Recently, I asked the question does social matter? and explained that the internet and social media have fundamentally altered the ways that businesses and customers interact with one another to develop relationships, manage the customer experience, and to buy and sell products.
Today, we’re going to look at how Social Media has horned in and taken responsibility for over half of your organization’s sales funnel.
The internet has democratized the traditional sales funnel.
Before the internet made it possible for you to Google reviews about a company, the only info that existed about the organization you wanted to buy from existed in the form of advertisements and marketing collateral. That information came straight from their marketing department or agency, and their only goal was to serve you the info you would need to hand them your money.
In other words, that information was suspect.
But, you couldn’t know if the marketing info was accurate or not without buying. The availability of word of mouth reviews of the company would be limited to your immediate social circle of about 100-200 people.
Then the internet and social media came along. Suddenly you can google a review of anything, and find it. You can hop on Twitter and see what people are saying about @foobrand right that instant. You’re watching the unfiltered customer experience unfold in front of your eyes, and you can decide for yourself if the organization is living up to its brand promise or not.
Social is 57% of your Sales Funnel
In a recent study, Google and CEB found,
“Business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete.”
That means for more than half of the sales process, your customers are not in contact with your salesforce, but are self-serving themselves the information they need to buy. During that time your sales team can’t guide your potential customers through the funnel, so your social strategy has to pick up the slack and address that 57% of the funnel.
Product information is either pushed by your organization, or pulled by customers doing research. Information you push is carefully managed to ensure the greatest possibility of the sale.
Potential customers are going to pull the information they need to make an informed purchase, and social is one of the primary places they are going to pull from. They’re going to pull it from social precisely because it’s impossible for you to micromanage your brand on social. Potential customers know that current customers are going to tell people exactly what it’s like to do business with you.
Are there more positive, testimonial-esque interactions, or are there more complaints? We know that customers resort to social as a last resort, so you can assume a high numbers of negative social interactions (relative to positive ones) indicates a high volume of unsatisfied customers.
How quickly is the company responding to customers and potential customers on social? Customers will have issues, and will need support. Companies that get it, have teams in place to respond within a few minutes (30 at the most).
Good social support looks like the following
- A fast response
- A bespoke response – Details matter. Copy/pasting on social indicates a major part the customer experience is an afterthought. What about the part that happens behind the scenes? Ugh.
- Empathy in the response. Customers that feel heard are happy, referenceable customers, even if they have a large problem.
- The brand accepts responsibility for getting to a resolution quickly.
Support is sales at this point. Your sales team is either empowered by the social support happening the public eye, or they have to work that much harder to win the sale.
Your social team is already addressing that 57% of the funnel, whether you want them to or not.
They are either addressing it like United Airlines, and turning potential customers off, or they’re addressing it like Virgin America, and blowing customers’ and potential customers’ minds with a great experience. Your social presence is a direct reflection of your customer experience.
If your social presence sucks, customers will opt out and never make it all the way to your well-trained sales team. If your social is awesome, it becomes lead generation. Customers pick up the phone and call you with over half of their questions answered.
Customer Relationships and Lead Gen….
Relationships built by your social media team can be developed and taken “offline” to email, phone calls, in-person interactions, and then to sales. At first, 140 characters doesn’t seem like much, but that’s the beauty of it. The commitment to engage 140 characters is such a small one that it’s easier to start the initial conversation on Twitter than picking up the phone.
And once you’ve got the conversation started on social, you can begin developing trust – trust that will show up in every subsequent stage of your sales funnel.
The trust also gets stored as brand equity that will transform into testimonials, social media conversations, and customer advocates who will proudly represent your organization to their own social following. Suddenly, your social efforts have a positive network effect. They are a self-sustaining reaction of positive customer experiences visible to the entire world.
At that point, all your sales team has to do is say,
“I’m just a sales guy. Don’t take my word for it. Look at what real customers are saying on Twitter right now. I’ll wait.”
Suddenly, your existing customers are part of your salesforce.
Now, you still have to have a mind-blowingly good product and customer experience. Those are table stakes. No amount of marketing can prop up a terrible product for very long.
But once you’ve got the product and the experience moving, using social interactions to connect with customers at every stage of the purchase process, builds your organization’s brand and stellar reputation, and affect your sales in a measurable way. Just ask customers, “where did you hear about us?” and track how many come in from social.
Social matters in a huge way to your sales team and your bottom line. Ignore social, you’re not just ignoring those fuzzy words like “brand” and “community” and “relationships.”
Hope this helps.
Austin W. Gunter