Why Employees of Professional Services Firms Should Use Social Media

Remember the olden days of finding clients for your firm?

You’d arrange a meeting – perhaps at a networking event or a golf outing. Then, you’d slowly cultivate a personal relationship until the person became a client.

The paradigm looked something like this:

But now that more and more clients are doing research online, the paradigm has changed. A potential client confronts an issue, searches for a way to fix its problem online, forms an affinity towards the person who provides a good solution to the problem, and then chooses a firm to hire.

The new paradigm looks like this:

In this new era of professional services, having your employees on social media helps your business. Let’s take a look at why.

Why Your Employees?

It’s tempting to rely solely on corporate social accounts, but in your industry, your employees are your most valuable resource.

Think about it.

Your clients choose your firm because of your employees’ expertise. If your clients like and trust your team, you will have ample opportunities for upselling, cross-selling, and project expansions.

Given your employees’ central role to your revenue, it’s critical that your clients get to know your team before a project starts, and it’s even more critical that your employees maintain those relationships after a project finishes.

How can they do that? Below, we’ll look at four ways that social media can help your professional services firm.

1. Demonstrate Thought Leadership

Take a few moments to think about what contributes to your company’s success.

Most likely, your list includes some of these items:

  • Long-term relationships that are built on trust
  • External reputation
  • Intellectual leadership and integrity

If you’re not using social media to build your firm’s reputation and to establish intellectual leadership, you’re missing out. 84% of C-level and VP executives use social media during their buying process.

In other words, your future clients are researching your firm on social media. They’re using sites like Twitter and LinkedIn to assess your company’s trustworthiness and knowledge.

To demonstrate your company’s expertise, you can have your employees share different types of content on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn. Have them share your company’s latest reports, circulate press releases, and post articles that will stimulate debate around topics of interest to your clients.

Need more guidance? Check out this blog that helps you find the right content mix.

2. Win New Business

In the world of professional services, a big chunk of your time is spent writing project proposals. It seems like you’re always trying to win new business.

Social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn can help you bring in revenue because they enable you to…

  1. Stay in touch with existing clients
  2. Identify new opportunities and prospects
  3. Grab the attention of your prospective clients
  4. Educate and add value to your prospective clients

Number 4 is important. 74% of buyers select the vendor whose employees first add value during the buying process.

If your employees are simply pitching project proposals to clients – without educating them on social, without inspiring them on social, and without delighting them on social – you’re leaving revenue on the table.

Want to learn more about selling on social media? Read Social Selling 101.

Among accounting firms, financial services firms, and law firms, the competition for talent is fierce. The top job candidates are trying to choose between several companies, and you need to find ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

By empowering your employees on social media, you’re able to show off your company’s culture, and job candidates get an idea of who their future coworkers will be.

Furthermore, using social media can help you save money. In 2012, Allianz, Bertelsmann, Henkel and McKinsey used social media to recruit interns. In so doing, they lowered their cost per contact by 27% and increased reach by 20%.

To truly serve your clients, your employees need to stay on top of the latest trends. Not only does this mean talking to people within your company; it also means talking to people outside your company.

A recent MIT study suggests that employees with a diverse network on Twitter tend to generate better ideas because Twitter enables employees to be exposed to people who have unfamiliar and new ideas.

On top of that, McKinsey has found that social media use can raise productivity of knowledge workers by 20 to 25 percent.

Take a few minutes to think about your last three clients. Write down the names of the people involved with your project. Then, hop over to LinkedIn or Twitter to see if your clients’ employees have profiles.

My guess is that you’ll find several of your recent contacts on social media. Are your employees in contact with them, cultivating those relationships? They should be.

If you’d like help getting your employees on social media, we’d love to help. Feel free to contact us any time, and we’ll speak about your specific needs.

Why Employee Advocacy? Why Now?

It’s that time of the year again. Marketers are busy making predictions for next year’s trends.

As I’ve scrolled through the listicles of predictions, I’ve noticed that marketers are keen on the concept of employee advocacy. Many believe that more and more organizations will empower their employees to become brand ambassadors. That is, they will incorporate their workforce – not just their marketing team members – into their social media marketing.

But what’s all this fuss about creating advocates? Why should companies to encourage all their employees to use social media? Let’s take a look at some of the facts…

Why You Need Employee Advocacy

1. It amplifies your marketing reach.

At the beginning of 2014, Facebook announced changes to its algorithms. By March, company pages were watching their organic reach plummet by roughly 50%.

As you look at this telling chart, remember that you’re looking at data for brand pages. Individuals still have the upper hand on social media, meaning that your employees can continue to share entertaining and educational content on social media sites without seeing a dip in their reach.

In fact, employee ambassadors can amplify a company’s reach significantly. They can reach an audience that is 10 times larger than what your brand is reaching through its social channels.

