How to unlock the power of social data to drive sales
As part of Firebrand Talent’s #digitalks event series, I recently spoke to audiences on ‘Unlocking the power of social data: Learn how to connect and drive social to sales’. The key areas I focused on are detailed below.
At its core, marketing has remained unchanged for 20 years: it’s as true as ever that the best results come from getting the right message to the right person at the right time using the right channel.
Marketing may not have changed, but consumers have — in particular where they are located, how they access information, and the means by which they do so. Australia has one of the world’s most-saturated mobile phone markets, estimated at 79%, with many of us looking to upgrade our phone in the coming year. We start our days on our smartphone where we connect, share, learn and buy.
Digital and social now represent real-time opportunities, providing us as marketers with “right time” clues and triggers for engaging customers. More-importantly still, because consumers have access to as much information as they want, they control what they look at and who they listen to. They vet what they consume with a ruthlessness that is to be admired as much as feared if you’re a marketer — particularly in knowing that people follow people and are more likely to trust them than brands. Over 70% of people use social media to research when considering a purchase
Knowing the best-possible moment to serve a piece of relevant content, and what that content should be, is therefore critical. What’s more, that best-possible moment is defined in a number of ways:
- the best moment in a conversation that’s taking place on their terms, not yours
- the best moment in a story that needs to start with content that informs and entertains, rather than sells
- the best moment to move the conversation forward with content that brings them closer to a decision in your favour
- the best conversations to have shared by influencers on whom those customers rely for endorsement, validation and information.
The good news is, all of this is achievable — through the power of the social web, the social data and insights it delivers, and the digital connectivity that lets you understand more about your customers than ever before.
Know your customers
Customers use their thumbs to consume content, engage and buy. As they like, type or swipe left or right on their smartphone screens they leave digital footprints. These provide clues about their intentions, connections, needs and preferences. Many of them do so deliberately, with a desire to be noticed. There is an expectation that if they provide engagement or clues to you the brand, you are expected to act.
This is different from the traditional role of mining transactional data focusing on what’s happened, and using statistical analysis to attempt to predict the future. But such inferences, like any type of prediction, will never replace the precision of the now — the actual conversations and content engagement taking place in real-time on the social web.
Using these real-time data and insights, you can understand who your customers and prospects are and understand what they seek. If actively investing in real-time insights, you have the ability to know more about your customers than anyone else, so you can now provide them with the answers that matter to them, at the right moment.
Building relationships through genuine connection and engagement, not interruption and selling
The journey that connects social to sales does not start with selling, but by connecting with customers and conversing with them in ways that matter to them. Content must, from the outset, be entertaining, informative and valued. It should motivate the customer to share and seek out more about your organization and what you have to offer, but always on their terms. In other words, at all times, you need to answer two questions:
Customers and consumers will share content if it’s of value, organic, authentic, entertaining and aligns with them and their needs.
We have seen big changes in the types of content that generate increasing interest, a list that includes live video, e-sports and content that builds engagement (choose your own journey).
You need to discover what matters to your target audience and give them more of what they are interested in, seeing your brand as an enabler or inspirer first, rather than leading as the explicit solution provider.
Social data as part of relationship marketing:
For both B2C and B2B social does lead to sales — when part of an integrated relationship marketing program.
We know customers use social for research. The proportion doing so has increased 48% in the past four years (Sensis: Social in Business Survey, 2016). We see this proportion increase to over 70% in business contexts. What this suggests is that your customer already knows what they want and how it is viewed by the market, before they engage you.
B2B social selling can be connected to sales results using different measurement techniques. One is LinkedIn’s own Social Selling Index (SSI), measuring a number of social factors that influence your network through content creation and output, connections, engagement with those connections, and other activity within the LinkedIn social platform. A number of Australian companies now demand that their senior executives or senior sales leaders have individual SSIs above predetermined thresholds. Some require this benchmark before being considered for roles. We have seen customers’ sales directly attributed to investment in social selling and sales-enablement programs. Whilst the sales cycle from prospect to win may not get shorter, we do typically see growth in pipeline, accuracy in conversion, and higher rates of closure. Deeper relationships have always had positive effects in the sales and account management space. Social helps build on those relationships and benefits from deeper insights.
The beauty of digital and social is that everything can be tracked. With the benefit of pixel tracking, you know which content is working best at conversion.
You can set up retargeting to allow you to plan a social lead nurture campaign so that, knowing which initial content resonated most, you can present the next piece of content in a sequence that builds on success. By measuring everything you do, you’re delivering inside your own ‘marketing lab’ that allows you to do more of what works and do less of, or stop, what doesn’t. You can iterate to obtain ROI you have not seen before.
Finally, to ensure successful social selling, follow these tips.
Top tips for successful social selling
Here’s a high-level checklist of how to connect your social to sales:
- Design for mobile first (because that’s where consumers are)
- Create compelling story experiences and journeys (otherwise they will ignore you) with video core to your strategy (because that’s what they like and share)
- Integrate influencers, so that they share stories enabled by (and inspired by) you
- Engage your employees, partners and communities, and include this leverage in all that you do
- Track everything, make sure all your content is pixeled, tracked and reported for retargeting purposes (and best experiences and ROI). It’s OK to discover what doesn’t work – and ensure you use that intelligence to change tack (content, targeting, whatever) and test. Today’s social and digital selling is a process of continuous refinement and testing
- Measure everything you do through a customer lens (your target audience). Be able to answer these two questions: “Why would I care, why should I share”
As Seth Godin has said:
People don’t buy products or services – they buy relations, stories and magic.
Use the digital footprints consumers and customers leave on the web to discover more about them, and serve them with content that matters to them in contexts, timing and places best-suited to them. Continually refine.
We no longer market products and services. We build relationships with customers. It is they who control the conversation and timing. Your goal should be to build an engaged community where everything is data-driven, and is integrated and designed around your customer. As a marketer, use the insight they provide to help you ask better questions, and design better experiences for your customers.