Using Twitter to sell more stuff

social-media-marketingIf you’re like most business owners, you’re interested in selling more stuff.  Lately, you may have heard that Twitter is a great way to sell more stuff. However, if you’re not aware of the “why” behind marketing in general – it can be easy to begin viewing Twitter – and other social media tools –  as a form of marketing magic.

Without knowing the “why”  you might be tempted to to view Twitter as “social media marketing magic” instead of viewing Twitter as a great way to deliver a short timely messages quickly and effectively to a group of people who’ve asked for this information.

An example of the “magical” fantasy style of thinking is a local business owner who wants to use Twitter to sell more of the stuff he sells – cars.

His logic is flawless.   Dell computers uses Twitter very effectively to sell more stuff. This local business owners reads about Dell’s success and wants to harness the same “social media magic” so he can sell more “stuff” too.  What could be easier?

Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect. Dell sells refurbished computers via a dedicated Twitter feed.   Dell employees don’t “tweet” what they had for breakfast – they tweet the latest deals. Dell’s target audience is online – and they’re already using Twitter.  So all Dell had to do was set up a Twitter account – and spread the word that if you wanted access to great bargains – follow them at Twitter and VIOLA –  Dell is selling more computers using Twitter.

So the question at hand isn’t, “Can we make Twitter work to help us sell more stuff?”  It can obviously do so.   The real question is “HOW can we make Twitter work to sell more stuff?”

Which is the essential question we’re asking of ALL forms of media – whether it’s social media marketing or traditional media tools.

Of COURSE we CAN make Twitter “work” to sell more of just about anything – from cd’s to cars.  However, it’s more than just a question of “how do I use Twitter?”  Instead, it needs to be a question of “How do I COMMUNICATE with prospective customers/ clients?”

Let’s take the case of the car dealer who wants to use social media tools – Twitter in this case – to sell more cars.

The first step in crafting a social media marketing strategy with Twitter would begin by building a foundation of LOCAL Twitter followers – local residents who are actively car shopping and who want to be notified of special deals.  With this in mind, you’d be surprised how often people FORGET that the WWW stands for WORLD wide web.   Ten thousand Twitter followers in the UK won’t do a car dealership in Southern Florida much good.  So the first “key” is to be sure to build a Twitter following of the “right” people.

The “right” Twitter followers

Just as in direct mail – the “magic is in the list” – in Twitter – the magic in using Twitter for marketing is in attracting the “right” followers.  Once again – it’s better to have 100 Twitter followers who respond than 10K who are not responsive.

Who are the “right” followers?  Well, to use “traditional “marketing terms –  they’re also known as your “target” audience.  For the car dealer – they’re local people who are – or who anticipate – being in the market for a new or used car.

Once you’ve  defined your target audience – and created a Twitter profile which explains what followers can expect.  (This is where a custom Twitter background come in handy.)

The uses of Twitter for a car dealership are truly exciting.  A dealership could tweet about

  • price reductions  and sales
  • rebates
  • recent trade ins
  • used cars scheduled to go to auction

The list of possibilities goes on and on – however you may notice that the “topics” here aren’t much different than the “topics” covered in traditional  or “old school” media advertising.

When it comes to using Twitter to sell more stuff – the  real “root” question is:

How are we already CONNECTING and COMMUNICATING with our prospective customers/clients?

The same message that “works” via other media will probably also “work” well with Twitter. As a matter of fact, once you’ve established that you’ve built a foundation of the “right” Twitter followers – you can begin using Twitter to “test” your marketing messages BEFORE you use them in “traditional” marketing or advertising campaigns.

THIS is why real marketing professionals get jazzed about Twitter.  Instead of going to the time and expense of creating a split test mailing to test two possible headlines – Twitter allows a quick easy and EFFECTIVE way of testing those headlines instantly.

Twitter gets frustrating as a marketing tool when you don’t have a clear target audience and a clear marketing message to deliver to that target audience.   Then again – that is when ALL marketing and advertising gets frustrating for businesses of ALL sizes. 🙂

When social media isn’t enough…

social media marketingLong long ago, Liz Strauss wrote the immortal words – “Your blog is not your business”.  Recently – I had a conversation with a client who learned that lesson – the HARD way.

“Amy” [not her real name] was referred to my business a couple of years ago.  The story behind how she came to me is very common – at least in my practice.  Years earlier, she had paid BIG money to a web developer to create a web site for her brand new business.  Because she didn’t know a lot about this strange world known as “the internet” she assumed that her web site would cause people to line up to hire her to do work for their business.  When that didn’t happen – she began doing some homework.