Needless to say, that’s a lot of reach, and that’s a good thing. The more people seeing your company’s messages, the more potential buyers there are.

And to boot, all that amplified reach is coming from trusted people. To put it differently, your brand’s messages are coming from flesh and blood human beings who influence purchasing decisions – not just some corporate entity.

In other words, amplifying your reach through advocacy is not just about quantity. It’s about quality, as well, which brings me to the next point…

2. It builds trust and brand equity.

Let’s face it. Companies, institutions, and organizations are not what they once were. They do little to garner the trust of the public. But do you know who buyers do trust? Their friends and acquaintances. 90% of people trust recommendations from people they actually know.

So, if your employees are speaking highly of your products and services, their friends and colleagues will take note, and they will trust your company. In turn, your workers’ friends and colleagues will be more likely to buy from your company.

As we look ahead to the future, the power of employee advocates will only continue to grow. Why? Because trust in employees continues to grow. Between 2009 and 2014, trust in everyday employees catapulted upwards by 20 percentage points – from 32% to 52%.

Think about it this way: Which piques your curiosity more – hearing about a product or service from a company or hearing about it from a friend? Personally, I’m more likely to buy something if a friend or family member sings its praises.

3. It increases employee engagement in the workplace.

Brace yourselves. This statistic is a bit of a doozie.

Only 13% of employees are engaged in the workplace. That’s it! The majority of workers are unhappy in their work environment, and they sleepwalk throughout their days, doing the bare minimum at work.

But there’s a silver lining in this statistic. Employees who are active on social media are more likely to be productive in the workplace. Your colleagues who are tweeting, posting, and pinning outperform those who aren’t. They close more deals, and they are generally more creative and collaborative.

So, if you want a happy, productive workplace, you should encourage your employees to use social media. Heck, while they are on social media, why don’t they share some good news about your company? And why not create an ambassadorship program?

4. It tears down silos and builds transparency within an organization.

In many companies, the marketing team is disconnected from the rest of the company. Sales, services, and engineering have little idea about what your marketing team is doing.

They don’t know when your company is in the news. They don’t know when your company creates a cool new quiz. Some may not even know that marketing exists.

These silos can produce resentment and apathy in an organization. And that resentment and apathy can fester, making it difficult for employees to know what’s going on with your company and to feel proud of your company.

By starting an advocacy program, you can build a more transparent and open culture. You can share the latest news with your colleagues, and you can keep people informed of the latest marketing efforts. Strong internal communication is something that engaged employee activists value:

The Aberdeen Group has studied the marketing and sales alignment. Organizations with good sales-marketing alignment grow their revenue by 20% every year.

How do the best-in-class organizations do it? They break down silos by using content.

In best-in-class organizations, marketing creates a centralized content library, a place where employees can access the latest assets and marketing messages. That way, ambassadors can share those assets and messages where appropriate. In so doing, they can feel like a trusted part of the team, and they can amplify your brand’s reach.

5. It recognizes your employees’ efforts and encourages them to keep being awesome.

Did you know that 50% of employees post messages, pictures, or video on social media about their employers? Perhaps it’s time to capitalize on what your employees are already doing on social media by recognizing their efforts.

With a good advocacy platform, you can track the performance of your employees. You can see who is sharing thought leadership pieces and your company’s content, and you can reward them. For instance, you could start a “Social Employee of the Month” program to recognize their efforts.

When you appreciate your employees for their efforts, they will want to share even more content, and through that content, they will continue to build trust between buyers and your company.

In a year’s time…

I don’t know how many of our marketing predictions will come true. Will we care about agile marketing? Will we see increased personalization? Will marketing technology consolidate? I don’t know.

But I’m confident that employee advocacy will continue to be a big deal. As we saw above, there’s data to back it up.

So… What do you say? Are you ready to get started with brand ambassadorship? Check out how Trapit can help by requesting a demo!

-Mark

Want to learn more about advocacy?

Download our newest ebook, The Rise of the Employee Marketer!

Why Employee Advocacy Initiatives Should Start with Social Selling

Are you trying to empower employees to use social networks to achieve business objectives? It can be tricky. With social business, there are many moving parts – your content strategy, your employees’ motivations, competing company initiatives, and more.

If we could offer companies one piece of advice, it would be this: Focus your efforts on one department, and then expand your program. Spend time thinking about which department needs social the most, and then, develop a social program specifically for that department.

In our experience, the sales organization is the most logical place to start. Let’s take a look at why employee advocacy should start with social selling…

1. Narrow Focus Sets You up for Success

Before we answer the question “Why sales?” let’s dig deeper into the question, “Why focus on one department?”

Think about how various departments use social media. A salesperson may want to use social media for building pipeline, while an HR professional would use social networks for attracting talent to your company. Each department has its own set of goals and objectives.

