10 Ways To Introduce Yourself to a Prospect On Twitter
Did you know? A 260 lb. dolphin eats approximately 33 lbs. of fish daily.

10 Ways To Introduce Yourself to a Prospect On Twitter

It can be awkward to introduce yourself to a prospective customer on Twitter. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

On Twitter, millions of people ask for help and advice every day. That’s why Twitter is such a great place to meet new customers.

But Twitter isn’t like LinkedIn, where you connect through people you know. 

Twitter functions more like a big business convention, where you share common interests with thousands of people attending the show, but you don’t know most of them. And you aren’t connected with most of them professionally (yet).

Like a big convention, there’s a lot of noise on Twitter. And way too many people to talk to.

So how do you prospect on Twitter?

Well, first you need to find the few good prospects to connect with. This is where search tools like NeedTagger, HootSuite and Twitter Advanced Search can help.

After you find them, introducing yourself is the next step. That’s what this post is about.

But there’s a lot of room for misunderstanding in a 140-character message. You need to be careful, too. Twitter may suspend your account if you violate their Rules

Since launching NeedTagger in 2012, we’ve helped more than 5,000 business owners, sales executives and marketing professionals  introduce themselves to sales prospects on Twitter.  

The good news is that according to our customers, customer prospecting on Twitter really works.

In this post, we share some of the best and worst types of introductions we’ve seen so far.

No, go out there and make a great first impression!

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, join 10,000 social selling professionals on our Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

10 Low-Risk Ways to Introduce Yourself

There are at least 10 proven ways to introduce yourself to prospect on Twitter.  As you will see, all are similar to the types of introductions you use today, just adapted for Twitter.

Some of the techniques we’ve seen work well include the following:

1. Ask for their opinion

People love to be asked for their opinion, especially if the request comes from an expert.

The types of questions that make great conversation-starters include:

  • “Which would you chooose, A or B?”
  • “Where can I learn more?”
  • “What do you think about X?”
  • “Where did you find that?”

This method usually solicits a live conversation. If you find an opportunity like this, jump on it.

2. Share a link to helpful content

Discovering new content is why many people use Twitter.

If you or your company have created or shared content that might help someone solve a problem, then by all means share it one-on-one with them!

This is one of the best ways to prospect on Twitter.

If you can share you own company’s white paper, video or presentation, then send a link to your company’s lead generation landing page – but tell them this in your tweet, “short signup req’d”.

Another, newer method is to use Twitter’s new Lead Generation Cards (paid ads) to capture contact information without asking them to leave Twitter.

3. Offer your advice

If you don’t have a link to share but can offer a quick answer or piece of advice that could help, then send it. You might be surprised at how grateful people can be on Twitter.

4. Follow them

Following someone is the simplest, lowest-risk way to connect with a prospect on Twitter. It’s the online equivalent of sharing your business card. So make sure your profile includes a way to contact you.

5. Retweet or Favorite their message

This is another low-risk way to engage with a person on Twitter. At the very least, re-tweeting or favoriting a message shows that you share a common interest. Most of the time she will notice your interest, and sometimes she will thank you. There are no technical limits on the number of people you can retweet or favorite each day. However, if you have a large number of active and engaged followers, then you should limit your retweeting to to 20%-30% of your daily posts, or people may start unfollowing you due to a lack of original content.

6. Forward their post to someone who can help

If you know someone else on Twitter who might be able to answer a question or deal with an issue, then by all means forward their message on to that person with a quick “(hope this helps)”.

7. Agree with them

Look for statements that you honestly agree with, then give the author a “high five” by declaring your support for their position.

People love to hear others say, “Exactly!”, “That’s what I thought!” and “You nailed it!”.

But don’t fake it, because you might be asked, “Really? exactly what did you like?”.

8. Correct a factual error

If you see someone post an inaccurate statement or a misconception about your company, don’t argue! But feel free to correct the inaccuracy with facts (preferably in the form of a third-party link). Most people respect a company that listens to and respond to people who talk about their brand.

But never argue in public, it’s always a bad idea.

9. Compliment them (honestly)

This is another no-brainer. People love an honest compliment.

Just make sure you are talking about something that you actually liked, or your compliment could backfire.

10. Address her correctly (using @name)

This one is  important.

