A few years ago I set out on a mission that I had no idea would result in the creation of my new company - Getudigital.
It all started with one question "How do I make money with social media?". This question wasn't posed by someone that wanted a get right quick scheme. It was a senior executive and owner of a highly successful financial advisory practice. I was on an advisory board for a friend's company at the time and the person who asked the question was one of the other board members.
I had been raving on about how senior executives should be turning their attention to social media to market and grow their business, since I had used it very effectively to do the same for my travel company at the time. And then he said it... how do I make money on social media? I decided that day to go home and write him an email telling him exactly how to do it. That email led to a 4 year journey that has resulted in a repeatable, proven strategy that I now implement for all my clients. We call it the Social Media Sales Method. And I'm going to outline it for you below.
Before I do, I need to clarify the question. What my board colleague was actually asking was "How do I use social media to attract new leads, and convert them into paying customers for my business?" And after 3 years of research, trial and error, and incredible successes, I'm here to tell you you can't! Not in isolation anyway. And this is why the question causes so much confusion with business owners and executives.
Let me explain.
The strategy and method we use contains 3 key components. And this is where it gets tricky, because only one of them relates to social media directly. The three components are:
- Social media marketing
- Content marketing
- Email marketing automation
Without all three components, each one is only partially effective. Let's get right to some specifics shall we?
1. Social media marketing
The social media marketing component of the strategy is designed to do two things.
Firstly, it exposes you to new customers via social media advertising. The ability to get yourself and your company in front of highly targeted ideal customers is extraordinary, and there are even ninja methods that can be used to get your message on the social media feeds of your competitors' customers! Better still, it is the most cost effective and agile platform to advertise you've ever seen. The old adage 'Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don't know which half' simply does not apply with social media marketing when incorporated as part of this broader strategy. The ability to see what's working within minutes, and adjust your ads to perform better is remarkable.
Secondly, it allows you to massively scale personal attention. If your business has been based on relationships (and what business isn't?), social media allows you to build better relationships faster and with more people than ever before in history. I allows you to nurture those relationships and stay in front of your prospects and your customers far more effectively than ever before. And no, that doesn't mean you have to post updates about what you had for breakfast. But you do need to get comfortable with being personal, and being helpful. This isn't new however.
The traditional way of building business through relationships, or networking, has always been about being helpful and personal with your contacts. The challenge with that method is that it isn't scaleable. Meeting with prospects over coffee or lunch inevitably takes an hour or more by the time you travel to them, order, get through some small talk, and have a meaningful conversation. Then you might recommend someone they should talk to, someone else in your network and make an offer to provide introductions. And typically you'd be doing that with one or a few people at a time. With the use of social media, that interaction can take just minutes. When you're thinking of someone or have found some helpful information for them, you can post about it for them and everyone else in your network. Sure, you'll still meet in person with your connections from time to time, but the need to do so is reduced because you're keeping each other up to date and 'pressing the flesh' so to speak more regularly. As a result, relationships on social media are formed much more quickly. And the requisite 'know, like and trust' in the purchasing relationship is established much earlier.
The goal with social media marketing is to present you and your company to your prospect in a way that sparks interest in your business. But it cannot convert sales the first time you turn up on their news feed. Research has shown that it takes approximately 7 contacts with a prospect for them to know, like and trust you enough to buy from you. This was one of the challenges I had when I was first asked the question about how to make money with social media. It's not enough to show up every now and then, you need to find ways to engage with your prospects and encourage them to want to engage with you.
2. Content marketing
Content marketing is a very affective way of attracting and keeping new customers to your business. But without social media marketing it can take a long time to build a following and expose your content to the masses. Content marketing is basically used as a way to help and educate your market about solutions to their problems. Content can be created in the form of blog posts (like this one), podcasts, video blogging, newsletters, in fact any method that informs and educate your prospects and customers. Blog posts are ideal as part of our integrated strategy because they can be hosted on your website and consumed easily by your target market.