When you try to activate all your employees all at once, you have too many competing objectives. Your program is spread too thin, and your efforts have little impact. Your sales team will grow frustrated because they aren’t getting the content and training they need to build pipeline. Meanwhile, your HR professionals will feel frustrated because they aren’t equipped with the tools they need to attract top talent.

When social initiatives lack a clear departmental focus, no one ends up adopting your program because the program isn’t tailored to them. To remedy this problem, focus on one department, figure out what works, show results, and then tackle the challenges that another department faces on social.

2. Social Selling Can Be Tied to Revenue

That brings us to the next question: Why start with sales?

In short, sales is your revenue center. When you’re building a business case to empower employees on social media, the link to revenue is essential. Executive teams are far more likely to approve programs that are seen as revenue generators, rather than a cost centers.

Plus, by focusing on sales, your business case writes itself. There are plenty of statisics that tie social selling to revenue. For instance, social sellers realize 66% greater quota attainment than those using traditional selling techniques.

If you’d like more help building your business case, check out this resource.

3. Salespeople Are Used to Customer-Facing Communications

Employees who use social media for work should be well-versed in speaking with customers. Your sales reps are accustomed to this. They send emails to customers. They speak with customers on the phone. They give demos to customers.

You don’t have to teach sales reps how to speak to customers; you just have to teach them how to use a new channel (i.e. social media) to do so. Other departments, which aren’t customer-facing, have steeper learning curves. Not only do they have to learn your messaging; they also have to learn how to use social media. That’s a lot of work.

4. Leads Won’t Slip through the Cracks

Let’s imagine that you have an engineer sharing company-related content on social media, and people are engaging with it. How will the engineer know if someone could be interested in buying your product? And will the engineer know how to route the contact information to your sales organization? It’s probable that potential customers will slip through the cracks.

With social selling, that risk is mitigated. Salespeople know how to look for buying signals. Plus, they own the buyer-seller relationship from start to finish. Contact information does not have to be passed between departments, and as a result, leads are less likely to get lost in the shuffle.

Good Luck!

Activating employees on social media can be tricky, but it becomes much more manageable when you focus on one department before expanding into other departments. And as we have shown, your sales team is the most logical place to start.

So, what’s holding you up? Do you need more resources? Here are a few places to start:

Why curation is here to stay

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What comes to mind when you think of curation? If you’re not familiar with its newer meaning, chances are you might think of museum curators, who have the full-time job of sifting through and painstakingly selecting the most outstanding works of art for a particular collection or show. Their sole job is to present the best possible collection to the public, making sure each piece is relevant to the theme and connects to the others in a way that is cohesive and powerful. We may not be interested in seeing every impressionist-era work ever painted thrown together in a room, but when we know that someone has taken the time and effort to select only what they think is the best of the best, we flock to see the collection, trusting that the curator has done their job and done it well.

Little do most people realize that the same process is applied on the Internet all around us. If you are a Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest user, you are a social curator in your own way, collecting and sharing the content you find most relevant and important. While that may be stretching the typical definition, individuals, brands, and publishers are all curating on the web in one way or another, perhaps even unintentionally.

The Internet is a crazy mess of data and content that is only growing larger by the second. How do we possibly find the information we want? Either we discover and curate it for ourselves, or we get content from our Facebook friends, brands we follow, or favorite news sites that curate it for us. Consumers have long been eager to curate for themselves – see the likes of Pulse, Flipboard, Pinterest, and Storify – but brands and publishers have been more reluctant. Most brands and traditional publishers have pushed themselves into the social sphere, sure, but how many of them are curating content that is most relevant to their followers whether it comes from them or elsewhere? Those braver souls are few and far between.

The web has spoken, and curation is here to stay – whether traditional media proponents like it or not. RealClearPolitics is a publisher that has decided to offer original content as well as popular content from around the web, and Pepsi Pulse is a branded destination for pop culture stories, but most companies simply tweet their own content, share the same content on Facebook, and pin the same stuff to the company Pinterest account. These brands are missing out on the opportunity to become a trusted source for relevant content through curation. When readers see that a publisher is bringing them only the cream of the crop of content, no matter who created it, that publisher becomes a content authority – a curator they can trust.

Just like the museums we visit, consumers will flock to where they know that content is being presented with thought and care. No matter your area of expertise or publishing niche, Trapit can help you easily curate the content that is most relevant to your audience. Check back tomorrow as we delve into how Trapit’s tools can help you fine-tune a curation strategy and present your content in the best way possible.

