I’ll be looking at how to successfully engage and create Great Conversations across the platform.

 

If you’re having any difficulty with your own profile give me a bell on 087 2476600 and we can chat it through!

 

 

Why LinkedIn Should Be Your First Port of Call For B2B Marketing

Why LinkedIn Should Be Your First Port of Call For B2B Marketing

LinkedIn is often overlooked in B2B marketing campaigns – but that may be a missed opportunity

Salesforce: Linkedin officesPhotograph: Bloomberg

Samsung’s launch of the Galaxy Note 2 “phablet” (a mobile phone of near-tablet size) at the beginning of this year made great use of LinkedIn, the professional networking site which is often overlooked in consumer marketing campaigns.

The mobile phone giant created a microsite and invited visitors to sign in with their LinkedIn membership profiles. They were then encouraged to share their thoughts about the phablet with their LinkedIn connections, enabling Samsung to reach a global audience of 20 million people. Samsung’s director of social media marketing, Andy Hwang, points to LinkedIn’s ability to precisely target audiences, adding: “It provided a platform for driving word of mouth and shifting perceptions among consumers worldwide.”

Since its launch 10 years ago, LinkedIn has become the first port of call for businesses wanting to use social media for B2B marketing, staff recruitment and disseminating industry information. But it comes low down the list of social platforms that brands consider for marketing to consumers, a situation the company is seeking to remedy.

Its 239 million members worldwide tend to spend less time on the site compared with users of Facebook and Twitter, but LinkedIn’s members are there for serious reasons. They are less likely to lie in their profiles and they visit the site to enhance their position in the world.

With 3m company pages, the marketing potential seems huge. LinkedIn’s marketing solutions division accounts for about a quarter of the company’s revenues, recruitment account for more than half of revenues, while subscriptions make up about a fifth. In the second quarter of this year, the marketing unit’s profits grew 36% on the 2012 period to over $85m (£54m).

Josh Graff, head of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions across Europe, says this shows that advertising on LinkedIn “is truly coming of age”. He adds: “The platform has changed. People used to think of it just as a place to secure a new job. But six times more impressions flow from people seeking information about companies than those specifically looking for a new job.

“More and more consumer brands such as Samsung and Mercedes are going on LinkedIn every day because they can target our members who are affluent, educated and influential and have a high disposable income.” He says that a third of visits to the site come via mobile, up from a fifth a year ago.

Paul Armstrong at Digital Orange Consulting points to figures from digital analysts ComScore, which show that the 9.4 million unique UK visitors to LinkedIn in July were evenly spread across the age groups. But the site has an above-average proportion of high-income visitors. While nearly 6 million had incomes under £50,000 a year, 3.5 million earned in excess of 50K, according to ComScore. “People are getting to understand that it is a controlled space, there’s not a lot of noise going on there and it is a simple eco-system. It is becoming a hub for high-quality business information,” he says.

LinkedIn has recently introduced Sponsored Updates, where businesses can pay to ensure their posts appear in the news feeds of members, who they can target using a range of criteria.

Graff says this enables brands to promote new and relevant information, such as white papers, research and infographics, particularly important for companies seeking to build their reputations for thought leadership on business issues. This helps the site’s B2B marketing strategy, positioning it as a resource for anyone in business who wants advice, data and contacts.

Computer giant HP uses LinkedIn to target small businesses through its Business Answers page, where firms can discuss areas of interest such as tax. Rebecca Shears, head of marketing for printing and personal systems at HP, says: “We had research which showed that more and more small businesses are turning to social media and are looking for peer-to-peer advice, so we launched the hub two years ago. Now we’ve got over 9,000 members. The main reason we are doing it is to position HP as a brand that supports businesses.” She says members of the LinkedIn page are 20% more likely to recommend HP products than the average population.

Though the LinkedIn page is free for HP to run, the computer giant supports it with advertising. Shears says that if HP doesn’t buy the ads, rival companies will.

Of course, B2B marketing also has a consumer spin off. Vodafone UK’s business division uses LinkedIn to promote its Your Better Business website, which offers information and advice to business people. Helen Moon, head of Enterprise Brand at Vodafone UK, says LinkedIn is a powerful platform for disseminating business information. She adds: “There is a definite halo effect for consumers on LinkedIn. Business people are also consumers so they absorb information which shapes their personal and professional opinions.”

