Entrepreneurs are a skeptical bunch.
They’ve often grown their company from scratch. And they’ve been around the block a few times, so this type of business owner knows what it takes to attract customers for their company. I know this from my own hard-won experience.
Skeptical – yet optimistic, at the same time. Entrepreneurs still want to know about new ideas; they just don’t want to lose their shirt getting results every time a shiny new tool enters the market.
Except social media is not new. LinkedIn’s been around since 2002 and Facebook followed in 2004. Twitter appeared in 2006 and now’s there are over 800 social networks with more popping up all the time.
This means that customers have grown accustomed to having ever-more details and information available to them for constantly changing reconfigurations of their needs. It can be overwhelming for the business owner.
Drew Neisser of Social Media Explorer in his 5 Stupid Myths about B2B Social Selling said that only seasoned social selling practitioners know that this approach is not instantaneous by design.
“In fact, social selling reflects the new reality that B2B buyers often spend up to nine months researching before they even contact a prospective vendor,” said Drew. “…the good news is that it is time well spent — 73% of salespeople who use social media as part of their sales process outperform their peers.”
I agree with Drew about the investment of time. Yet, I want to push back on the possibility of speeding up the process. For example, advertising with Facebook and LinkedIn is a strategy that helps to find prospects and nurture them along the buying journey.
Kevan Lee of Buffer believes that social media doesn’t always have to be top of the funnel. Or that there even is a funnel.
“Social media covers the full spectrum of the buying process, everything from awareness all the way through to advocacy.” Here’s their image describing how social media has its very own funnel.
“Customers are taking a less linear journey toward closing the deal.”
Strategic Sales Consultant Gabe Larsen gives an example of how they built a sales funnel for enterprise prospects.
His team figured out a unique gift for a list of 18 accounts with 3-5 contacts at each account. The gift was tracked so reps knew when to place their first phone call. If the prospect didn’t answer, they left their first voicemail with an email.
Next day, reps called twice, left a voice mail twice, and texted once. Here’s a visual of their process through the 11-day process.
Yes, it seems aggressive and Gabe’s team crushed the results. They built $700K in their sales pipeline.
How to create your very own funnel.
“There’s no single right way to make a funnel, says Kevan of Buffer. “Every brand is different, and every potential buyer’s journey is unique.”
I’m personally a believer in fully understanding the Personas of your prospective buyers. Business owners often like to skip this stage because they “know their customers really well – we golf with them all the time!” This is likely true of their traditional relationships and, maybe, not so accurate when it comes to new clientele.
An understanding of how their customers live online needs deeper thinking. For example, which websites do they typically visit when comparing products and services? Who is seeking to appreciate their circumstances better by regularly reaching out through social media? When you’re not.
Eric Setu asks these questions to reflect on each different stage of the buyer’s journey:
How do customers find me at every different stage?
What kind of information do I need to provide to help them move from one stage to the next?
How do I know if they have moved from one stage to another?
The next stage in the digital sales funnel is to determine the type of content for each type of buyer. What we all want to remember is that a sale is an emotional experience. This is where good storytelling and being real comes in – by realizing there are humans on the other side of that message – instead of trying to be sales-y or stoic with communication.
It’s also possible there is NO funnel. I really like Eric Siu’s article on this topic.
How to get the most from your funnel
It’s a good idea to get into the mindset of testing. Remember that your endgame is to capture emails to build your lists. Also:
Create a clear call-to-action for every blog or communication;
Send clicks to a targeted landing page which can be on your website or on a stand-alone page;
Develop a welcome message that triggers an auto-responder that moves the prospect through your sales funnel;
Create a lead magnet which is used to encourage potential buyers to give you their name, email, phone number or address. Why? Because you want to own your own “real estate” list of names rather than to leave them on someone else’s platform.
If you got to this point Some final thoughts
A big challenge that I often see with clients is they have a list of customers without email addresses.
Or they don’t want to bother their customers with too much communication. I’ve heard this complaint countless times since I started doing direct response marketing 30 years ago. If done properly – with segmented Personas on lists – your customers will love you because they’re thirsty for the information you provide. And you will learn about the preferred style of communications relationship with customers as you get a sense of their online habits.
You can see there are multiple ways to think about sales funnels. Several best practices have emerged over 15 years when social media first appeared but every business will have unique needs.
Yes, social selling lifts sales. You may want to learn how high.