-Kelly

Why content relevancy should be king

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I fondly remember the days of my adolescence when I clung to my favorite magazine issues as if they were my most-loved pair of jeans. I collected the best of Girl’s Life and Jane (later Lucky and Harper’s Bazaar) to save in little piles on my shelves like books. I would tear out pages to hang as inspiration around my room, or thumb through an old issue for a particular article I remembered and liked. I had my own little treasure-trove of content that I never wanted to give up, despite the increasing physical space it required. Fortunately or not, those days are now long behind us. Sure, magazines are still great (I will never lose my love for them), but they aren’t the be-all-end-all of timely content like they used to be. The Internet moves a mile a minute and what goes on the front page of a popular website today is old news tomorrow.

If you ask yourself how you consume content on a daily basis, chances are good that you click through your favorite websites, or maybe even apps, and take a look at what is new, timely, and on the front page. After perusing the latest and most noteworthy, you probably move on. If you skip your online reading for a day, you might miss out on several quality articles without ever knowing they existed. It only takes hours on most widely-read websites for a post or article to be pushed out of sight and out of mind. Once it happens, that article is no longer new – it will garner a few more hits via later Google searches, but it won’t be easily visible otherwise and chances are low that anyone has saved it as part of a personal content collection like the one I cultivated as an early teen. So for the most part, its time has passed. That article has become part of what we like to call the Invisible Web.

As you can imagine, there is a wealth of quality content sitting just below the Internet’s surface. Publishers like Condé Nast and Time, Inc. have vast archives of often still-relevant content that is usually undiscovered to anyone who didn’t read it during its month of original publication. Internet publishers have archives, too – often just as vast, thanks to the minute-by-minute pace of online content generation. So what happens to all of that content that is in publisher archives or has been pushed off the front page and into the Invisible Web? For now, it gets buried. But what if instead of seeing just the latest and most tweeted-about content we could see the content that was most important to our interests? What if what showed up on the front page was tailored to an audience by relevancy instead of recency?

This is as much a concern for content creators as it is for consumers. It benefits everyone when the provided content is exactly what the consumer desires, whether it was written five days or five years ago. We are content enthusiasts here at Trapit, and surfacing quality discoveries is what we’re all about. Stay with us this week as we talk more about how we’re helping revive archival content for the right audiences at just the right time.

-Kelly

Why being digital doesn’t change the definition of insanity

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Allow me to preface what I’m about to say with this — I absolutely love magazines. They are gorgeous artifacts melding prose and imagery in a way that manages to both captivate and enlighten. In contrast to the more utilitarian daily newsprint, magazines consistently offer the kind of high-quality photography, well-researched long-form writing, and meaningful discourse afforded by a monthly publication schedule. But, I’ll just say it now, magazines as we know them are dead.

The Slow, Painful Death of the Magazine (Issue)

Before the digital revolution brought the public never-ending streams of content, monthly magazines and traditional newspapers were the best way to get quality information. But as we all know, the Internet has changed everything. The Internet has shifted the news and information game from push to pull.

Try as they might, the big media companies can no longer control what gets reported, or how, or where, or when. The Internet has eliminated the primary barrier to publishing — the cost of printing , distributing, and selling something physical. And with so much content on the Web that is fast and easily accessible, online publishers and social media are making magazines (as we once knew them, at least) obsolete.

The all-you-can eat content buffet and our now-constant connectivity has caused us to develop a serious information addiction along with a case of digital ADHD. We want content and we want it right now. And then we’re on to the next thing. Reading an in-depth news article a week or month after-the-fact in a magazine isn’t going to cut it. The traditional magazine news cycle and weekly or monthly publication schedules are simply no longer relevant.

Revolution Not Evolution

Evolutionary adaption is an effective strategy in the face of gradual, continuous change in external pressures. But lets not forget — it’s also the process that killed off the dinosaurs in the face of a rapid, extreme change in the environment. The Publishing industry needs revolution.

It’s no wonder that the “digital edition” (i.e. the almost pixel-perfect digital rendering of print magazines) has not fared so well in the marketplace. In retrospect, how could they succeed? They sacrifice nearly everything to retain the magazine’s visual style and advertising, while retaining the production costs of print. In particular, in August of 2011, WWD reported that Condé Nast’s digital publications cost between $20,000 and $40,000 per month to publish. Compare that to your prototypical blogger-in-a-basement, and you start to see why these cost structures make no sense in the age of the Internet.

Even worse, digital editions also fail to take advantage of any enhancements that the digitization enables. The laws of physics dictate what you can do with print publications. But the digital world has no such constraints – allowing a rich, dynamic, interactive, and engaging visual experience. If the phrase “dead-tree” applies to print publications, then digital editions are “dead-electrons.”

Unsurprisingly, the net result has been low circulation and uptake. Of the 65% of US magazines offering digital editions, those digital editions comprise only 3% of the total circulation. Wired’s first iPad edition sold a respectable 100,000 copies, but fell off to 30,000 shortly thereafter, behaving much more like an app than a magazine. The Daily, after a promising start, shut its doors completely.

