Posts Tagged ‘sales’

Customers Don’t Care About Us

Posted on: August 27th, 2012 by Geoff Livingston 16 Comments

Bored?
Image by vmcampos

Let’s talk about sales. Customers don’t care about our online brand conversations.

The desire for customers to have personal relationships with brands remains the greatest myth pushed by today’s online marketers.

Then there’s the assertion that increased engagement will lead to stronger relationships.

Mmmm, not necessarily. Chatty versus cheap toothpaste, who wins the deal?

Social engagement can lead to customer loyalty or a win in an apples to apples situation (up to 15% of customers, says Gartner). But ultimately, if there’s a significant value difference between competitive offerings, the conversation won’t carry day.
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The Mark of Great Salesmanship

Posted on: August 31st, 2011 by Geoff Livingston 13 Comments

Two for one peso
Image by lrargerich

Have you listened to someone defend that they are selling? How pathetic is that? It’s not that they are wrong, the entire economy moves on financial transactions, for profit and not. We are all salespeople at some point in our lives, even if we’re trying to get a job. What’s pathetic is that their defense deflects the real issue, which is shoddy sales skills.

The mark of a great salesman is simply that they don’t make you feel sold to; rather, the transaction is so natural it seems like an obvious action. You feel good about buying, because you needed or wanted the product or service. Opening your wallet was easy!

When a real salesperson hears an objection, they listen, ask questions, and try to meet their customer’s needs. If they can’t, they refer them somewhere else. To them a relationship between buyer and seller is built on trust and value. Salespeople foster that rather than simply garner transactions.

What they don’t do is defend themselves, or when their call to action is questioned, go into a hard sell. In essence, this is forcing the sale, the terrain of used car salesmen.

There is nothing wrong with asking. A great call to action is a specific ask. But when you get no, then keep asking, and people start complaining, pay attention. It has nothing to do with sales, per say. It has everything to do with the salesmanship. Don’t be a sales puke.

What do you think about salesmanship?

How PR 2.0 Created the Social Media Bubble

Posted on: January 5th, 2011 by Geoff Livingston 26 Comments

Bubble Bokeh
Image by John Petrick

The social media influence bubble finds its basis in measurement of inaccurate barometers. While one can use glittering generalities in defining influence — such as the ability “to cause desirable and measurable actions and outcomes” — in reality, those desirable actions are vapid benchmarks. Specifically, PR 2.0 measurements are participation oriented: retweets, impressions, follower counts, blog rankings, and other public measures of “conversation.”

Responsibility for the resulting social media bubble and the increasing demand for impact belongs to the PR industry in its 2.0 incarnation. It’s the same industry that during the 1.0 era relied on similar metrics, such as number of press clippings, impressions (sound familiar?), and the winner of all metrics, ad equivalency. Current PR definitions of success online will always be suspect, just as the industry’s prior metrics always led CEOs to question the value of public relations.

As the Harvard Business Review so adequately stated it, “‘social’ media is trading in low-quality connections — linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships.” PR 2.0’s popularity based metrics gauge attention, but not business actions. Common business actions include sales and brand reputation for companies, and donations and advocacy for causes. For that matter, current social media metrics fail to measure attitude (reputation), the hallmark of PR.

Three As of Measurement_thumb[2].png
See Kami Huyse’s post on the the three As of measurement.

Measuring attention has created the very strange ongoing conversation about influencers, and their thoughts. Influential talking heads — as determined by attention metrics — dominate today’s social web conversation. Influence also allows PR pros to build lists of “important people” to target for pitching in the hopes of achieving earned social media impressions. Sound a little like the old media relations game?

Like PR 1.0’s impressions, attention in social media has its value. There’s a reason why attention represents one of the three As. But it only represents a piece of the puzzle. Because inexperienced businesses and nonprofits were desperate to adapt they accepted the PR industry’s social media metrics as the answer. And as such, over-reliance on PR 2.0 metrics have created the increasingly discussed bubble.

Attitudes and Actions

Social media communications represents a confluence of disciplines, from the already discussed PR to advertising and relationship development (called business development, sales or development depending on the type of organization). Social can also include HR, customer service, etc., but from a pure marketing standpoint, these are the three primary internal disciplines. Traditionally, while all three intersect at times within social, advertising’s call to action and networking yield sales and long-term relationships.

Three Primary Skill Sets Used in Social Communications

That doesn’t mean that advertising would have done a better job defining metrics. Pay per click, and more specifically the click through rate, still hang over the industry as debatable cost metrics for online properties. But advertising’s legacy is that a campaign works if sales increase. In the case of branding campaigns, advertising works if reputation and awareness increase. Advertising skills have their role in the art of getting people to the site, then getting them to commit to an action.

Yet advertising’s downfall has always been its inability to develop one-on-one relationships, which for many organizations falls to the development team. In business-to-business organizations and nonprofits this role and title should be familiar. Even large consumer product organizations have relationship developers that vie for channels and distribution. In consumer product and service companies after the sale, the customer relations department often takes over.

These people create, build and sustain critical relationships for years, even decades. Applied, development skills bring that irreplaceable relationship element to social media marketing and communications. Relationship development builds a sense of loyalty within a community. This extends beyond the momentary casual interaction to continued participation and actions over time.

To become more effective, social media metrics need to take into account the other marketing disciplines at play. That means measuring real actions such as sales/donations as well as reputation, advocacy and strength of community. A retweet algorithm won’t cut it, nor should a business or cause blindly accept attention metrics as the sole determination of program success.

What Will Happen When the Bubble Bursts

Bubble Burst

Businesses and causes are already questioning the value of social media programs. Their highly touted Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts aren’t answering the right kinds of questions about impact. Navigating truths and myths about disruptive communication technologies will force a much deeper level of accountability for communicators and other professionals using social tools.

This change in tone and accountability is already being felt. The recession is forcing organizations and companies to make their communications programs work correctly, or drop them altogether.

Unfortunately, the backlash towards attention based metrics could be severe. More and more voices are quick to cry smokescreen, and communicators who can’t navigate delivering hard business results will likely struggle. Claims of social media expertise may become a great big red flag, while understanding how to integrate and measure online communications within a larger marketing program will be a sought after skill set.

What would be unfortunate is if the backlash is too severe and swings completely towards sales goals without respect for relationships, or the necessary step of garnering community attention. As with most things in life, the middle road is the best course. Only time can tell what will actually happen.

What do you think of the social media bubble? Are PR 2.0 metrics and the organizations that accepted them to blame?