IT service providers and business owners can be shortsighted when it comes to social media. They sometimes think it is a waste of money, that’s it’s only for B2C business, and who has the time, anyway? As a result they are missing out on a very cost-effective marketing channel. In 2012, Cisco Systems saved $1.5 BILLION over five months when they used social media to introduce a new Salesforce customer-interaction tool. That’s a big return on investment (ROI), even for a very big company.
Cisco has also learned the value of social media as a powerful broadcasting tool for messages the company wants to send about itself as a company, business partner and employer. In another Cisco campaign, they used only social channels to promote a new router and saved about $100,000.
Rob Petersen’s blog, BarnRaisers, cited 15 case studies, including Cisco and these tech companies:
- Demandbase used a white paper, infographic, webinar, Slideshare and a live presentation to generate 1,700 leads and $1million in new business.
- IBM created a social sales program for their inside sales team and trained them to nurture online relationships. It resulted in a 400% increase in sales.
- RS Components, an electronic product distribution company, created a special hub for collaboration and engagement for Electronic Design Engineering. There’s a free tool store and a free design tool that was down loaded more than 60,000. The site gained 45,000 members in 12 months.
Need more? Rorymartin.com cited these statistics:
- 77% of buyers say they are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses social media.
- 82% of employees say they trust a company more when the CEO and leadership team communicate via social media. What’s the value of engaged employees to you and your company?
- B2B companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month than non-blogging companies.
The social self-help community
Instead of using social media just to promote your products and services, the higher use of social media is to engage with others, commenting and adding to discussions that someone else has started. It’s a great place to share expertise – your own and others. Many companies encourage all of their subject matter experts on staff to engage with customers and gently guiding customers’ problem-solving community. Social media does need to be monitored for negative comments. (Don’t remove those comments, by the way. You will gain far more credibility if you politely respond online.)
An active online community around a product can also save valuable resources when users ping each other with questions and provide solutions instead of depending on your support desk. It has to be monitored, of course, to be sure the solutions suggested are accurate and to block the trolls. This community of users may even teach you something about your own product. I’d call that a win-win.
What is social media?
In addition to blogging, there are 30-plus social platforms. On any or all of these platforms, you can of course post your own comments and photos. It would take a full-time staff of several people to keep up with all platforms. The big three are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter; the second tier might include Google Plus, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, depending on your products.
According to LinkedIn, companies who use inbound and social marketing see a 2%-27% increase to their bottom line. It’s a pretty safe bet that these companies use outbound marketing – direct mail, advertising, sponsored events and more – as part of their marketing mix. They also devote substantial resources to their inbound marketing, but even with a lesser investment of time and resources, it’s hard to argue with the results.
Want to know how your company can use social media and inbound marketing as part of your marketing mix? Contact me at 804.382.0594 or at Bart.Levy@FastForwardMarketing.com.
No need to describe what is a blog. If you’ve visited a website lately, you’ve had an opportunity to read their blog. And why not? You might pick up some interesting technical info, insights on whether a new release is worth the time to upgrade all your customers, interpretation of new guidelines and much, much more. Are your site visitors getting the same value from you? Here are some excuses – er, reasons – why people don’t blog and the reasons why they should.
Giving it away means I make less money
Sharing knowledge demonstrates confidence, generosity and, most important to your bottom line, it demonstrates your expertise in your field. Did you pay for every single bit of knowledge and every minute of help you gained on the way to where you are now? Of course not. Think karma!
At the least, you are paying it forward. At best, you are gaining notice as a go-to source for information and as a trusted provider of IT managed services. True, you may not wring every dime out of your customers. On the other hand, you may be gaining customers who otherwise wouldn’t have known of you and educated clients why they chose well when they chose you.
I posted a blog once but no one paid any attention
Maybe not. Unless you are already a very big fish in a very small puddle, it takes time to develop a community of followers. You need to post frequently – at least two to three times a month and more is better.
The good news, though, is that you don’t have to write all your posts yourself. Invite the experts on your staff to write your company’s blog from time to time. If you have different offerings, in say, security, networks and design, or in different silos, like education, government and health care, ask the people on your staff to take a turn at writing posts.
Don’t worry about perfect grammar and spelling – that can be cleaned up later. It gives your SMEs a chance to shine and it takes the pressure off one person (you?) being responsible for all of the blog posts.
As you gain a little history as a blogger, you can also invite experts in your professional network to be a guest blogger. You can also ask to reprint someone else’s post (with attribution, of course).
I don’t know what to say
We all suffer from writer’s block from time to time. More likely, though, is that you know so much, and so take it for granted, that you don’t realize that everyone doesn’t know what you know. Here are a few things to try:
- Make a list of the top 10 questions your clients ask. Boom! 10 blogs.