You Can’t Expect A Different Outcome by Doing the Same Things

A number of publishers are experimenting with ways to differentiate their offerings and business models in the digital realm, generally variations of the deeply flawed newsstand model. For example, Next Issue is offering an all you can eat subscription from their 75 title-deep catalog for $14.99 per month. Hearst is offering five-day early access to issues through Apple’s Newsstand.

Other publishers are going further by working with mobile-native readers like Flipboard to get reach and readership, at the expense of commoditizing their products as yet-another-stream, by distancing themselves from their audience, and in the words of Andrew Rashbass (CEO of The Economist), by “giving the opportunity to extract value to somebody else in an area that should be your own.”

And perhaps beginning to steer the ship in the right direction, Atlantic Media has created a new, free, digital-first brand (Quartz aka QZ) to focus on “obsessions,” which they expect will gain traction through social media.

Five Steps to Rebirth

Ultimately, these experiments show that none of the publishers have figured out the new world order or how they fit the real-time nature of the Internet. So, how does the publishing industry of the future resolve this tension?

Step 1: Abandon the Issue And Go Native

Periodic issues make perfect sense in the world of print publications — the physical creation and distribution processes are expensive so you want to minimize the number of times you have to make the magazine. However, with the Internet, there are no such costs, and customers are used to paying for an intangible service and for receiving continuous streams of information. Publish your content when its ready, not according to a calendar.

Similarly, the fixed structure of a print magazine is a catastrophic limitation in the digital world. People — your audience — carry and engage with your content on different kinds of devices, from desktop computers with huge screens, to laptops with native HD screen resolutions, to more intimate tablets, to the claustrophobic mobile phone, to black-and-white eInk eReaders. So, your content must adapt to remain compelling (rather than frustrating) on each of these platforms. And the only way to do that is to go native.

Step 2: Curate

Much like museums define the standard for significance in art by way of their curators, magazines have long defined the standard for significance in content within their area of focus by way of their editors. So, leverage this, and allow your editors to curate content from around the web that supports and enhances your own.

I’d love it if, in addition to their original content, GQ published the best articles, blog posts, and videos on men’s style and health interests, film, and sports. The Daily Beast has mastered this with it’s “Cheat Sheet ,” which they’ve billed as “must reads from all over.” There is tremendous value to your audience, here. Do this, and you’ll be my first (and possibly only) stop — you’ll be my routine.

Step 3: Create Your Layout Once — For the Web

On the surface, PDF and other print-like digital media seem like a reasonable solution to dealing with the breadth of devices that one will encounter in the world. But in practice it falls apart. Reading these kinds of media on a small screen is an exercise in pinch-zoom, scrolling, and accidental page-flipping frustration.

Thankfully, the world has another ubiquitous technology that’s able accommodate the diversity of devices, operating systems, and form factors that exist in the modern world — the Web. Or more correctly, HTML5. There’s even a phrase for adapting a single visual identity to different-sized screens by taking advantage of HTML’s native separation of content and layout — “responsive design.”

Use this, and you solve almost all of your layout, design, app, and third-party integration problems all at once. HTML5 is well-supported, dynamic, interactive, and supports touch interfaces, allowing you to re-imagine how your audience interacts and engages with your content. All of the modern mobile platforms support rendering HTML5 elements within a native app.

Step 4: Integrate with the Open Web

I get it. You want to control the experience and your content, and under the newsstand model this makes perfect sense, since access is naturally constrained (and is thus valuable) by the physical limitations. But this model does not translate to digital.

By operating as a walled garden, you exclude yourself from the daily digital consumption habits of the exact people you’re trying to reach. And since information moves freely on the Internet, they can and will go somewhere else. So, rather than controlling the ball and being at the center of the game, you are making a decision to put yourself on the sidelines.

Instead, you must embrace the Internet by putting your content in a branded form on the Web that rivals and goes beyond print – by supplementing your articles with contextual recommendations to additional content from your own archives and the greater web, by making your content easily sharable, and by actively sharing it yourselves through your own branded assets on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like. You want each piece of content to become a gateway into your brand and identity.

Step 5: Open Up Your Archives

Your content archives are, perhaps, your greatest treasure and your most valuable asset for directly increasing your relevance and engagement on the Web by providing supporting material and context. Your archives don’t have to be free, but they must be available and they must be searchable.

David G Bradley (the owner of Atlantic Media) told the New York Times during the launch of Quartz that “It’s become very, very clear to me that digital trumps print, and that pure digital without any legacy costs, massively trumps print.” The leaders of the publishing companies clearly understand that their survival depends on the transition from print to digital. However, transitioning from “dead tree” to “dead electron” still leaves you dead. To survive, publishers must become heretics, abandoning the idea of a digital newsstand, embracing the dynamic, open, free-flowing nature of the Web and of mobile, leveraging their editors to curate content from all relevant sources.

