The mission of almost every new business is the same: To find and keep profitable customers and convert them into loyal “brandvocates,” or brand advocates. The next goal is to help your loyal brandvocates create buzz and influence the next wave of new customers.
Your prime prospects have access to more information than ever. These prospects can—and will—make major buying decisions before they’re ever on your radar. They are influenced by other buyers before they engage with you, your product, or your business. That moment has been referred to by Google as the “zero moment of truth,” or ZMOT (www.thinkwithgoogle.com/collections/zero-moment-truth.html).
In other words, your online presence and rapport with present and past customers sells your business well before a potential client ever reaches your doors. Although this probably feels overwhelming, there are a few strategies that can help maximize your chances of gaining the business of these social seekers.
A majority of your best prospects have likely taken the onramp of the digital and social super highways to check you out. They often do a little research, investigate, compare, and make a judgement about you, your product or service, and your business. They probably check to see how many followers you have on Twitter and what you tweeted last month. They check local reviews and search for your business on Facebook. They use their smartphones and tablets to peruse your website—first to see if your website is responsive and then to find your blog. If you have a blog, they’ll probably skim through a few paragraphs. If you don’t have a blog, they’ll probably wonder why not.
These prospects are your target audience, the ones who want what you sell and know in a few minutes whether you’re actively engaged with your customers and target audience—or not. Before even speaking to you, these prospects decide if you’re personally engaging, charming, or interesting. Prospects have seemingly unlimited access to information from more digital sources than ever, which means they have more control. You may not like it or be prepared for it, but this is normal behavior for a large part of your target audience, also known as your future customers.
This brings me to my main point: You need new customers no matter how old your business is, period.
Finding your voice
Learning to acquire customers is a new skill for many small businesses. Even business owners with experience in this new method of shopping can feel challenged. It often feels like just when you think you know what to do the rules or technology change. Smart marketers and business owners have known for some time that they need to shift from mass marketing and traditional advertising to a more engaging, meaningful, and proactive way of marketing. But are you? Are you and your company still talking at prospects and customers or are you engaging with them in a conversation?
This type of engagement marketing isn’t hard, but it’s difficult to stay the course since there is rarely an immediate payday.
Many marketers and small-business owners have started the processes, blogs, tweets, posts, and so on, just as the social media “experts” told them to do. But after a few weeks, they stopped. If you started and then stopped, you’re not alone. It was probably overwhelming. You probably started with three, four, or more platforms at once without preparing to master any of them. This type of engagement marketing does work; you just need to simplify a few steps. Before you post, tweet, or blog, create a clear picture of your strongest selling points. Take a few hours away from your office and phone and try to remember why you started your business in the first place. Ask yourself, “What makes my business special and unique?” and “why am I in the apparel decoration business?”
This isn’t about what products you sell but rather what makes your product unique as well as what makes you and your business different, special, distinct, unusual, and uncommon. It might be the equipment or machine you own. It could be a printing technique you use. It might be that you have two daughters who participate in a local dance company. Perhaps, it’s a special niche you serve. It could be your previous work experience. It might be the amount of time you volunteer in your community. What are you passionate about? What part of your business do you love the most?
Answering these types of those questions will help you create an outline of your unique selling position. You should have a better feel for your niche and your passion. With your reasoning written down, you should start to see a path. This exercise will guide you to your voice, and it will help you tell your story in an authentic and impactful way. You probably didn’t do this before you jumped into the deep end of the social media marketing pool. Finding your voice and telling your story is a huge breakthrough and will help you connect with people, which brings me to my second point: Engagement marketing is about connecting with people.
To help you be social and connect with people, both prospects and customers, consider the following list. You will have the most success with these new marketing rules and this approach if you connect and share your story in the following ways:
- As individuals, human to human
- Authentically be yourself
- Ask questions—find out what they like and don’t like
- Consistently think long term and share your story over time
- Meet them wherever they are
- Try to focus toward a purpose in a social way
- With impact, how can you make a difference
Chose where you share your engaging message rather than post, pin and tweet on all of the social media platforms. Avoid using this shotgun approach often referred to as a “spray and pray” method. Don’t blast out any message on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest until you know exactly where your audience is most likely to be found and where your unique and uncommon story resonates best. Who is your perfect customer? Start by creating a comprehensive profile of your perfect customer and where to find him or her on social media. If your prime target or prospect is more than 40 years old and works at a school in the education industry, you should consider more engagement with LinkedIn and Facebook. If your perfect customer is a young women who was recently engaged to be married, you should consider sharing your story and passion on Instagram and Pinterest. To not engage in this way is comparable to buying commercials on a country music radio station only to find out that 98% your customers can’t stand country music.
Another way to help customers feel satisfied and engaged with your business is to have a current website, built within the last five years or so, that uses SEO strategies. If not, it’s time to plan a makeover. If at all possible, make sure your website is responsive. That means it resizes itself for tablets and smartphones. Be sure all information is accurate and current. Don’t forget to share your story in your company or personal blog; search engines still place a lot of emphasis on this kind of content.
Navigating the new way
Everyone wants more new customers and more sales. How you and your business approach this task has a large impact on whether growth actually happens. Don’t be discouraged with this type of social engagement when you don’t see immediate results. This is possibly a six- to 12-month plan. Creating a plan that you can adjust and actually manage is obvious but still worth mentioning. Dedicate at least 20 minutes every other day on your plan and sharing your passion and your story socially. Set an appointment for yourself and don’t get distracted. Rather than over focusing on return on investment, remember what Ted Rubin, social media pioneer and thought leader, said. He shared a transforming concept called return on relationships or ROR. As a micro-, small- or medium-size business, we each need those relationships. This is your new network. Engagement marketing means you are creating content that others will like and feel emotionally connected. They will tune in and chose to listen to what you say when you authentically share why you and your business are unique. That’s how you start to convert prospects to customers. That’s the start of creating brandvocates who will be loyal customers and voices. These moments become somebody else’s zero moment of truth and the cycle, inevitably, repeats.