In truth, all the social media sites are works in progress for marketing, says Leo Ryan, head of Ogilvy@Social. “LinkedIn certainly is not a natural place for consumer marketing,” he adds. “Though that’s not to say you can’t do something innovative there. Facebook’s billion-strong membership is a hard number to ignore, so it is the default site for brands, while Twitter can have such an impact on the news cycle. LinkedIn is behind Instagram for consumer campaigns. But if B2B’s your thing, it is the first stop.”

LinkedIn’s share price is soaring in the US. Investors seem to like LinkedIn’s argument that the site’s users go there for serious reasons and that this offers brands strong marketing potential.

Article Originally Appeared:  By David Benady in The Guardian – Wednesday 11 September 2013

 
How to Maximize the Reach of Your Social Media Posts

How to Maximize the Reach of Your Social Media Posts

One of the most pressing questions whether you’re a social media newbie or a social media maven is: What’s the best way to post information or share content to optimize your reach?

A study was recently conducted with more than 200 companies to determine how social media professionals may optimise their engagement with both business-to-business and business-to-consumer conversations.

Researchers evaluated numerous factors such as the number of words in a post, the time of the posting, the day of the week as well as punctuation and the usage of hashtags.

As with many communications and marketing tactics, the answer depends entirely on the targeted audience.

how to maximise the reach of your social mediaThe key finding:  Mondays and Wednesdays are the best days to post on Twitter if you want to reach consumers. For LinkedIn, Monday is your best day.

But if you want to reach other businesses, Tweet on Wednesday and post to LinkedIn on Sunday.

And what about the use of hashtags? Hashtags are best saved for business-to-business-oriented posts but don’t work nearly as well if consumers are your target.

The biggest surprise for me was that the use of questions marks significantly minimizes your click-through rates between 25 and 52 percent as compared to posts without questionmarks.


Check out this infographic for details on how to maximize your social sharing efforts.  It’s an Eye Opener!

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Are you designing and  scheduling your social media for real results or do you need a hand with all the busyness?
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hat do you find gets the best results?

Social Selling: LinkedIn for Sales Prospecting – Part One

A 10 Step Social Media Marketing Guide for B2B

Here are 10 very simple steps to make sure that your social media marketing programme starts smart, has a strong launch and allows you to get the most from your new B2B communications.

digital marketing

1. Determine Social Media Marketing Programme Goals

Though it’s a brand new era, the place to begin is with the age-old exercise of goal-setting: Will you be working to generate new leads and sales, increase awareness of your offerings, decrease marketing spend as compared to traditional media, ensure the relevance of your company, decrease purchasing cycles, extend the reach of your market footprint… or achieve other goals?

Remember, you’ll be investing time, budget, and resources into your social media marketing programmes, so the first step is to determine exactly what you’re seeking to achieve in return.

2. Conduct Three-Point Research

A well-planned initiative always involves research at the outset, and with social media there are three key types of research that you’ll need to conduct—customer, competitive, and community:

  1. To ensure that your programs deliver a high level of value, identify your customers’ business needs, challenges, and technology preferences.
  2. To differentiate yourself from your competitors, understand which programs, tools, and content they are (and are not) employing.
  3. Learn which online professional communities—and influencers—are relevant to your business sector so that you can start building relationships with them.

3. Set a Strategy

Now that you’ve determined your goals and done your research, you can move on to setting your strategy.

A (very) common misstep by marketers starting out in social media is that they identify a tool before setting a strategy: They just know “We need to get on Facebook, Now!”—but don’t know why they should, much less how they’ll use their presence to achieve business benefits.

Once you’ve set your strategy for reaching your goals, the set of tools you’ll need becomes very clear—whether your social media marketing strategy is  to educate your audience on a business subject, produce an outlet for like-minded professionals to network, initiate a new communications channel or application that saves executives time and solves business problems, or create a new outlet for crowdsourcing product development.

4. Identify your Marketing 2.0 Toolset

Providing an unprecedented array of tools, technologies, and platforms, social media offers B2B marketers more choice than ever, at the most affordable costs. So choose wisely and make sure that the tools you choose support your strategy (step 3) and map to your audience’s comfort levels (step 2).

Some professional audiences are more comfortable participating in online forums than they are using Twitter or Facebook, whereas others might prefer content delivered in text, such as in the form of a blog, rather than via audio podcasts or online videos.

5. Define ROI Metrics

Now that you’ve designated your goals, strategy, and tools, it’s time to define a set of metrics to evaluate your program’s ROI.