A lot of people don’t know how to use the @name address correctly on Twitter.

When you begin your tweet with a prospect’s @name, it tells Twitter that only your prospect and your followers should see your tweet.

If you place their @name anywhere else in your tweet, then ALL of your prospect’s followers will see your targeted message, too. This simple mistake can lead to an embarrassing situation – especially when you are trying to help someone resolve a “sensitive” issue.

For real-world examples of these methods in action, check out our Pinterest Gallery.

pinterest gallery of marketers connecting with sales prospects on Twitter

NeedTagger’s Pinterest Board of Customer Examples

5 Ways to Make a Bad First Impression – And Get Your Account Suspended

Social feaux pas like the ones listed below will cause you to lose followers and might even get your Twitter account suspended. So whatever you do, avoid making these mistakes:

1. Automate Your Introduction

We all use some automation in social media. But if you care about making a great first impression, then you need to tailor your first message to your prospect’s unique issues, situation, location and language. Automating your introductions can also get your Twitter account suspended or permanently banned.

There are two ways this can happen:

  1. You may be flagged by your prospects. Most people can smell a bot from a mile away. If too many people flag you as a spammer, your account will be suspended. Twitter doesn’t provide information about who blocked you or how many people flagged, etc.  You just get suspended.
  2. Twitter may flag your account for violating their Terms of Service. The only acceptable way to automate introductions on Twitter is to pay Twitter for advertising (Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts, et al).  If you use any other service to automatically follow, favorite or send messages to people you don’t know, then you are violating Twitter’s Terms of Service and your account can be suspended, ghost-banned (hidden from search) or banned forever. Twitter continues to crack-down on providers and users of these services.

Caveat emptor.

2. Send an Unsolicited Commercial Offer

There are some exceptions to this (like offering a coupon to a hungry restaurant seeker), but for the most part people don’t like unsolicited offers interrupting their conversations.

3. Brag Excessively

Does this really need explaining? Focus the vast majority of your personal social time on finding problems and on sharing solutions – not on explicit marketing and advertising. That said, it’s totally fine (and smart) to post 1 or 2 messages a day from your account informing people of a new product, blog post or even a special deal.

4. Criticize Your Competitor

Unlike politics, in business attacking your competition won’t get you anywhere – especially in a court of public opinion like Twitter. In fact, you might want to consider complimenting your competitors when they deserve it (just released a new cool feature/product, did something important for a customer, shared a valuable insight, etc.)

Not to brag or anything, but this is something we like to do from our @needtagger corporate account. We think it’s important that our customers know about the state of the art in social customer prospecting – even if we aren’t the ones leading the charge on that particular day.

5. Send Them a Link to a Signup Form and Describe it as “the help you’re looking for”

This leaves a bad impression, to say the least. It’s amazing to me how many marketers think this practice is OK.

Look, if you are going to send me to content that will help me, then when I land on your page I should see that content (or at least a useful portion of it). If you are going to send me to a form first, then tell me this upfront (“short signup req’d”).

It’s all about being honest and respecting the other person’s time.

You, too, can leverage Twitter to build a low-cost network of prospective customers – as long as you know how to make a good first impression.  We hope these tips will help you achieve that.

We are interested in your experiences – leave your comments below!

NeedTagger helps you find sales prospects on Twitter in minutes a day.  Try it now – for FREE.

 

 

12 Awesome Social Selling Infographics You Shouldn’t Miss
Did you know? The killer whale is the world's largest dolphin.

On our Pinterest board we maintain a collection of more than 1,000 of the best social media infographics for our customers.

From what we can see, social selling seems to be alive and well on the ‘visual web’. Here is a collection of some of the best infographics of the past few months related to Social Selling (according to us).

Enjoy!

1. How B2B Sales Has Changed

Let’s start by grounding ourselves on why social selling matters. The team at Maximize Social Media put together the infographic below to summarize how B2B sales has changed vs. just a few years ago. In short, inbound marketing and social selling are replacing cold calling and in-person lead generation as the preferred method of opening B2B sales opportunities.

Social selling matters today because today’s B2B buyers prefer doing their own research (often online) before contacting a sales person, and they are spending more and more of their time learning about their options from other people in social media. If you aren’t actively engaging with them there, you can’t participate in the conversation.