When she began doing her homework she learned that the search engines drive most of the traffic on the internet.  So, she typed in some words she thought people would use to find her business.   Her web site – the one she paid BIG buck (five figures) to have developed – didn’t show up.  So she tried some other words and her site STILL didn’t show up – ANYWHERE.  She contacted her web developer and asked what was up – and he told her to be patient.  Things like that take time, he said.  She she was patient – she waited a couple of YEARS and still nothing.

She began talking to other people and eventually had a conversation with one of my clients.  She contacted me and asked me to take a look at her site.  Long story short- even though her page LOOKED great through a browser – it had been cobbled together in such a manner that it was anything but search engine friendly.  Even though the site “looked” fine through a browser – that’s not how the search engines see a web site.  They look at the code – and in this case, it was a real mess.

She told me she loved the site and didn’t want to change the way it looked.  (I later learned the web developer is a friend of her husband’s and I suspect she didn’t want to have a show down with him.)  I assured her we could accomplish her objective in a much more cost effective manner by launching a self hosted WordPress blog to work in concert with her web site.

Her problem: she wanted her web site to be found in Google.  The solution: we launched a self hosted WordPress blog to act as “bait”.  She could link liberally to her “traditional” web site using the blog  and when potential clients found her blog – she could send them to her site to “close” the sale.

When you go fishing – it’s not realistic to expect fish to jump into your boat.  So, you take fishing poles, hooks and various bait to catch the fish.  We were going to set up her blog to act as bait.  Of course, because there is no such thing as “marketing magic”, Amy had to learn how to USE her WordPress blog correctly.  Amy is one of the inspirations for my 8 Week Power Blog Launch product.  Her questions – combined with the questions asked by other clients – are the basis for the “curriculum” in the course.

Page One in Google

Recently, Amy contacted me.  Her blog articles had achieved her objective.  Her content is now appearing on the first page of Google’s results for her desired keyword – a fairly competitive keyword by the way.  However, if you think that the phone call was filled with rejoicing – it wasn’t.

Amy was disheartened and discouraged.  Even though she had achieved her objective of her blog content being found on Google’s first page – her business still wasn’t thriving.  As a matter of fact, she didn’t have a single client – and she had recently had to get a job to make ends meet.  She was ready to throw in the towel.

So, the first question I asked Amy was to describe her business model to me.  She launched into an exhaustive commentary on her marketing efforts.

“Amy, you’ve just listed the various marketing tactics you’re using to promote your business.  What is your business model?  How do you expect to make money from your business?”

“Well, people read my blog posts, go to my web site and then hire me.   I’m getting lots of traffic – but no one is contacting me to hire me.”

What followed was a distillation of my book, Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results In a nutshell – Amy’s business is engaged in making what is known as a Major Sale.  However, most of the “marketing tactics” Amy had been engaging in are only effective in marking Minor Sales.  Most of the sales/marketing advice you find (online and offline)  is geared towards  Minor Sale products, which is why Neil Rackham spent a small fortune and 12 years of his life defining and documenting the difference between Major Sales and Minor Sales.

When I first read Spin Selling – where Rackham documents his findings – I immediately recognized that many popular “marketing tactics” are geared towards making Minor Sales.  I’d been working with businesses on their advertising as an advertising account executive for over a decade when I first read the book – and it was truly an “aha” moment for me.  The Major/Minor Sale definition explained why marketing tactics – from radio remote broadcasts to midnight madness sales-  would work so well for one client, yet fail miserably for another.

Amy had been blogging with the goal of being found in the search engines.  She focused on creating creative blog post titles instead of creating relationships.  She didn’t recognize that once people found her via the search engines, they then needed to form a relationship with her so they could TRUST her.  See,  TRUST is an integral part of making the Major Sale – and social media is a GREAT way to build your business with social media– by establishing a relationship with potential clients and customers.

This  is why I cringe when I see an article which touts “the importance of search engine optimizing your Facebook profile” – or when I read someone touting Twitter or Facebook as the “quick easy way” to build your business.  Twitter, Facebook, and blogging are all tactics and nothing more.  Tactics are great when you’re on a mission to accomplish a pre-defined goal as part of a marketing strategy.  Tactics are exhausting when deployed using the “spray and pray” method of marketing.

When you read that “blogging” is dead – you’re probably reading the rant of someone who didn’t understand the difference between tactics and strategy.  A blog is a GREAT communication tool which – when used correctly.

This is how social media works to build your business…

transparency in social mediaHere’s another real life story on “How Social Media” works.  I hope it helps to illustrate WHY it’s so hard to put an ROI value on your social media participation.