Depending on your goals, metrics might measure the number of leads generated, increase in sales, the number of brand mentions and whether they’re positive or negative, improvement in search engine rankings, level of user engagement, and so on.

The point is that you’ll need to closely track progress, so you’ll want to define which metrics you’re assessing, how you’ll assess them, and how often. And you won’t only need them for your own department… Trust me, your boss will be asking for them, too.

6. Train Your People

Because these two-way tools give rise to powerful, customer-led communities, many marketing practices have drastically changed. The BIG action point here is to not only prepare your social media program but also prepare your people for social media.

Ensure that everyone involved with the program understands the fundamentals of marketing and communicating with these new media, practices that increase success rates, and what practices to avoid in order to decrease risk.

7. Create Content Processes

Social media marketing programs don’t have specific start and end dates—once they’re launched they keep going and need constant attention and care. Far too many marketers create the program, but not the processes needed to support the program.

Creating processes is key in ensuring that your programs remain “fresh” with new content and are managed by resources that can answer users’ questions in a timely fashion, interact with the community on a regular basis, and take care of issues when they arise.

8. Implement Monitoring Systems

In this new world order—where everyone has a voice and everyone is empowered with the tools to amplify their opinions, preferences, and ideas—monitoring online conversations is not a luxury, it’s a priority.

Whether a customer is expressing a compliment, voicing a complaint, or offering a suggestion, you need to know about it, no matter where on the Web it’s being mentioned.

There are plenty of free and paid services that will enable you to monitor online mentions; you’ll also need to identify which resource will be tracking brand mentions and responding to feedback when necessary.

9. Launch… and Promote!

Now that you’ve done the upfront work, built your program, created your processes, trained your people, and instituted brand monitoring systems, you’re ready to launch.

But just as we learned during the Web’s early days, the “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality is a surefire way to fail.

It’s  a good idea to stay in beta (or soft-launch mode) for a couple months to ensure all features and processes are working optimally, but when you’re ready you’ll most definitely want to promote your new social media marketing program and have a plan for doing so.

10. Facilitate Internal Communications

Once you’ve shared your program with the world, share the lessons learned and the progress of your social media programs with other departments and groups in your organization that would also benefit from those insights—such as Management, Customer Service, PR, Sales, and R&D.

You might distribute monthly reports, or make a quarterly event of holding brown-bag lunch briefings where you invite representatives from relevant departments to discuss findings and next steps—and let social media be a way to open up conversations within your own company, too.

What tools do you use to market through Social Media and how do you measure? We’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

 This article first appeared in MarketingProfs

10 Tips for an Elevator Pitch that Gets Results

So, what do you do when you’re at a conference and are hit with the inevitable question “What do you do?” Do you captivate strangers right off the bat? Do you get people asking questions and following up with you later?  Your elevator pitch is a powerful marketing tool that tells your story in less than a minute.  They are useful for every business person to have in her arsenal of networking tools to help with business, career and personal development.  Many people actively dread networking but a strong pitch is an easy way to get motivated and broach those first few encounters.

The 10 tips below can help you craft an elevator pitch that people actually listen to, remember and respond to.  Make sure you’re prepared with your own killer elevator pitch when the next opportunity presents itself for you to use it!

Here are our top tips to help you perfect your pitch and network like a pro.

1. Find the Sweet Spot

One of the key mistakes people make when answering what they do is to automatically start at the macro level, with their industry or job category. “I’m in IT,” or “I’m in social media”.  While such broad descriptions may be true, it’s too abstract. You can be sure the other person’s eyes are glazing over. Remember, your pitch doesn’t need to tell your entire story; a great pitch succeeds if it draws interest from the other person and gets them wanting more.

2. Exude Confidence & Enthusiasm

Whether you’re dating or networking, confidence is a major plus. When answering what you do, don’t mumble through the response. Don’t apologise. Don’t assume that people won’t understand or care. By making that assumption you’ve lost their interest before you start. No matter how obscure your job or company, begin with the assumption that the other person will be interested, keep it simple, be excited and give examples.

3. It’s not all about you

People generally want to know what you can do for them.  Your pitch should address your audience’s problems and offer solutions.  It should focus on the benefits that the audience will get from working with you, so they understand why they can’t live without you!

4. Tell them what makes you better than the rest

Don’t be afraid to tell your audience what makes you different from your competitors.  In other words, toot your own horn and explain exactly what you bring to the table that your competition does not.