How B2B Sales Has Changed

2. Account Executive Social Selling Study

So what is today’s “state of the market” with respect to social selling practices among account reps? This study of LinkedIn profiles from SalesforLife shows that we’re still in the early stages, with plenty of improvement left. That may lead a competitive advantage for early adopters.
Social Selling

3. Online vs. Offline Leads Compared

Generating your own leads is part-and-parcel to professional sales. As this Salesforce.com graphic shows, online leads offer many advantages over their offline counterparts. You’ll want to respond immediately to online leads – but don’t be too forward, or you’ll may lose the connection.


4.  17 Steps to a Perfect LinkedIn Profile

Do you think LinkedIn is mainly a place to post your resume? Then you’re missing out on one of the easiest ways to market yourself to customers in social media: your LI profile!

If you sell anything B2B, your very first step in your social selling journey should be to set your LinkedIn profile up properly to sell for you, 24/7.  This infographic from Maximize Social Business shows you how to do this.

5.  Build Your 12 Step Social Selling Routine.

It only takes 30-60 minutes a day to tap social media for new prospects, as this infographic from Ben Martin shows. Set a time budget, get organized and keep to your time limits – and you’ll be generating new leads in no time.

6.  Your Twitter Social Selling Gameplan

If LinkedIn is the king of social selling, then Twitter is the queen. Twitter is the best place online to find like-minded people you don’t already know, to share content and to establish yourself as a trusted expert.

Twitter’s also easy to learn. It only takes 4-5 weeks to learn how to use Twitter for social selling. Here’s a great outcome-focused gameplan to get your Twitter game up to speed.

7.  How To Get More Retweets

Once you learn how to use Twitter, you’ll quickly learn the importance of getting your messages re-tweeted so you can reach a much larger audience. In this infographic, QuickSprout (Neil Patel’s SEO shop) reveals the right and wrong ways to get others to share your awesome links – based upon a detailed analysis of user behavior on Twitter.

8.  How To Create Perfect Social Media Posts

As your social selling outreach takes you to new platforms, you’ll need to know how to create content that works for each particular audience. Use this handy SproutSocial infographic to save time and avoid mistakes.

9.  The Role of Content In Social Selling

Most of your time doing “social selling work” will probably be spent either creating, sharing or engaging with content. This graphic explains just how important your mastery over quality online content matters in attracting and closing new business online.

10. Social Selling: It’s All About Relationships

At the end of the day, social selling is just like any other kind of sales activity: your goal is to build strong, trust-based relationships with prospects and customers which eventually lead to sales.This infographic by Introhive shows us that the most successful social sellers prioritize relationships over everything else.

11. How To Connect With People

When sales prospecting in social media, one of the hardest things to do is to think of a way to connect with a prospect without turning them away. This graphic from FundersAndFinders reminds us there are many ways to connect with people we just met, in the real world. The good news? all of these can be used online, too! Feel free to be creative when approaching prospects on Twitter and LinkedIn – but above all, be yourself.

12. Touchpoints You May Be Missing on LinkedIn

LinkedIn can be a complex place to prospect. There are so many options for finding and connecting with people you can get lost. The graphic below from MarketingThink.com provides a handy list of the methods that work best.

We hope this collection helps you get onboard with social selling and make it your own.

Happy prospecting!

How To Use Promoted Tweets To Shorten Your Sales Cycle
Did you know? The maximum age for bottlenose dolphins is between 40 and 50 years.

Twitter recently announced Keyword Targeting for their Promoted Tweets ad product.

Performance marketers rejoiced,

Now we can generate leads and sales from social networks using native, keyword-targeted ads!

Maybe…

As Forbes pointed out in a recent article, the jury is out as to whether keyword-targeted advertising in social media will deliver search-engine level of performance. There are good reasons to doubt it will. The biggest difference? on Twitter, you are often interrupting conversations with your content, not responding to personal inquiries for help.

While you can definitely sell stuff on Twitter, it’s clear that most of Twitter’s marketing value (impressions) lies in top-of-funnel branding, prospecting and lead nurturing activities, where Twitter’s real-time content-sharing and interest-based relationship-building competencies shine.

Can Twitter Be Used To Generate Leads At Scale?

Absolutely!