-Hank

Which State Googles about Marketing the Most? [Infographic]

Content marketers, pack your bags for Massachusetts.

Employee advocates, unite in Minnesota.

We analyzed the Google Trends data to see where the most curious marketers live (or, better said, where they are located when they conduct Google searches about marketing).

As it turns out, the inquirers about LinkedIn marketing aren’t in California, where the company’s headquarters are located. They’re in Massachusetts.

And, if you’re curious about Google+ marketing, you’re not alone, especially if you live in Oregon.

Where can you find your fellow marketers? Check out these maps to find out.

A brief word on the maps…

1. The maps reflect Google search trends from January 1, 2004 until May 15, 2015, the date when the data was collected.

2. Be cautious when trying to compare colors across maps. The shades are relative to each map and depend on the search volume for each keyword or phrase. The darkest regions on the “Facebook Marketing” map are not directly comparable to the darkest regions of the “Marketing” map.

3. That said, it is fascinating to look at a collection of these maps and notice patterns. For instance, which states appear in the majority of the maps? Scroll down to find out!

Content Marketing World in Cleveland has put Ohio on the map.

New Hampshire? Huh.

Tweet away, politicians and policy wonks in the District of Columbia!

You weren’t expecting to see Oregon at the top of the list, were you?

Fads?

It’s easy to look at some of the maps above and dismiss the search terms as fads. If Pinterest marketing, for example, were more popular, wouldn’t there be more darkly colored states on the map?

We have to remember that adoption of technology and new strategies takes time. Take “social media marketing” as an example. If we were to look at the data from 2004-2010, the trend map for “social media marketing” would look like this:

Not very impressive, huh?

The 2004-2010 map is a far cry from the trend map of today (above), where most states are a darker shade of teal. In other words, it took time for social media marketing to catch on, and it will take time for other strategies and tactics like Pinterest marketing or social selling to do the same.

What did you notice?

Google searches tell us only part of the story. (Contrary to what the “Social Selling” map above indicates, I’m sure that there are social sellers in Wisconsin.) Yet, despite the maps’ limitations, you have to admit that looking at search volume in graphic form is quite fun.

What surprised you about the maps? Which maps confused you? Which ones confirmed your suspicions about your fellow marketers?

Leave a comment below. We’d love to read your thoughts.

-Mark

Want more great visual content?

Check out these posts:

Why B2B Sales Teams Need to Change Their Content Strategy

It’s no secret that content has changed the way marketers reach and engage customers. Done correctly, content marketing builds awareness for your company. It distinguishes your brand from thousands of other marketing messages. It fosters engagement and relationships with customers – not just transactions.

But here’s the thing: Content isn’t just a marketing tool anymore. It belongs in every sales rep’s toolkit. In fact, in an era of self-educating buyers, content is a must-have for sales reps.

You might be thinking, “Sales reps have always used content. We love one-page product descriptions.” True, but modern sales teams need a robust content strategy – one that extends beyond pushing a company’s products and services. To understand this need, let’s first take a trip into the past…

A Quick Sales History Lesson

Pre-Internet

Before the internet, purchasing power rested with the seller. Buyers had limited information about the vendor, and to find out more information, they had to interact with the company through sales and service staff. So, much of the sales content focused on the product. Sales reps had product brochures and FAQs at their disposal.

Early Reaction to the Internet

With the arrival of Google in 1998, the role of the buyer began to change. Potential customers could search and find information about vendors. They began to take more and more control of their buying journey, and in turn, sales began to have less sway in buyers’ decisions.

Unfortunately, many sales organizations were slow to react to this shift in purchasing power. Reps continued to act as gatekeepers of sales information. Marketers would cast a wide net of leads, and when a lead was deemed “sales-ready,” the prospect’s contact information was passed over to a sales rep, who, in turn, tried to close the deal. As a result, many sales reps relied on traditional content – things like product brochures and product demos.

Enlightened Reaction to the Internet

Wise sales organizations started to notice something. If they waited until buyers were “sales-ready,” they were waiting too long to interact with their buyers. If they wanted to win deals, they needed to start interacting with their buyers earlier in the buying cycle, long before they were “sales-ready.” In fact, sales teams that engage buyers sooner are 56% more likely to hit their numbers.

To engage buyers sooner, sales reps needed to be more proactive. They couldn’t wait for buyers to come to them. Instead, they had to engage buyers sooner, and to do that, they needed different types of content. They couldn’t shove product brochures in the faces of someone who was struggling to define their business problem. Vendor selection wasn’t even on that buyer’s mind. They needed educational blog posts, ebooks, infographics, and trend reports that would help buyers along the way.