5. Tell a story

What is the problem like without your solution? Explain the size and scale of the possibilities. When appropriate, throw in an analogy that helps your audience quickly relate to your product. Focus on the problems you solve… “My clients are typically struggling to… and I help them by…” Talking about how you help people, your job or business becomes instantly relatable and identifiable.

6. Ask Questions

Sometimes we become so focused on trotting out our pre-prepared Elevator Pitch that we forget to actually make conversation. The best way to be remembered is to build a connection. For this reason, never consider the other person “your audience.” Ask them questions, interact with them fully.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice!

No one will want to listen to your elevator pitch if it sounds like an elevator pitch.  Practice your pitch in bright, noisy, awkward situations. That way, you’ll never be rattled by environmental distractions. Make sure you can deliver it in a conversational tone that does not sound like you’re reading a speech from cue cards. Try recording yourself and then watch your pitch from the perspective of your audience. Try it out on a group of friends or colleagues, and ask what specific points they remember. This instant feedback will help you determine what to cut or change in order to make a connection and be memorable.

8. Use everyday language, NOT industry jargon

Don’t get overly technical. Too many pitches get bogged down in legal, technical, or otherwise overly embellished language. Keep it simple and memorable.

9. Don’t try to Sell

The purpose of the 60-second pitch is simply to generate enough interest in your product or service to warrant a formal meeting.  A “win” here is simply to have the other person understand what you do, the benefits you offer and to remember you.

10. Have a killer closing

Leave them with a memorable 1-liner that they can repeat to others. If you leave them excited and wanting more, you’ve done your job. From there, it’s just a matter of exchanging contact info and scheduling that follow-up meeting.

 

Social Selling: LinkedIn for Sales Prospecting – Part One

Top 10 Tips for Networking Like a Pro

Networking

1.    Be Prepared

Savvy networkers always have their networking tools with them at all times.  The Networking tool kit includes: Your elevator pitch, an ample supply of well branded business cards with all your relevant details, any pertinent collateral material (flyers, brochures, etc), your marketing message for the event – three bullet points you want people you meet to remember – and a confident and enthusiastic demeanour.

2.    Set Your Goals

Successful networkers always have an idea of what the goal is for each event they attend.  Know, before going in, what the outcome is that you want for yourself at each event.  Do you want to meet 3 people and focus on getting to know them really well?  Are you looking for an introduction to a certain type of client?  Are you looking for information or connections that will get you that information?  When you have a plan, it is easier to stay focused and achieve your expected outcome.  Be generous with your own knowledge and connections.

3.    Arrive Early

Resist the urge to arrive late. It’s almost counter-intuitive, but showing up early at a networking event is a much better strategy. As an early attendee, you’ll notice that it’s calmer and quieter and people won’t have settled into groups. It’s easier to find other people who don’t have conversation partners yet.  Many people dread walking into a room and introducing themselves to a bunch of strangers, you will not be alone in this. If you’re early, you can relax and focus on learning about the other people in the room.  You will be judged by others, like it or not, based on their first impression of you, so be enthusiastic, engage in conversations, dress well, smile and be confident.

4.    Ask Easy Questions & Be Genuine

Don’t wait around the edges of the room, waiting for someone to approach you.  To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and say, “May I join you” or “What brings you to this event?” Don’t forget to listen actively to their replies and engage fully in the conversation. Everyone knows when someone is “schmoozing”.  Be genuine in your interactions with others at an event.  It comes back to building trust, to building “Brand YOU”.  When you are interested in learning about someone and their business you will leave a lasting impression as someone who genuinely cares.  People choose to work with people they like and have an affinity with. Take care with other people.

5.    Listen With Focus

When someone is speaking with you, give that person your entire focus.  LISTEN ACTIVELY.  Really hear what the person is saying, ask questions, engage.  The greatest gift that you can give to another person is to truly hear what that person is saying.  How rarely do we hear “She made me feel like the only person in the room”? Take a business card and if possible make a note about the person or conversation that will be valuable to them in your follow up.

6.   Be a Giver and a Connector

Networking about is about connecting with people and getting to know them without the need for immediate gain. Be a known as a connector and you will be held in high esteem.  Networking is about generosity. Quite simply, give and you shall receive. When you are generous, people will notice and respect you.  And, people generally do business with people that they respect, trust, and like.  Act like a host at every event you attend by connecting people.  Always invite people who are standing by themselves into your group – they will really appreciate it. If you connect with someone and do something for them, your generosity will be repaid a hundred fold, often when you least expect it.