Twitter’s real-time content marketing advantages can be leveraged to capture warm leads, build email lists and shorten sales cycles. This is because Twitter is uniquely awesome at getting the right content in front of the right person at the right time – in real-time.

Now, with keyword targeted Promoted Tweets available to everyone, Twitter has made getting your content to people who need it a whole lot easier – because now you can automate your outreach marketing (the most frequent request from our users). Yes!

This post describes a simple process you can use to generate leads and to shorten your sales cycle using Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets.

Here’s a deck we put together that explains the method in detail, along with a few lessons we learned along the way:

 

The cool thing about using intent-targeted Promoted Tweets is that it gets your best content in front of your prospects when THEY need it.

It’s like having a dedicated direct marketing team monitoring Twitter for leads, 24/7.

Even better: you don’t have to sit in front of the screen all day to monitor and respond!

Of course, you have to pay Twitter for the privilege of automating your content marketing. But for many marketers, it’s well worth the price.

The Strategy: Target Buyer Needs With Helpful Content

The strategy we recommend is to promote your most helpful content – FAQs, videos, blog posts, infographics, spec sheets, whatever – to carefully-targeted prospects during specific moments of need they discuss on Twitter.

If you don’t yet have high-quality, buyer-issue-focused content online, then go out and get some right now.

Presenting your most helpful content to prospects near their ‘moment of need’ can shorten your sales process in three important ways:

  • You will knock-down more sales obstacles, faster.
  • You will build your brand as a helpful provider of solutions and content – not a cold-calling machine.
  • You will respond to your buyer’s needs in real-time, in a non-threatening manner. Being timely can make a huge impact on engagement, CTR and lead conversion rates.

Tactically, you will be placing solution-focused Promoted Tweets in front of buyers discussing issues. Your Promoted Tweets will contain links to helpful content on your website.

To target your potential buyers, you will use conversational keywords that indicate purchase intent.  These keywords are what they actually say on Twitter during their moments of need.

OK, enough of the strategy – here is the process, starting with campaign planning.

Campaign Planning

Preparing for a sales-focused Promoted Tweets campaign is straightforward and consists of four steps:

  1. Compile a list of the questions and issues that your prospective customers and active leads commonly face.
  2. Gather links to helpful content you have already produced that address your prospects’ key issues.
  3. Create a landing page for each issue in 1.
  4. Post at least one tweet from your account with a link to each landing page in 3.

The first step is to compile a short-list of the most important questions and issues that commonly stand between an uninformed prospect and a sale. The best way to find these issues is to ask your sales force or your direct marketing team, if you have one. If you target multiple types of buyers or personas, then you will need a list of issues for each persona.

The second step is to gather together (or create) links to blog posts, videos and other forms of high-quality digital content that addresses each key buyer issue. It is best if the content is yours, but it’s not required: plenty of people will click on your bio and follow you if you share helpful content. The important thing is that the content you share addresses the issue and is helpful.

Next, you will create at least one landing page for each issue or group of similar issues. Place your content behind or on these landing pages and generate a unique web tracking code for each. Each landing page should provide a way to capture lead information like a social login, an email signup form or a full-blown lead capture form.

Finally, you will prepare one or more Promoted Tweets for each issue. This is because on Twitter, your tweet is your native ad.  In your posts, be natural, use a 1-to-1 conversation tone and keep it brief (like you normally do on Twitter).

For promoted tweets, we like to combine a short buyer question with a simple CTA, for example:

Trouble With Malware? Learn 3 ways to eliminate it from your life: http://ntag.it/5vbcxr

Now that you have your marketing assets in place, you are ready to launch your first intent-targeted Promoted Tweets Campaign.

Campaign Execution

Setting up a campaign on Twitter is easy.

You will want to create one Promoted Tweets Campaign per buyer issue addressed. This way, you can see how well you are addressing specific pain points and how good each type of issue is at delivering sales-qualified leads.

Setting up a keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets campaign to address a specific issue in your buyer’s journey is easy to do – if you know what keywords to use. More about that in a second.

You’ll enter your keywords into the campaign panel below. You can choose from Broad Match, Phrase Match or Negative Keyword match for each keyword entered.  There is a practical user interface limit of about 300 keywords, although the system can actually handle more.

twitter keyword targeting

twitter keyword targeting

So… how do you identify the right conversational keywords for an issue-focused campaign?