The Implications for Sales Teams

There you have it: a short, simplified history of sales. So, what does this mean for sales teams? Four implications immediately come to mind.

1. New Mentality: Educate Buyers (Not Just about Your Product!) and Nurture Them

As Forrester’s research indicates, buyers would prefer to avoid sales reps, especially while they are researching solutions to their business problems.

In part, that’s because sales reps don’t meet buyers where they are. Salespeople often assume that buyers are, well, ready to buy, and consequently, reps are eager to push their product on prospects, even when prospects aren’t ready to see a demo or sign a contract.

To be more effective, sales reps need to adopt a new mentality. Instead of closing, closing, closing, they need to listen to their buyers and determine where their buyers are in their journey. Often times, that means helping buyers educate themselves early on, as they try to define their business problems.

Thus, educational, rather than promotional, content is a must-have for sales reps. This type of content might be rich in statistics, or it might show how other companies identified and resolved their problems. It can come in the form of videos, industry trends, research reports, infographics, slide decks on SlideShare, analyst perspectives, and much more.

2. Good Content Can Help Establish Credibility

Engaging content can make sales reps trusted sources of information and education, and when sales reps can be of service to their buyers, they can build relationships, which create preference for your company and help win deals.

As Bob Johnson, an analyst at IDG Connect, has noted, “Our research shows poor content cuts the likelihood of a vendor making the shortlist by 30%.” Eep.

So, make sure you’re selecting the best content to share with your customers.

3. Think Cross-Channel

Often times, sales reps’ go-to channel for sharing content is email. But salespeople should not limit themselves. They can use social media to attract new customers and maintain existing relationships. Likewise, messaging apps can be powerful ways to nurture relationships with prospects and existing customers.

When choosing a channel to share content, think about the recipient’s mentality. For example, messaging apps exist on phones. Chances are good that a buyer doesn’t want to receive a link to a 40-page analyst report on their phone. That’s a lot to read on a little screen. Email might be a better channel for sending the report.

4. Work with Marketing

Marketers know how to engage customers during the early stages of the buying journey. Meanwhile, classically trained sales reps are experts at the later stages of the buying journey. A good content strategy stretches across the entire buyer journey and incorporates the wisdom of both sales and marketing organizations.

As reps try to engage buyers earlier, they must rely on the expertise of marketers, who know how to attract buyers, educate them, and nurture them. At the same time, marketers must recognize that they aren’t closing deals. So, they need to rely on the feedback of the sales organization in order to improve their late-stage content.

And according to CSO Insights, there’s plenty of room for improvement:

By taking these recommendations to heart, sales reps can better prepare for the future, reach and engage buyers sooner, and improve their win rates. As the buying journey continues to evolve, sales teams need to ensure that they are adapting. In 2017, that means meeting buyers earlier in their journey, listening to them, and providing them with the content that is right for their current stage.

Need More Help Planning Your Sales Content Strategy?

Check out this workbook. It provides you with the framework for building your strategy.

Whose Web is it, Anyway?

John Bentham-Dinsdale, “Barbary Pirates.” via.

Anyone old enough to remember life before the Internet may remember the infamous luxury tax. In an attempt to raise government revenues, Washington levied a ten percent tax on cars valued above $30,000, boats above $100,000, jewelry and furs above $10,000 and private planes above $250,000. Congressional leaders crowed publicly about how the rich would finally be paying their fair share, even convincing President George H.W. Bush to renounce his ‘no new taxes’ pledge” and sign the bill.

Almost immediately these class warriors realized how badly their best intentions missed the mark. The punitive new taxes took in $97 million less in their first year than had been projected for the simple reason that there were now a lot fewer people buying these products.

The New England boat building industry was left devastated—a staple of the economy in the states of key legislators who had pushed the law. Yacht retailers reported a 77 percent drop in sales that year and boat builders estimated layoffs at 25,000. By some reports, the additional unemployment insurance paid out due to the crippled industries actually resulted in a netdecrease of revenue.

By 1996, with bipartisan support, Congress voted to repeal this numb-skulled attempt to manipulate consumer behavior. Two decades later, it’s beginning to look like Congress may not have learned—or forgotten—this lesson in unintended consequences. I’m referring to SOPA—the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act.

Like the luxury tax before it, the objective of this act—the theft of Internet content—is noble. It is undeniable that unscrupulous operators of sites like The Pirate Bay are blatantly stealing movies or music and cashing in on them. And the powerful entertainment lobby is perfectly justified in protecting these rights—but is federal legislation the answer? Are we ready to give faceless bureaucrats in Washington DC, many of whom would be hard pressed to distinguish Twitter from kitty litter, carte blanche to effectively censor the Internet for a bunch of Hollywood lawyers?