- Report on a recent conference you attended. Each breakout session, plus the keynote speaker, could each be a blog.
- What are recent trends and how might they affect your clients – and the people you want as clients?
- Comment on recent news and tie it to recommendations, how your company handles similar issues for your clients, and so on. I’m thinking of topics like data hacking, HIPAA security, security breaches, cloud backups, redundancy, efficiency, software updates, advances in ecommerce – you get the idea.
I don’t have time
This may be the most difficult to address. Unfortunately, they aren’t making days with more hours in them. However, if you think about it in terms of business development, you’ll see how it becomes more worth your time.
Let’s say you had 100 leads last year that you acquired at expos, Chamber of Commerce meetings, Rotary meetings, and random inquiries from people who found you through Google. You had coffee with twenty-five of them. That’s an hour at Starbucks plus 30 minutes each way. Right there you’ve spent 50 hours, plus the networking hours.
Now suppose 10 of them request for a proposal at however many hours that takes. And now only one person signs a deal. That’s a LOT of hours for a pretty small return. By blogging, people will have a clearer understanding of what you do, more qualified leads will come over the transom, and you can cut back on unproductive networking.
One caveat: It will take many blogs over several months for this to become a reality. The process can be speeded up with other inbound marketing, emailing and social media. That, too, takes more time on a daily basis, but your marketing staff or contractor can handle it for you.
I’m an engineer/salesperson/business owner, not a writer
Assuming you are a reasonably smart person, you can use reasons 1 through 4 for ideas on how to get around the mental and time blocks. You can also dictate your blog and let your computer – or an office assistant – transcribe it. You can also put your thoughts down, without worrying about punctuation, grammar or narrative flow. Then you can go back and stitch together the elements to create the narrative or hand them off to a writer to create the blog for you.
Need help? Have questions? Get in touch with Bart.Levy(at)FastForwardMktg.com.
If you attend conferences, if you have a booth at a trade show, if you network – in other words, if you meet people in the course of business – you have a collection of business cards. There are the ones from the trade show you recently attended, from your Chamber of Commerce breakfast, from the local IT association meetings. There they are, in bundles, stacks and piles. Waiting for you. If you’re like me, you sometimes suspect they are multiplying in the darkness of your desk drawer.
What in the world are you going to do with them? Perhaps even more important, why do anything with them?
Why, Part 1
Maybe even more important that what to do with them is why do anything at all. Likely, these cards represent someone who has expressed an interest in what you do, so you will add them to your contacts. If they don’t need your services now, they might in the future or they may know someone who does. You need to stay in touch with them and an important tool for doing so is email.
As a component of your inbound marketing effort, a percentage of these people will click from your email to your website, giving you an additional opportunity to tell them how you are different than your competitors.
There are lots of ways to capture the information on the cards into some sort of database. You can type them in as you watch TV or pay your kid ten cents per card to type in the name, title, company, email address, web address and phone number to a spreadsheet.
Using one of several apps available, you can use your smartphone to take a picture and let the app translate the picture into data. These apps are getting better all the time, but you still need to check for accuracy, especially if the card has a dark background, funky fonts or low type/background contrast. (This is a good reason, by the way, to be sure your own business cards are straightforward in design.) I happen to like Evernote, but whatever you use, once you have captured the data, you want to be able to export it to a spreadsheet.
Next, slice and dice
This is the easiest part: add a note about what kind of contact they are (prospect, vendor, partner, general, etc.) so they can be sorted easily. In a separate column, add any additional notes, like where you met them, when to follow up, and so on.
Choose an email manager platform
There are several, ranging from free (for small mail lists) to the very robust and pricey. Spend a little time looking at product comparisons to decide which one will work best for your organization. You want to be able to import the data from your spreadsheet and you want it to work for you as your list grows. You will probably want to import it into your CRM.
Why, Part 2
Now you are going to start communicating, sharing what you know and building your reputation as an expert IT service provider. You can send technical insights, insights into your clients’ industry, observations about a recent conference, pertinent comments from other experts and much more. You aren’t spamming anyone, because you are sending useful information. Sure, there’s a chance some people will opt out, but most won’t. Some will share your information with colleagues, who will then subscribe to your emails, spreading your influence.
Maintain the conversation
If you have someone’s business card, presumably there was some mutual interest. Build on that interest with your useful information, sent periodically. Don’t email so often people hit the spam button on you, but often enough they’ll remember you. Once a month is okay, once a week is probably too often. Be sure to include a forward or share button and an “add me to your email list” button.
Make it easy for people to add themselves to your contact list – because with the useful information you’ll be sharing, they’ll want you to stay in touch.