Plan?! We don’t need no stinkin’ planning! LOL. Three years ago when I made the decision to jump into the waters of social media, I did just that. I jumped in. I had no goals and no plan to reach those goals. I had been given a loaded gun, my finger had been placed on the trigger, and I had no idea as to which end of the device that the bullets would come out of. Bullets hurt.
Let’s talk about goals first and then we will raise some important questions that you will need to answer in order to formulate your plan. As a B2B salesperson, your goals should be to …
- Expand your network
- Promote your existing products or services and introduce new ones
- Establish your expertise
- Find and create strategic alliances
- Find new revenue sources
- Uncover new opportunities and convert those to sales
- Get more referrals from both clients and contacts
- Build closer relationships with your existing clients and develop relationships with new ones
- Learn more about who your clients are connected to
- Seek advice from others and that includes your clients
- Provide better customer service
- Monitor and protect your brand
- Keep your pipeline full and increase your closing ratios
- Track key-contact career movements
Ultimately, as a salesperson, my primary goal is to sell more stuff. I also want to manage my relationships with my customers. There. I said it. “How crass is that! Customers don’t want to be managed and, for that matter, I don’t sell to people! I help people to buy!” Whatever. You can phrase it however it makes you feel comfortable but, it is what it is and these overall goals in no way suggest an adversarial seller-buyer relationship. I manage customer relationships to ensure my ability to exceed my customer’s expectations. This is smart selling and it is the crux of social selling. Meeting customer expectations is a neutral experience. They got what they expected. Do you think that they even remember those transactions? I sure don’t. Exceeding your customer’s expectations is the only way to make your relationship invaluable. Here’s the best part. Customers are no longer solely the object of this process. Instead, they are now a contributing part of it. Relationships flow in both directions and relationships are key in all aspects of selling, social or otherwise!
Had I taken the time to even think about my goals, let alone write them down, I would have been way ahead! At that time, I had no concept of the power of social media and how it could help me to actually meet any goals at all so, that would be my lame defense. What expectations I did have were both unrealistic and entirely too narrowly defined. I flopped around like a fish on a deck.
With your goals in hand, these are just a few of the questions that you need to be asking yourself, and planning for, before you venture out. Fail to plan and you plan to fail. I am trying to keep these questions sales-centric with the assumption that you are running your own campaign.
- Where are my prospects? If you handle a specific geographic area, you will want to use tools like advanced search (LinkedIn and Twitter), and groups, in order to target folks within your area.
- What social networking sites are they likely to be active on or are they likely to be found? This will also vary by individual. For example, I spend a lot of time on Twitter but, not much time on Facebook. Where would we be most likely to connect?
- What tools will I need? You can jump from site to site and have a bunch of tabs open and miss half of what is going on or you can at least consider a client like HootSuite (or the tool that @NealSchaffer recommends SocialSprout) that will allow you to monitor, contribute, and engage with all of your major social networks from within one application.
- What value will you provide? What do you want to say? Social Selling is the law of attraction vs. interruption and you do that by providing value to your audience. This same value can be used to establish your expertise.
- What about blogging? It’s a great way to establish and share your expertise. I use WordPress.org and this site is based on that same platform. WordPress.com is a great way to get your feet wet. Both are free but you will need to arrange for hosting and a domain name on a WP.org site.
- Are using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program? If not, bad dog! Take a look at Nimble which is a true Social CRM that aggregates all of your conversations via your various channels. I am a Solution Partner and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
- How about a mailing list? Email newsletters can be a great way to keep your contact base involved and to engage them with you and your company! MailChimp is free with certain limitations and very cost-effective for more robust lists and campaigns.
- Are you promoting you, your company, or both? I like “both”. Always remember that people buy from you first and then from your company. People buy from people that they like and trust.
- Will you be an open networker or a more closed one? I made HUGE errors in this area! I started out fairly closed (particular about who I connected with). Part of this was quality control and the other part of it was centered on the fact that my existing services would be available only in the Boise, Idaho area. Well, guess what? My services have evolved to world-wide and you-know-who now finds himself making up for three years of shortsightedness.
- How will you stay up with the latest trends in both social media and your industry? Subscribe to great sites like this one to automatically get their latest articles. I use Google Reader to manage these subscriptions. These subscriptions will also provide you with valuable information that you can share with others! I invested in Neal Schaffer’s books (available on this site) and so should you!
Now we arrive at the final two critical questions …
- How much time are you willing to spend on social media?
- How will you track your results?
I won’t kid you. Social media has the potential of being a huge “time suck”, a black hole. However, if you get drawn into the vortex, whose fault is that? You can manage an effective social media presence in as little as 15-20 minutes per day or you can invest more or less as your time allows. Remember this … in the world of social business, quality trumps quantity and quality certainly takes no more time. In most cases, a few strategic actions and contributions will take much less time, and generate more success, than blasting the web with a shotgun approach. This brings us to …
How will you track your results? Let me step back first. If my time and effort invested in social media activities generates awesome and quantifiable results, the most bang for my buck, would I be inclined to invest more or less time in this pursuit? We always invest our time on those activities that yield us the higher return and forego those that do not. ROI 101. Metrics are important. There are many free tools that will assist you in tracking visitors to your website (Google Analytics) and in informing you how your specific posts are resonating with your followers (CrowdBooster, TwentyFeet, SocialBro, HootSuite). Some folks I know use basic spreadsheets to track time spent, opportunities created, and sales closed as a direct result of social media activities. Of course, using social media to direct followers to a specific landing page on your site that includes a call to action and maybe some sort of free download in exchange for their contact information will give you instantaneous metrics as well as help you to build your mailing list. Tracking specific updates that link to specific pages on your sites, is another great indicator of your effectiveness. Adjust where needed. Duplicate what works and dump that which does not. Always remember the definition of insanity … “Doing the same crappy thing over and over again but expecting different and better results”.
What has your experience been in terms of planning and results? What suggestions can you give to others who are just now considering taking the plunge?