Put simply, the goal with content marketing is to create lots of useful content, give it away for free, and use that attention to build your business. Done well, it is designed to spark the interest of your prospects. When combined with social media, it is an incredibly affective way to help move your prospects along the know, like and trust spectrum. Writing content that educates your prospects demonstrates your expertise and authority in your niche.
You don't need to create massive amounts of content for this strategy to be effective. Just 10 highly targeted blog posts can be enough to move the needle substantially in your business.
3. Email marketing automation
The best way to describe the power of email marketing is through this story.
At one point in my travel business I was struggling. I was so busy fulfilling travel requests that I had lost sight of new business generation. I got to a point when all my customers were travelling and no new bookings were being made because I was not getting in front of either existing or new customers. I wondered what I could do quickly to generate some new bookings. I couldn't afford to compete with the big travel agencies on newspaper ads and even with google adwords. I did something that changed the way I saw marketing for small business forever. I sent an email to my existing customers.
The email wasn't an offer to buy something. It wasn't a special deal on a holiday package I'd put together. It was a collection of photos I'd taken at a New York Yankees game I'd organised for a large group of friends and customers some months before. I didn't have any bookings to work on so I thought I'd work my way through my to-do list from months earlier. One of the items on my list was to send out the photos from the game to the group. We had about 100 people at the yankees game that day, and I took photos of everyone. So I tried to send the photos. Of course, the file was too large! What could I do? I put the photos up on my website and emailed everyone the link to the pics. Over the following 24 hours I received over $120,000 in new bookings.
I got those bookings not because I had a special deal with all sorts of scarcity tactics. People booked because seeing an email from me following through on what I'd promised and reminding them of the fun they had prompted them to think about their next holiday, and put me front and centre in their thoughts when it came to booking it.
Email marketing automation is the ability to use email to stay in touch with your prospects and customers, be helpful, and be the one they think of when it comes time to purchase. It allows you to build more substantial relationships with your customers. It is absolutely NOT about spam. If you start spamming your customers through email you will find yourself on the fast track to being blocked by their servers and unsubscribed. We use email marketing tools that automate the process. They are so sophisticated that they know what stage your customers are at in their purchasing decision and sends them emails relevant to their interests and exactly the right time.
Putting it all together
Each one of the components in our strategy have limited affect on their own, which is why so many business owners get frustrated with the results from each of these methods. When combined however, they are the most powerful and automated way to grow your business that we've seen in history. I'll explain how I put it all together in my Yankees photos example above to illustrate the process.
Firstly, I had the content in the form of pictures from the Yankees game and was able to place the content on my website. I emailed people on my list that attended the game and encouraged them to share the photos with their family and friends by including a link to the website. When people visited the website, I used social media retargeting (an advanced method I'll cover in another post) to advertise to people who had visited the site on their social media profiles. This kept me in front of them for weeks after they visited the site and also exposed new people to my business. Since they had been referred to me and my site by their friends, there was added 'know like and trust'. When I appeared on the social media profiles, I offered another helpful piece of content in exchange for their email address. In that instance, I offered a guide for how to organise your own group booking to a New York Yankees game, or any big event. This captured the email addresses of potential new customers that I could market to through email advertising.
In addition, I created an ad to 'cold' facebook traffic that encouraged people to check out the photos. I targeted people who were in the exact age range as my ideal client, liked travel, had travelled in the last 12 months, liked the New York Yankees and lived in Australia. Yes, you really can get THAT specific! When they clicked the link to see the photos on my website, the cycle began again. ie. I retargeted them, offered the 'lead magnet' in exchange for their email, and used email marketing automation to educate them about travel to the US and stay front of mind.
As you can see, by integrating all the components of social media, content and email marketing, the ability to 'make money from social media' by attracting new customers, nurturing and educating them to know, like and trust your product or service, and wow them by scaling your personal attention is easily achievable.
I've created a checklist that outlines the strategy and lists the specific steps required to implement our Social Media Sales Method. You can get a copy of the checklist by clicking here.