“Suzy” is a client of mine and she has a problem.  Actually, she has more than one problem.  She has MANY problems because that’s just part of building and running a business.  However, for right now – she has one problem which is obscuring all the other problems she’s facing in her business.

Many years  ago,  Suzy had another problem – she needed a web site.  She shared this problem with people she knew and eventually spoke with another client for whom I’d created a web site.  That person was happy with my work and recommended that Suzy contact me.  In the conversation that followed, she decided that she could TRUST me to solve her problem and she hired me to create a web site for her business.

Once the “thrill” of having her business online had passed – Suzy discovered that her web site wasn’t the solution she thought it would be.  See, she thought that her website was some kind of “magical, mystical” money printing – client generating machine. The problem didn’t lie in the web site though – the problem lay with Suzy.   Suzy didn’t know what problems her business was solving for her clients.  Because she didn’t know  what she didn’t know  – her web site couldn’t begin to solve her REAL problem.

Suzy’s REAL problem was  she wanted clients for her business.  However, when she asked for a web site – what she got was a tool.  How she used the tool determined whether or not it would solve her problem.

Frequently, when it comes to solving problems – often what you need are PEOPLE not TOOLS.

Over the next few years, Suzy struggled.  Fortunately, Suzy picked up a copy of  my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results which helped her to discover exactly what problems she was solving for her clients.   Once she knew what problems she was solving, it literally changed the way she viewed her business.

As a result,  she decided that she needed a NEW web site. This time she knew exactly what she wanted her web site to do – and  we relaunched her web site as a blog. Now – Suzy writes regularly about the solutions she provides.  As a result, she’s stunned at how effective her web site (a.k.a. her blog) is at bringing new clients into her practice.

The other day, Suzy discovered she has another problem.  Unlike her previous problems,  this is a problem I can’t help her solve but one that I’ve also faced in my business. So when she fired off an email asking me if I had ever experienced this problem – I was able to offer the name of another business owner who does provide a solution.

At this point, you may think, “She’s going to tell about how she’s connected with the solution service provider on [insert name of social networking site here] and her client then found her solution provider who is also on [insert name of social networking site here] and because they’re both connected to her profile.  Viola!  Social media marketing at work. ”

THAT IS NOT HOW SOCIAL MEDIA WORKS... at least, not in this case.  (If/when it does work like that – it’s the exception and not the rule.)

While it’s true that I am connected with both this client AND the solution provider on several social networking sites and in THEORY – she should be able to “sift” through my connections and “discover” the provider of the solution on her own- that’s not what happened.

She didn’t know what she didn’t know – which included not knowing the REAL problem or the REAL solution she was seeking.  Often – that’s the case.  She didn’t KNOW she needed a drill – she just knew she needed a hole.

I started this blog post with a promise to illustrate how social media works to build your business.  However, there’s a catch: Social Media Marketing can’t build your business if you don’t know what problems you’re solving or what  goals you’re helping your clients/customers achieve.

In a perfect world, everyone who solves problems for business owners would have a blog and they would use their blog just like  like Tom Volkar does over at Delightful Work.  (I “pick” on Tom a lot here because Tom is doing a SUPERB job of using social media CORRECTLY in my humble opinion.)

However, in reality – my source doesn’t have even a basic web site – and he does very little with his social networking profiles.  As a matter of fact, he’s only recently began checking his email regularly.  However, he’s not a tool – he’s a solution so he’s worth the extra effort to connect with him.

When I passed along his email address – I did so hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t make it impossible for her to connect with him.  It’s times like this that I wish I could instead send my client to the solution provider’s blog.

If he had a  blog – she could read the tales of how this gentleman has helped OTHER business people solve their problems – similar problems to the one she’s experiencing.   If she wasn’t ready to take action yet – she could subscribe to his blog  or his email newsletter and “stay in touch”.  She’s MUCH more likely to do so because I recommended she connect with him.

Eventually, when her problem got big enough – got hairy enough – got ugly enough – (a.k.a. big enough to warrant writing a check) she could contact him directly for a solution.

Isn’t that better than just passing along an email address and hoping that a spam blocker doesn’t get in the way of making a connection?

This is how social media works to build your business.  It’s word of mouth advertising made better – made stronger – and most importantly-made  more effective.

You can’t judge social media marketing’s “effectiveness” by followers -or RSS subscribers – or blog comments – or even an Alexa ranking.  In reality, social media is just a communication tool – and it’s only as effective as the message you’re communicating.  The fact that – unlike other marketing tools – social media marketing DOES allow you track and measure – visitors, followers or subscribers – it give the ILLUSION of being “measurable” and “trackable”.