Selecting the Right Keywords: Not The Same As Search

To come up with the right keywords for your campaign, the first thing you should do is take a few minutes to listen to what your prospective buyers actually say on Twitter.

Use Twitter Advanced Search or a specialized tool like NeedTagger to filter Twitter for people discussing the issues on your list. Take note of the verb phrases (intent markers), topics and hashtags that are commonly mentioned.

For example, this guy has an issue with malware and might need some anti-virus software:

Malware example tweet Snapshot 9:25:13 7:54 AM

Verb (intent) markers include: “ruins your day” and “fml”.

Topics include “malware” and “browsers”.

As you can see from the example above, the words people use to express intent on Twitter (conversational keywords) are often different than the keywords they might enter into Google to find a solution (search keywords).

To illustrate just how different, what sort of solutions do you think Clinton might find on Google if he entered the keyword, “ruins your day malware fml”?

Just for giggles, we tried it – here’s what we got:

ruins your day Snapshot 9:25:13 8:02 AMWhere’s Norton AntiVirus when you need them?

Selecting the right conversational keywords to target is a potential stumbling block for anyone who wants to augment their Google AdWords PPC campaigns with keyword-targeted social media campaigns. Especially if they are performance-marketing oriented, which means they want to target purchase intent (mostly).

To help bridge this gap, we’ve been working on an automated way to identify the right conversational keywords to target, for NeedTagger customers.

Currently in private beta, NeedTagger can now automatically generate a list of the top-performing conversational keywords for your intent-filtered stream.  (ask us about the beta if you’re interested).

Here’s how that works:

needtagger converts keywords Snapshot 9:25:13 8:45 AM

 

 

An alternative way to generate conversational keywords is to use a keyword combination tool (Google AdWords has a free one) and combine verb phrases and topics together, as follows:

SEO keyword combination tool Snapshot 9:25:13 8:29 AM

Measuring Results

Twitter provides a great set of analytics that help you understand how effective your ad campaigns are and in how people are engaging with your Promoted Tweets.

Analytics compared Twitter vs NeedTagger Snapshot 9:25:13 12:39 PM

Twitter does not, however, provide a way for you to A/B test your landing pages and messages against a target audience prior to launching a paid campaign. Using a tool like NeedTagger is a great way to test your messaging in real-time with real prospects to see how well they work – before you start paying to promote them.

In our Insights tab, NeedTagger also provides the actual number of needs we find each day for your intent-filtered stream of conversations. We cannot guarantee 100% alignment with what Twitter targets for your keywords (we use different algorithms), but Insights can give you a pretty good indication of how much opportunity there is inside of Twitter for your campaign, before you start paying.

We also generate daily email alerts that will keep you on top of your market.

Optimizing Your Campaign

Twitter offers several cool features and media types that can help you maximize results. We won’t go into depth on them here.

One does deserve a mention for lead generators, however:

Twitter has been testing a new Lead Generation Card that simplifies content sharing and lead capture from prospects who like your helpful content. The way it works is really simple (see screenshot below).

Twitter Lead Generation Card

Twitter Lead Generation Card

Lead Gen Cards are great for building email lists!

Just understand that this is all you will get – an email address. To mine those leads, you will need a decent marketing automation platform.

In summary, Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets product is a powerful new tool in a performance marketer’s kit. But you’ll need high quality helpful content and know how to identify the right conversational keywords to make it work for you.

To learn about more ways to leverage social media for lead generation, check out this excellent presentation prepared by Marketo:

 

Have you tried Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets?

Tell us about your experience, by leaving a comment below.

Does Online Influencer Marketing Really Impact Sales?
Did you know? A baby dolphin must learn to hold its breath while nursing.

This evening on Google+, I came across the following video of Sam Fiorella, courtesy of his business partner, Danny Brown.

Source: http://www.senseimarketing.com/customer-decision-making-processes-and-influence-marketing/

If you don’t know who they are, Sam and Danny are experts in the science of “influencer marketing”.

Their just-released book is a challenging view of how influence actually works in today’s age of multi-channel, socially-connected marketing.

I deeply respect Sam and Danny for the work they are doing to unravel this complex subject.