7.   Share Your Passion

Win people over with your enthusiasm for your product or service. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you were inspired to create your company. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious, too. When you get other people to share their passion, it creates a memorable two-way conversation.

8.   Don’t Hijack the Conversation

Some people who dislike networking may overcompensate by commandeering the discussion. Don’t forget: The most successful networkers (think of those you’ve met) are good at making other people feel special. Look people in the eye, repeat their name, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss. Be a conversationalist, not a talker.

9.   Don’t Sell – Educate.

The Savvy Networker knows that the immediate sale of a product is not the goal in networking.  No one likes a direct hard sell. Networking is about building relationships with people who will be happy to tell others about who you are and what you do.  Keep your exchange fun, light and informal.  The idea is to get the conversation started. People are more apt to do business with those whose company they enjoy.  At every opportunity, teach others about who you are, as a person, and what it is that you do.  Always present a clear emphasis on the type of client that you are looking for.  In doing this, you will be building a salesforce that can reach far wider than you can on your own.

10.   Follow Up

After the event, send a short note to each person that you had direct contact with – not just an email – getting your brand across their desk.  If there is a referral that you can supply, include that in the follow up note and mention something you discussed when you met or a blog entry or tweet of theirs you have read since. A great way to follow up with them online is not only to follow them on Twitter, but also to make a brief post about your conversation with them. Promoting other people is a great way to create value for them and build the relationship. Do not automatically send a LinkedIn or Facebook request. So often people immediately send social networking link requests to people they just met. However, different people have different policies about whom they link with. If they believe in only connecting with those whom they have established relationships, you make it awkward if you send them a link too early (which they then ignore). Best is to ask people if they would welcome such a link at this time. Be respectful of the fact that they might use social networking differently than you do.

Following up is, sadly, the most neglected part of networking.  Since so many people fail to follow up, you can really stand out by just doing this simple act of reaching out to remind someone of who you are and what you do … and that you are interested in exploring a relationship.

Starting a Social Media Strategy

Remember social media networking takes time, the more involved in it you and your organisation become, the more time it will take. The more successful you become within the social media world, the more interactivity you encourage, the more successful you will become but it will take still more time.  So, the key success factors for any strategy come into play with social media – know what you want, have a clear end goal and then find myriad ways to achieve it.

Begin with the End in Mind

Strategy isn’t the end goal – It’s the path you take to get to that end goal. So, first you need to think about setting some goals for your Social Media work. What do you want to achieve (end goal) by getting involved in social media.  Remember, social media is highly measurable, but also include softer goals such as building a strong community, loyalty, trust and interactivity around your brand. Don’t measure your Social Media strategy solely in terms of percentages or ROI.So, let’s look at some basic goals you can achieve through Social Media:
• Increase customer base
• Generate leads
• Drive sales
• Build awareness
• Make money from your content
• Establish thought leadership
• Educate customers
• Reach new channels of customers
• Improve internal communication

Questions Before the Strategy

Before you go too far down any one path, you need to ask some basic questions:
• Are your key customer groups or influencer groups likely to be online?
• How are you going to add value through their online contact with you?
• How do you plan to engage them online through your new social media platform? Interactivity is key to repeat visits but it’s not all about selling.
• How well suited is your brand to the Social Media environment?
• Which Social Media platforms are you planning to include in your strategy? LinkedIn, Facebook, Blogging, Podcasting, Twitter etc

And internally:

• What measures will you use to determine the success or failure of your strategy?
• How long are you going run with this new strategy before you call it a success or failure?
• Who has overall responsibility for each area? It’s critical that each message you send out to the market is aligned with your brand story and that you react to any feedback/comments/queries quickly.
• How will you incorporate this into people’s daily jobs getting them actively enthused?
• Are you ready to handle negativity? Platforms like blogs, podcasts and videos allow for external comments, not all of which will be good, and some company cultures aren’t ready to engage with those opinions.

Even looking at those few questions will tell you a lot about your business and whether or not Social Media is actually a good fit for you and your internal capabilities at this stage.

Strategy Starters

Where are you going? How are you going to get there? How do you know you’ve arrived? Simple?If you’re going to put a social media strategy into place, you need to know where you’re going (end goal), align and develop the paths you’re going to take (which platforms, who’s responsible, how to engage), measure the journey (what factors signify success or failure) and funnel all this back into the original strategy as you proceed, to make it more robust, better targeted and more effective as you move forward.