Long ago – I did a web site redesign.  The site in question had GREAT content wrapped in lousy graphics and poor navigation.  After the redesign – sales increase 450% in the following quarter.

Unfortunately – in order to “measure” the ROI of social media marketing – you need those kids of “before” and “after”studies.  There are still people who will argue that a professional “face” on your web site isn’t necessary – and all I can say is “It depends upon what goal you have set for your web site.”

If you’re wanting to use your web site to make tons of money using Adsense – then an ugly web site can definitely be an advantage.  When you’re running Adsense – you WANT people to click on the ads and leave your site.  A high bounce rate is DESIREABLE in those cases.  However, if you’re wanting to sell people something at YOUR site – well, why encourage buyers to go elsewhere – whether it be with Adsense or an ugly site?

Business owners are discovering that the REAL value in social media is the unsolicited feedback social media provides for their business.  How can you put an ROI figure on learning that the “free” sample you offered is simply pissing off potential customers?

It reminds me of the Mastercard ads –

Setting up a web site for your business:  $X

Launching your free sample promostion to grow your email marketing newsletter: $X

“Discovering your “free” sample is pissing people off  – PRICELESS!”

Social Media Lesson: Reach out – Listen – Learn

social media's magic ingredientIn the post –What Michael Jackson can teach business about social media… I shared four valuable social media lessons business owners should learn from the life and death of the King of Pop.

The first lesson was that being first doesn’t mean as much as you probably think it does.   I’ve worked with many clients who drastically over-estimated how long and hard the road is when you’re truly blazing a new trail through the wilderness.  (They don’t call the LEADING edge the BLEEDING edge for no reason!)

The second lesson was the importance of reaching out – listening a learning.

In Creativity is Easier when you have a Partner – David Wright shares an AMAZING story of how reaching out -listening and learning helped him turn losing the only job he ever loved into not only a book but also a business (Collective Inkwell).

There’s a lot of value in the “community” aspect of social media.   There are lessons to be learned via social media if you’re willing to reach out – listen and learn.

There are life lessons to be learned in social media – whether they be lessons from the road courtesy of Betsy Wuebker lessons in self defense from Lori Hoeck,  lessons in the art of possibility from Davina or  lessons in laughter from Lance.  You could live five lifetimes and not accumulate half of the life lessons shared in those just four blogs.

There are POWERFUL business lessons to be learned  as well.  Liz Strauss writes intriguing, instructive posts teaching CEO’s how to correctly “view” social media.  In Could You Be a Chief Executive Social Gardener? she models through words AND actions social media’s real value for brands.

Social Media can show BOTH sides of the story

New business owners can learn from experienced leaders in their field who freely share their expertise via social media.   Tom Volkar shares freely his insights on starting a new business- the RIGHT business for you with posts like Why Rock The Boat?

However, once you’ve chosen your business – you need practical advice as well – from those who have “been there, done that and bought the T-shirt.”   For exmaple, David Airey shares his words of wisdom about his own formula for design pricing.  However, if you’re a designer there’s also a wealth of information from those who are struggling with the process of finding the “right” designer…as Sara Healy does in her post The Still Small Voice Was Right.

Social Media showcases both success and failure

We all love success stories – but sometimes those success stories don’t give us the full picture.  Jason Cohen has written a WONDERFUL article on how most business “advice” is flawed  because it generally focuses exclusively on the “success” side of the coin.  In Business Advice Plagued by Survivor Bias he shares what is possibly the most illustrative word picture of how focusing on the success may actually cause you to miss the most valuable business lessons of all.

The “traditional” media is obsessed with success… to the point where they’ll gloss over the time, energy and failures that go into building a successful business.  However, in the social media arena – most bloggers are more than willing to share their failures as well as their successsed  as Barbara Swafford has done in Bloopers, BooBoos and Ideas That Went Bust.

Social Media may have more in store for us than just valuable lessons

social media saves the worldThere’s a lot to be learned from social media – but Danny Dover makes a case for Social  Media  my be a key to Saving the world. Dover reveals in this post:

Social media has the potential to become the greatest early detection system that the world has ever seen. It is faster, nimbler and has more access to user data than any traditional search engine.

Social media is powered by all of us individually. Because of this, you have the ability to make a positive difference.

When Michael Jackson died, I read somewhere that the server hosting one of the breaking news web sites had at one point 42 hits PER SECOND.   That’s a lot of people seeking information from a single source.  Fortunately, that information “disseminated”  quickly – much to the relief of a server admin I’m sure – but it shows how BIG this world is and how connected we are thanks to social media.