So far, however, I am unconvinced that online influencer marketing makes much of a meaningful impact on sales.

At least, not at an ROI that compares favorably with other marketing options available today.

To be clear, I’m not saying you can’t sell on Twitter – our customers have proven that you can, a thousand times over.

What I’m saying here is that it’s not clear you can recruit other people to sell for you. At least, not at any sort of affordable scale.

Offline Relationships Still Matter

A big open issue regarding the influencer marketing trend concerns the relative importance of offline and online relationships between the same two people.

The issue is best explained by asking this question:

If an offline relationship existed between a buyer and seller prior to an online interaction, should the online interaction be counted as the only driver of the sale?

Of course not!

Yet, this is exactly what metrics like Klout and PeerIndex are being used to claim. To be fair, the metrics companies themselves are quite clear their numbers shouldn’t be taken out of context. Nevertheless, this is exactly what a lot of marketing teams are doing – this morning!

Until someone does a decent job analyzing both types of influence in the same study, I think every marketing team should pause and ask the same question.

My personal hunch is that offline relationships are where most sales influence actually lies. If you ask any sales person about this – including social selling pros – they will tell you ALL about the importance of building offline relationships.

Online Purchase Intent: Search vs. Social

Even if we restrict our view to purely online channels, it appears to us that personal intent signals like Google search queries are at least one order of magnitude better predictors of purchase intent than social signals such as: Twitter & Facebook search queries; influencer scores like Klout & PeerIndex; and relationship vectors derived from social and interest graphs, et al.

For the record, please note that I am the CEO/founder of a social customer prospecting platform.  We don’t take this stuff lightly 😉

And, again, the world of marketing cannot be boiled into a single number. I’m sure there are exceptions. I just haven’t seen any that we well-documented, yet.

For both personal and professional reasons, I’d love to see a rigorous study (or three) that proves online influencer marketing drives incremental sales with a positive ROI (at scale) – this would be an incredibly important insight.

But as a trained engineer, I am forced to ask myself: where’s the proof?

Causation is Not Correlation (or something like that)

A lot of what I am saying here is based on our experience running a social customer prospecting platform and my own analysis of studies to date.

For example, we’ve run dozens of tests comparing Twitter organic and paid marketing campaigns vs. equivalent search engine organic and paid campaigns to understand how the two channels compare in their ability to drive sales.

Every influencer marketing study I’ve read so far has basically been a statistical correlation of online data – not a scientific analysis of human behavior.

Before I read yet another blog post about “the power of influencer marketing”… I’d love to read just one that lays out a little scientific method, so we can find out what’s really going on!

For example, I’d like to know:

  • how do online and offline communications actually influence purchases?
  • what is the hypothesis we just tested?
  • what is the design of our experiment?
  • how did we control our experiment for independent variables?
  • what were our expected results – before running the experiment?
  • how did our actual results differ from expected results – with a thoughtful analysis of the probable reasons why?
  • please provide a detailed description of the mechanisms, systems and processes involved in converting our dependent variables into independently verifiable results.
  • what are the possible sources of error and their magnitudes?
  • please provide a thoughtful comparison of prior study results vs. ours?

I don’t think I am asking too much.

For years, the best search marketers have been using this type of scientific rigor to optimize online sales.

Yes, search geeks lean on statistics – a LOT. But they also base their experiments and hypotheses on detailed observations of human behavior using heat maps, eye tracking, et al.

So why aren’t we doing this type of primary research in social media / influencer marketing?

After speaking with Danny Brown on Google+ a few months ago, I know that he and Sam Fiorella understand the differences I’m talking about here.  In fact, they are working on a more rigorous way to measure the types of influence that really matter to business.  I applaud their efforts.  It’s a huge challenge, and it’s where we need to go.

But for now, I can’t help but be skeptical about what we call “influencer marketing” today – which is mostly just a new type of PR outreach.

I hope my skepticism is off-base. Because proving that influencer marketing drives sales (profitably) would be an incredibly important thing to learn.

The bottom line is: if we are going to claim that influencer marketing is a meaningful way to drive sales at a positive ROI – then the onus is on us to prove that it actually does.

I look forward to seeing more evidence as the story unfolds.

For now, consider me a “hopeful skeptic”.