First Step to Social Media Success

Listen…!Seriously, before you start developing a Social Media strategy for your organisation – Listen…Listen to what’s going on in your market – who’s playing in Social Media?What are they saying? What platforms are they using? How are they bringing value to their communities? How are their brands represented and their stories told? What are they doing and how can you do it better?Also, have a listen to what the market is saying about you – even before you begin to court feedback through actively engaging in Social Media the market may be talking about you – you need to know what people are saying.

Have a look a couple of basic listening tools:

Google Reader and Google Alerts – set these up on your iGoogle home page so you can instantly see when someone mentions you.  Don’t just set your alerts for your company name; use your own name, names of people on your team, directors, influencers, clients etc.  Set up alerts for business areas where you are the leader, events that you run – anything that will relate to your organisation and will give you feedback on market reactions.

Technorati – Go to www.Technorati.com, search for your company (again using product, brand, personal names) in the search bar, and see what people are saying about you. Note the little orange RSS subscription button in the upper right. Copy that link location (Right click the link and say “Copy Link” or however your browser words that). Now, put that into Google Reader as one of your listening searches. Repeat this for your competitor’s name, brand, individuals, and some industry terms (make them succinct).

Google Blogsearch – Go to Google Blogsearch and do the same thing. Sure there will be some overlap, but it’s important to capture both. The subscription to searches link is on the left hand side about 1/3 down the page.

Try Summize – if you’re thinking about using social networks and social media, it’s likely that some of your customers are using Twitter. If so, go to Summize and put in your search terms there, too. Input as many searches as you need, copying the RSS feeds and putting them into Google Reader as above. Build a strong catalog of searches initially, you can prune the bad or ineffective ones after you have tried it for a while.

About You!What do you think? What else should we work into this “Starting a Social Media Strategy” piece to make it more useful to your needs?

5 Tips to Look Like a Multimillion Euro Brand

In today’s cluttered, hypercompetitive marketplace your business can’t afford to make a poor first impression. Every touch point that leads to your company needs to impress, motivate and inspire a prospective customer. You may have a great product or service, but to be taken seriously, clients need to believe that you’re on the same playing field as the bigger guys. Even if you’re a consultant that works from a home office, you’ll need to position your company as a polished brand that touts confidence, experience and quality. Fear not. Here are five simple tips for branding your business to create the illusion that it is a global corporation with an army at the ready — all without breaking the bank.1.      WebsiteYour website is the center of your brand universe. Simplicity is the key to looking like a big fish. Less is more. A clean, easy-to-navigate two-page site with useful content will make your company look far more established than a cluttered 20-page site with long-winded fluff. Design your site with the needs of your user in mind, not your ego. Sites that try to be everything to everyone will often become nothing to anyone.Choosing the right URL (Domain Name) is also a vital part of your brand positioning strategy. Your main URL should be as short as possible. Long URLs are harder to remember, harder to read and are more likely to be spelled incorrectly. There is a reason why apple.com isn’t weloveapplecomputers.com.2.      Contact NumbersHow often have you seen a billboard or heard a radio spot that advertises an easily forgettable phone number? Phone numbers should be catchy and easy to remember. Using a catchy number is a great way to increase sales call volume, build brand awareness and increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Not only is it easy for potential clients to remember but it’s easy for them to pass on too.3.      Automated Phone SystemsCombining an easy number with automated phone systems and virtual assistants enables small businesses to look and sound professional and capable.  You never miss a call, the caller’s details or their query – nor are you caught dashing into a meeting with a mobile sounding like the caller is the last person you want to speak to!  This also small-business owners and employees the ability to receive calls in their home offices or on their mobile devices when they choose, while appearing to be available in their office. Which brings me to…4.      Virtual OfficesEven though you might be answering a call on your mobile phone from your living room, it’s important that your customers believe they are contacting a competent established and trustworthy business.  Virtual offices are an effective solution for businesses that conduct most of their day-to-day communications via phone calls and emails, and rarely need to meet their clients in their own offices. This is especially the case for smaller companies based in more remote areas who are targeting larger urban based clients.  These larger clients would often rather deal with fellow urban based suppliers and a Virtual Office address can enable your brand to be seen as being London based, for example, without having to actually be there.5.      The Business CardNow you have a slick website, a memorable phone number and a captain-of-industry street address. It’s time to combine all of those elements into a single tool. The business card is a vital part of the first impression experience and an instant reflection of you and your company’s work. A cheap, uninspired business card will send the wrong message to a prospective customer. Spend time designing a card. Be creative, yet tasteful. Choose a thicker card stock with a high quality finish. Remember, there is a reverse side!  Use this effectively to show examples of your work, bullet points of your services, your web address etc.  Make sure that you are able to write on your card – people often make notes about you or your company on the card to remind them of salient details of your service, so stay away from very high gloss finishes.  Customers want to do business with companies that demonstrate their ability to provide high quality services, and a creative business card will send them that message.