This is why I “cringe” when someone wants to reduce blogging to the mere act of “lead generation” and “lead conversion”.

It’s not that I’m against making money – or even evaluating what marketing tools are “working” and which ones aren’t.  It’s just that trying to put an ROI value on social media is not only premature- but possibly pointless.

As you can see here – there are a lot of GREAT lessons – both life lessons – and business lessons – being shared via social media if you’re willing to reach out – listen and learn.

The Business Value in Being First

business value of being firstThere’s all kind of cachet around “being first”.    In Immutable Laws of Internet Branding – we are told that you absolutely MUST be “first” if you want to win in business and branding.   But is it true?  Is there really that much economic value in being “first”?

(Note: I’m not talking about being UNIQUE in this post, but about being the first to market.)

In What Michael Jackson can teach business about social media I shared that the King of Pop did not create the first music video.  He did however effectively use music videos to market the biggest selling album of all time.

There’s a lot of “history” to be made in being “first” – and today there are all kinds of businesses clamoring to make their mark by being the “first” in their field.

For example, according to the LA Times, the first Digi-Novel  Level 26 is being introduced at this year’s Comic Com. What is a digi-novel?  It’s a book which enables the reader to participate in a “companion experience” online.

First usually needs explaining

There’s an old sales saying that goes, “A confused mind always says no.”   This is one reason why being first doesn’t guarantee success. When you hear about a Digi-Novel – the first question that comes to your mind is probably, “What’s that?” (Answer: In a Digi-Novel,  every 20 pages or so – the reader can “log on” and watch a 3 minute “mini-movie” to supplement the story. In addition to being able to tune in for “mini-movies” – readers can also create online profiles for themselves and interact with each other.)

First can be frustrating.

Being first means you get to discover all the bumps and twists in the road.  When a trail blazer cuts a new path through the forest – they usually emerge covered with cuts and bruises.  Being a trail blazer isn’t easy.  It takes dedication and hard work to carve your own unique path through the forest.  It certainly takes a lot longer than taking the well worn path of least resistance.

Sometimes as a trail blazer, you ‘ll cut your way through the forest only to discover you’ve created the most direct path through the forest to a 200 foot drop dead end off .

First means educating your user.

Not only do you have to familiarize your users with what your product is – you also must teach them how to use it before you can sell it to them.

One of my favorite anecdotes to share illustrating this phenomenon is the story of Google.  In the early days,   when “regular” users were sat down in front of a computer and told to “search” – they would looking pleadingly up at the researchers and  ask, “For what?”  Google’s minimal home page was confusing and overwhelming to most internet users at the time.

However, thanks to the dot com  boom and millions of dollars of venture capital, people quickly learned about this new thing called the internet. In the aftermath of the dot com bust-  not only were more people going “online” but casual internet users finally knew what it meant to “search” thanks in part to the millions of dollars invested in promoting companies that couldn’t make it simply because they were the first online.

When you’re first – there’s a significant amount of user education going on along the way.  You’re not only having to create marketing messages which are compelling and selling, they also must be educational as well.

Being first can mean setting the standard.

You’ve heard of social media – and social media marketing – but EQAL is creating the first “social entertainment” company.

LonelyGirl 15 was an example of a new use of a new medium and the ensuing new type of media production company.  LonelyGirl 15 caused a lot buzz online – most of which happened was when viewers learned the whole thing was “staged”.  In the uproar that followed, the  first”social entertainment company” was launched.

Learn more in this video interview with the creator Miles Beckett….

The only way to take users someplace they never expected to go was by being FIRST. In this case –  being first was the key to success.

In an attempt to imitate the success of LonelyGirl 15,  Naked Communications launched a similar “viral video” campaign on behalf of the Australian fashion designer Witchery. Here’s a link to the video.  It generated a lot of buzz  again – not all of it good.

Adam Broitman labeled it as one of interactive media’s most offensive campaigns.  By the way, if you click over to the article, you’ll notice that Adam references “A website was created that cleverly (?) uses an Apple .ME account:”.  That attempt to deceive is no longer around.  However, the video which was uploaded to YouTube is still there – living on in what may well now be infamy.

Which just goes to show –  you don’t have to be FIRST to get bloody and bruised by misusing social media.

Being first is probably the most difficult path of all to choose when you’re starting a new business.

When geese fly in formation – they frequently change leaders because being the leader of the V formation is so draining.

If you plan on being first, know that you’ll need plenty of support as you take that uncertain – but exhilarating – path to success.