There are three different types of application offerings for selling, social or otherwise:
- Free – Always free.
- Freemium – Free for small users and/or with limited functionality. These include a premium upgrade offer.
- Premium – You’re gonna’ pay from day one or after a limited free trial period.
Take LinkedIn as an example. While LinkedIn offers a very robust free service, it does come with certain limitations. If you wish to reduce these throttles, you are going to have to pay for that, and LinkedIn offers several levels and types of premium services at a variety of different price points. If subscription fees were not enough, there are more convenient ways for you to whip out the plastic such as on InMails, job postings, and on sponsored ads.
Faced with the dilemma of staying with a free service or upgrading to a premium version, we should be, likely are, asking ourselves several questions …
- Do I need the premium service or can I get by for free?
- Am I even getting everything from the free service now? If no, why upgrade?
- Does this service even do what I need or should I look elsewhere?
- Can I afford to pay for this service?
However, here are the two biggest questions that I think you must ask yourself before investing in a premium app …
- If I buy it, will I use it?
- If I use it, will it make me money?
Being effective with any application will require discipline and consistent use combined with the patience needed to see it through. Speaking for myself, these are both huge asks as I have a tendency to dive in and then quickly abandon many of the apps that I investigate. For a variety of reasons, they are unable to hold my attention.
If you are going to commit yourself to making this investment, you will want to see a return. You must also gauge your willingness, aside from the potential effectiveness of the app itself, to make it all happen. Can it, and will you allow it to, make you money? Will I receive a return on my investment?
ROI in many forms
Your return on investment can be measured in many different ways. While I feel that all of these are important, that is your decision to make based on your specific requirements. Not in any order …
Organization – Keeping things straight and up-to-date is the Achilles heel for many salespeople. A good CRM will allow you to keep clean contact records and can be instrumental in ensuring that tasks and follow-up activities are completed consistently on-time. As a salesperson, CRM would be my first premium investment but, even these can be had for free.
Exposure – One of the key elements, and benefits, of social selling is exposure. Through this exposure, you attract others to you. Creating and sharing content (articles, videos, slideshows, newsletters, etc.) is a great way to get your name out and to establish your expertise. Targeted advertising may be another valuable vehicle for the purpose.
Image – Your brand, yes … your brand, is an integral part of your overall image. It is the picture of you that they will associate with your name. Since this image is a lasting one and, since first impressions are forever, you had best be lookin’ like a shiny penny.
Time Savings – Trite to say but, time is money and, if your time isn’t worth anything … I’m not sure what to say about that. Furthermore, as salespeople, we have selling and non-selling hours and if I can perform repetitive functions like social scheduling during non-selling hours, this gives me more valuable time to be in front of my customers and my prospective customers.
It is also only fair to point out that you will be investing a certain amount of your time in assessing, learning, and using any social selling app. These hours must also be considered when calculating your ROI.
Lead Generation – There are just a ton of selling tools out there that will assist you in obtaining qualified leads. These range from simple Twitter keyword searches to full-blown marketing automation platforms and everything in between. Monthly investments will also range from zero to thousands of dollars and … everything in between.
Now, if you are creating content and directing people to a landing page with an effective call-to-action … you are generating leads. You might offer a free PDF download (content again) in return for a name, email address, and permission to send them your newsletter. Folks who willingly opt-in to your messaging will generally be more qualified but, qualification can be tricky.
Sales Enablement – Sales enablement tools are designed to harness the resources that are available from your various departments and put those into the hands of your salespeople. Easy access to marketing collateral would be an example. As the salesperson, you will often have this same ability to share these resources with your customers.
Revenues – I’m still waiting for my first order to tweet in (social selling joke). Nevertheless, increases in efficiency in any and all of the above will lead to positive revenue gains.
Investment vs. Expense
The way that this market has developed, we have been conditioned to expect free or darn close to it and there is a lot of great free stuff out there to choose from! I’m not going to name names here but, I use some totally free services that … if they ever told me that I would have to pay to be able to continue to use them … I would. They are that valuable to me.
What I have never understood are those who refuse to invest any money on services that will create returns in excess of that investment.
Being in sales, my mindset has always been that of a straight-commissioned salesperson. If you are in business for yourself, and I don’t care what your title or industry is … you, too are a straight commissioned salesperson. So, as I mull investment opportunities, my brain asks my wallet … “If I let you pay $50 for this service, what can I expect in return?”
My experience would tell me that, on average, a $500 sale will yield $50 in commissions. Not a lot to expect but, what if my average sale is $10,000? That means that if I make one additional sale per year as a result of using this $50 per month service, that pays for 20 months worth of premiums. This isn’t new math.
I already pay about $50 per month (peanuts, really) for a variety of premium services so, I am not investment-averse when ROI has been established. I am willing to invest more when I recognize a return. Sometimes, free is not the best value, and I can’t remember where I first heard this but, “If the service is free, you aren’t the customer. You’re the product.” #Sobering
What premium apps have you been willing to invest in and what kind of measurable results have you achieved?