Four Cs of Effective Communications

Learning to communicate is one of life’s most basic lessons… but how many of us do it effectively?One of the earliest lessons to learn in business is “Stick to your knitting” – Do what you are really good at and you will do well.  But that’s only the start. You may know what you do well, you may understand all the nuances of your offering, the benefits you bring, the functionality, the service levels and the target audience – But does the market know? How can you succeed in business now when budgets are slashed and people really just don’t want  to meet another supplier?The key is to communicate; effectively, cleverly and consistently.  This doesn’t need to cost you anything, just a bit of time, attention and imagination.  Remember your business doesn’t have to be different – you just need to do things in a different way.  This article looks at the four Cs of effective communication that Redstorm uses in all our communications strategies.  Use these four Cs to sharpen and target your communications whether you’re a sole trader or an international bluechip.Do your communications pass the 4Cs test?1.   Crisp and ClearHow do you describe who you are and what your business does?  Let’s go back to that dot com favourite the “Elevator Pitch”.  Can you describe what you do (and your benefits) to someone not in your industry in 30 seconds or less?  When you go to a networking event and you meet a promising prospect, does your description of your business hold that person’s attention? Do they actually understand what you do, well enough to explain it to someone else? Or do their eyes glaze over or wander across the room?  “Crisp and Clear” is key to getting your message across and getting it understood and valued.  Being crisp is about telling people what you do in as few words as possible and being clear means they take away the same message as the one you think you are giving…  you’d be astonished how often this is NOT the case!2.   Customer-CentricThe most important aspect of all communications is knowing your target audience, being “Customer Centric”. Know what they want, what they are trying to achieve in their own businesses and the types of products/services they may need. But even more important, try to get to know what they fear, what keeps them awake at night – to identify the benefits they would most value from you.  This will enable you to tightly target your communications to smaller groups, leading to a better uptake of your message because it’s highly relevant , easier measurement of your campaigns and therefore decreased spend due to increased efficacy of your communications overall.3.   Colourful ContentThere is so much noise and bustle in the communications space now that in order to grab some attention for your company your communications must have Colourful Content – tell them a story they will associate with. What makes your message worthy of attention? Is there an angle you can put on it to make people come on board? Can you inject a bit of excitement/colour into your communications to blast through all the other communications people come across every day?4.  ConsistentOnce you get your message “Crisp and Clear”, ensure it’s “Customer Centric” and “Colourful”; that message needs to flow through all your  communications – verbal, visual, written and web – it must be consistent! Everyone working with you needs to know what the message is and how it’s being communicated – Watch out especially if you’re a small company… NEVER assume your team knows what’s going on just because there are only 5 of you! In a larger company it’s critical to get strong internal communications running to ensure every team going into the market is singing the same song.The more consistent your communications, the stronger your brand  becomes because people instantly see the brand and understand who you are, what you do and the benefits they will get from working with you. Re-establish this with EVERY customer interaction throughout the company. Reinforce your story as often as possible.Make Your Next Campaign CountEvery business is feeling the pinch so money is tight BUT marketing is key to the survival of your business so each and every bit you do counts. Have a look at the last campaign you did – even as simple as a round of emails to lapsed clients. Did it follow the 4 Cs?  Was it Crisp and Clear, Customer-Centric, Colourful and Consistent?

Stay Sane with Social Media

Here are a few steps for how to maintain your sanity while using social media tools effectively:

1.   Learn the differences, know what each tool is good for

Each social media tool has its own personality, its own community of enthusiasts, its own speed and frequency.  Take the time to learn them.  Log on, create a personal profile and “listen” for a while.  Join groups that are of personal interest to you and watch how people share information.  Learn first-hand how the tool is used by others before using it for your business.

2.   Stay focused on your goals and know your audience

While social media tools can reach and influence millions of people as they did for the Obama campaign, for most small businesses, this is not the point.  Don’t get sucked into the hype and forget your main communications goals.  Perhaps you need to find and build a few key relationships, or reach a few tens of thousands depending on the scale of your business.  Figure out who & what you’re looking for and stay focused – remember only get involved with the areas that will succeed for your business otherwise you are bringing non-profitable work on yourself – Social Media is time consuming so ensure that it’s working.  Know your measurement criteria clearly. 