As always, the devil is in the details, and considering recent legislation easily consumes thousands of pages—if not trees—there is a lot of detail waiting to feed the unintended consequences machine. Much of this detail involves the arcane art of copyright law, an infinitely fertile field for mischief, intended or otherwise. The punishments for alleged copyright abuse as defined by SOPA are significant and, while targeted at those who make their dishonest livings through piracy, the draconian measures outlined in this legislation will undoubtedly impact the unsuspecting and the innocent as well.

Paul Tassi is a freelance journalist you also runs the popular online movie/TV/gaming site “Unreality.” In a recent Forbes story, Paul tells of the Congressional hearings where SOPA was debated. The consensus among Congress, Paul recounts, was merely that, “piracy sounds bad, therefore we should pass this anti-piracy bill,” or one representative who wanted to pass the bill, “because she was bored”(remember that kitty litter…).

“These elected officials representatives have no idea the amount of power they’re giving the entertainment industry,” argues Tassi (or, more darkly, know exactly how much power is being transferred, but also know exactly how dangerously low their re-election campaign funds are). The point being that there are those in Congress who, without taking the time to understand even the most basic implications, would take action that has the potential of destroying an entire industry—one that is of the few remaining engines of growth in the US economy.

In 1801, president Thomas Jefferson, still looking for respect among the seasoned states of Europe, sent a fleet of warships from our young US Navy to the northern African coast to dispatch the Barbary pirates, who were wrecking havoc on ocean trade. Unfortunately, today’s Internet pirates are not so easily identified, and square-rigged frigates carrying cannon are more effective weapons than those born by clueless bureaucrats with reams of new regulations and campaign war chests to fill.

Milo Winter, “The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg.” 1919. Via.

Now is hardly the time to interfere with one of the last industries creating jobs. “Just say no” to Hollywood lobbyists and their Capital Hill stooges who only threaten to kill another golden goose.

Gary Griffiths
Trapit CEO and Co-founder

Which Social Networks Should You Use for B2B Social Selling?

Social selling can be an extremely effective strategy. But for it to work, sales reps need to use the right networks, and that means using the networks that buyers are on.

Think of it like the “tree in a forest” thought experiment: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? But instead of trees, we have sales reps. If a sales rep writes a LinkedIn update and no buyer sees it, does it matter?

Given that there are dozens of social networks, it can be difficult choosing the right ones. The following tips should help you get started – no matter where you live or which industry you’re in.

Familiarize Yourself with the Research

Thanks to LinkedIn’s marketing efforts, many people assume that social selling is synonymous with LinkedIn. However, that’s not the case. For instance, in China, you might have more luck engaging your buyers through WeChat or Weibo or QZone.

Or if you’re in Europe, you might want to maintain relationships with your customers through Twitter and WhatsApp – in addition to LinkedIn.

Bottom line: The web is full of research on social network use, and it’s broken down by geography and industry. Take some time to explore it.

Ask Your Customers

General research can be a great starting point, but it won’t necessarily give you all the answers. There’s a much better way to determine which networks you should use: Query your customers about where they spend their time. Ask them next time you see them in person, work the question into a check-in call, or send them a questionnaire via email.

As you discuss social networks with your customers, remember to ask them about professional appropriateness. How would they react if you reached out to them on the networks they use? For example, your customers might use Facebook all the time. But they might find it creepy if you, their sales rep, friended them on Facebook because they use Facebook for personal reasons rather than professional reasons.

Ask Your Sales Enablement Team to Run a Survey

Sometimes, it’s not feasible to ask your customers about their social network use. In that case, your sales enablement team might be able to assist you by running a survey to your target geographies and industries.

In the questionnaire, the sales enablement team should ask respondents to rate the networks based on frequency of use. In addition, they should ask respondents which networks they use for business purposes rather than private purposes. As we mentioned above, sales reps need to choose networks that buyers use for professional purposes. Otherwise, they might scare potential customers away.

Ask Your Marketing Team Where Content Resonates

Don’t be afraid to partner with marketing when you launch a social selling program. They’ve been at the social media game for a while, and they should have some good data points on what’s working.

For example, your marketing department should know which social networks drive the most engagement for your company. Chances are good that, if your company’s content resonates on those networks, your buyers are also on those networks.

But remember: There’s a difference between how marketers use social networks and how sales reps use social networks. Marketers are trying to communicate to large numbers of people. Sales reps, on the other hand, are trying to form one-to-one relationships. Given this fundamental difference, salespeople might explore other channels. For example, they might want to try WhatsApp or another messaging app, which many marketers have not used when communicating with customers.

How Did You Determine Which Networks to Use?

The tips above should get you pointed in the right direction. If you have had experience choosing networks for B2B sales, leave a comment below, and let us know how you made your decision.

Until next time,

-Mark

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