When I started running social media for LACRM, I understood the basics: promote your brand and don’t bother anyone. Marketing 101! However, in being a business novice, I’d failed to make the connection between marketing and its monetized sister, sales. I want to be clear: I am not a salesperson. However, the relationship between marketing and sales is growing stronger and closer every year, as technologies like marketing automation and sales force management systems narrow the gap between lead generation and actually closing deals.
So, while sales wasn’t my job, there had to be some kind of monetary value to social media aside from branding and being simply “present” online. The answer to that is, and always was, lead generation. Lead generation isn’t sales, per se; it is the way in which marketing feeds into the sales process. A good marketing strategy creates leads, which allows salespeople to do their job: converting leads into customers.
Based on my experiences, feedback from my analytic tools and research, my lead generation strategies on social media have evolved from “fishing” for leads on various sites, to targeted “hunting” once I knew more about my lead’s online behavior and finally “trapping,” the culmination of my social media knowledge. Below, I describe the various strategies and how I transitioned between them.
“Fishing” entails posting engaging content and letting potential leads come to you (a.k.a. inbound marketing). It’s the most obvious place to start: you post the content or information that you already have (and believe your leads will like), and you wait to see who bites--if anyone. The second part is the real struggle of fishing; you can’t force anyone to click, comment or share your content. Fishing works really well for fun lifestyle businesses, like cupcake shops and fashion bloggers with pretty pictures that people want to click on and share. During my first few weeks, I promoted business tips and blog posts (like these), and through the various analytic tools that Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter offer, I was able to see which of my posts were most popular. However, I was missing the second (and more difficult) step of the lead generation process: finding the leads myself.
While fishing is the process of baiting leads and seeing what they like, “hunting” involves discovering where your leads are already engaged on the internet and figuring out how to enter those conversations (a.k.a. outbound marketing). Hunting sounds aggressive*, but it’s really more like Hide and Seek. Leads are hiding on social media, and you find them. How? Social listening and scanning posts for keywords are common ways that marketers look for (and successfully discover) leads on social media. This is how a B2B like my company can find the people that don’t even know they need our product yet or are unaware of our market presence. For example, on Twitter, I search for tweets including the phrases “Looking for a CRM” and “Good CRM.” This way, if anyone tweets something along the lines of “I need a good CRM, any suggestions?”, I can reply and ask them to check out my company, Less Annoying CRM. There are ways to make hunting less time intensive, like automating replies to social media messages or saving Twitter key-word searches, but I think I’ve figured out a shortcut that takes popular content straight to the potential leads’ social media hangouts.
“Trapping” combines all the knowledge I’ve learned from fishing and hunting (what leads like and where they are on social media) into a comprehensive, long-term social strategy. With trapping, I create the kind of content that I know leads will want to read, and I post it in strategic ways so that I know potential leads will see it. When you listen to your leads, you’ll discover new problems and conversations that you didn’t know were happening, and that you don’t have a way to access yet. Writing content like blog posts and e-books is a great way to fill their needs and broaden your reach on social media. For example, through hunting and social listening, I found the specific LinkedIn groups that had many members in my target market. In many of these groups, members ask for CRM advice, whether it be strategies, software suggestions or just a general survey of what others are doing. I’ve started to not only respond to these questions with blog posts, but I will write specific blog posts based on common questions that I see and don’t already have content for. Before I write a blog post, I’ll often post on LinkedIn asking group members what advice they would give to others on the issue. Members are flattered and will give me tons of specific commentary--plus, they want to read my blog posts when they come out and see if their advice was included (and if they’re missing any tips)! So, trapping is like baiting a lead where they live. It’s more productive and efficient than spending too much time hunting or aimlessly fishing in an endless sea of posts and people, and lets you focus on creating new content instead of continually harvesting old posts.
How do you generate leads online? What is your social media journey? Tweet at @LessAnnoyingCRM, and I’ll be sure to respond.
*And of course it can be aggressive. We’ve all met and dealt with very aggressive sales reps who won’t take “No” for an answer. This is especially unwelcome when you, the dead lead, didn’t engage the sales rep first; they found you through some sort of contact database or determined, based on your online activity, that you needed to use their product. However, this post isn’t about that kind of lead generation tactic.