3.   Don’t reinvent your wheel

What marketing and communications strategies are already working for you? Don’t ditch these in favour of Social Media just because it’s the Hot Topic of the moment.  If you know what works with your audience now, start by figuring out how to achieve similar results with the addition to your arsenal of these new tech tools.

4.   Don’t spread yourself too thin

You don’t necessarily need to be active in all places at once. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the hot spots of the moment, but make sure you know who your audience is and how they take up information.  Spend some time figuring out which Social Media vehicles will give you the greatest access to this audience and start there.

5.   Don’t sweat it and don’t rush it

Honestly, everyone is still figuring out the best way to use social media tools.  The sudden explosion of these tools themselves shows that people are still figuring out how best to use the Internet!  Don’t panic, don’t fear you’ve missed the boat and go rushing into something that you’ll have to back pedal on later.  Take the time to learn what these new social media tools could do for your business – start small and slow.

Top 10 Tips for Local Media Relations

Small businesses always benefit from some strategic media coverage.  Often though they don’t have funds for PR professionals.  Here are the Top 10 Tips for small businesses to generate their own successful PR.  You just need to be proactive.  Most of the news and information you see on the TV news or in the daily newspaper is generated by individuals or businesses just like yours.  They send information to the media, usually via news releases and personal contact.  Don’t expect the media to use your release verbatim – they may use some of the information often supplemented with a call to you as a spokesperson.Here are some tips for getting your organisation noticed by your local media.1.  Get to know the media that are most likely to cover youRead and watch the media in your local area.  Subscribe to the newspapers and magazines; watch the local news; bookmark media websites; and join any organisations where you are likely to meet reporters and editors .2. Learn the names of the reporters who cover the beats most significant to youFor instance, health reporters or sports reporters may be the ones who would be interested in your news.  Then you can send your information directly to them rather than just to the “editor”.  Don’t forget more specialised reporters such as the society page editor who might be interested in your special event if it involves community leaders.  The calendar page editor will want your event listings.  Most newspapers also carry a list of volunteer opportunities, so find out who writes those.3. Get to know reporters personallyStart by arranging a short meeting at their papers or TV stations to introduce yourself.  Be considerate of their busy schedules and make it brief. Drop off some printed material or personally deliver that press release instead of mailing or emailing it.  Over time, you will have other opportunities to develop these contacts into more familiar relationships.4. Send complimentary copies of your publications to reportersInstead of just sending these out with your mass mailings, personally send a copy with your business card attached.  You can also attach a note directing the reporter to some item in the publication that might be of particular interest.  Send an invitation to your special event to the appropriate reporter.  Even if you don’t really expect the reporter to attend, the invitation will remind him or her of you and your organisation.5. Keep up with the personnel changes at your favorite media outletsThe turnover in the media is often rapid.  Develop your own media list and keep it up-to-date.  You may be able to subscribe to a media list for your locality, but it can’t substitute entirely for your own meticulously kept list.6. Always give the media information that is newsworthyYour information should be new, noteworthy, and relevant to a large share of the public.  Reporters are not interested in yesterday’s news, items that are of interest only internally to your organisation, or routine events. Provide reporters with good human interest stories.  Invite staff and volunteers at your organisation to let you know about good story ideas that you might be able to pitch to the media.  The best ideas often come from people who are on the front lines of your organisation.7. Develop a “virtual” media kit that resides on your organisation’s websiteInclude the history of your business, its mission and goals, brief profiles and photos of key staff and board members, the most recent news releases, and a downloadable PDF of the current annual report if applicable.  Busy reporters will appreciate being able to access this information easily.8. Take advantage of breaking news stories to promote your organisationThe best way to do this is to develop a cadre of “experts” who can speak to the issues your organisation addresses.  Train these experts (they can be staff members and/or volunteers) and make them available to reporters.9. Make yourself available to the media at any timeGive them a home or cell number where they can reach you day or night. Put that number in your online media kit.  Include it on your business card.  When you receive a call from a reporter, get back to him or her as soon as you can.  Reporters are working on deadline and will appreciate your rapid response.10.  Always thank a reporter for his or her coverageSend a hand written thank-you note.  Plus, never nitpick over minor inaccuracies.  Corrections appear in small type on a back page.  They are not worth your effort or of running the risk of irritating a reporter or editor.