Marketing With One Eye Closed: Closing the Gap Between Social Media & Marketing Automation
Did you know? Killing a dolphin in ancient Greece was punishable by death.

Marketing with One Eye Closed

For many months, I’ve been stewing about the obvious lack of integration between social media monitoring software (SMMS) and marketing automation platforms (MAP).

I’ve been thinking about it because NeedTagger’s users are evenly split between marketing and sales professionals. Both use our tool to connect with customers and prospects on Twitter (for different purposes).

Popeye-pipe-logoEvery day, I see how disconnected social selling pros are from inbound marketing and lead generation teams. At times, it’s like they live in two different worlds. 

That’s unfortunate, because both teams are trying to communicate with the same people for basically the same reason. It’s also unfortunate for the prospect or contact being targeted, because the messages they receive can be redundant, conflicting or downright confusing.

As a social selling professional, I need to know what our marketing team knows about the person I’m talking to right now, for example:

  • what were the last few marketing emails we sent to them?
  • what marketing content is available to share with this person?
  • what content are we sharing today from our key social media accounts?

Likewise, marketing automation platforms send emails to contacts all the time without considering important information available in social media, such as:

  • what is our history of social interactions with this person?
  • what recent signals of purchase intent – positive or negative – has this person demonstrated in social meda?
  • are there any outstanding questions or complaints posted by this person on Twitter?

Perhaps this disconnect persists because social media is so new that marketing automation platforms haven’t caught up. Or maybe it’s because social prospecting and selling tend to be more of a “grass-roots” initiative by sales reps, whereas marketing automation tends to be a top-down budgeted program.

Whatever the reasons, real-time, cross-channel engagement with individuals is a bit of a mess from the customer’s point of view – so we’d better clean things up!

Of course, our company sells a social media monitoring/prospecting tool, which means we own 1/2 of this problem.

During the past couple of months, I’ve reached out to leading marketing automation consultants and platform providers to discuss the gaps between our types of solutions and to identify ways we might integrate our apps and data with their platforms. This post is based on those conversations.

This is a long read because we address a number of related topics:

  • why seamless integration between social media and marketing automation technology is a must, moving forward.
  • how social media and marketing automation solutions are evolving to adapt to the new world of the real time customer
  • what gaps must be closed between social media and marketing automation platforms
  • where the software industry stands today re. closing these gaps. 

Marketing’s Future: Real Time, Personal & Data-Driven

Marketing professionals are under increasing pressure to master the art of real-time, data-driven personalized marketing in all channels.

As a member of a real time marketing team, you are – or soon will be – charged with listening to your market and engaging with prospects and customers “in the moment”. Your responsibilities may include:

  • monitoring social media and the real-time web for engagement opportunities

  • engaging directly with prospects & customers in real time

  • activating influencers

  • recruiting & rewarding brand advocates, and,

  • creating, curating and publishing reams of fresh content to take advantage of trends.

In his recent response to Salesforce’s acquisition of ExactTarget, Phil Fernandez, CEO of Marketo, explained where the pressure is coming from:

Twitter_Phil

Phil Fernandez

We believe that marketing is undergoing a deep transformation driven by large-scale trends such as the rise of self-directed consumers and broad and instant availability of information online. This means marketers must fundamentally change how they engage with prospects and customers.

 

And this in turn requires a new kind of technology solution – one that helps them to create relationship-building dialogs across fragmented channels, one that helps them think holistically about the entire range of responsibilities of the modern marketing professional, and one that is powered by deep insight and analytics.

For those who step up to the data-driven marketing challenge, the good news is that there is no shortage of real-time data to mine for opportunity. Especially in social media, the world’s largest real-time customer database.  

But mining data is only half the story.  Marketing in a social world also requires getting personalThe importance of real-time, personal engagement was highlighted when HubSpot CEO, Brian Halligan, discussed why they released their new 1-to-1 social media monitoring and engagement panel, Social Inbox:

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot

Brian Halligan

Over the last five years, social media marketing has been far from lovable; in fact, brands were typically using social media to push out contests, sweepstakes, and promotional content—tactics that are impersonal for customers and ineffective for marketers. HubSpot Social Inbox allows marketers to create, share, promote, monitor, respond, and integrate social media into their overall marketing approach. Social Inbox is a powerful vehicle for marketers that results in a singular narrative for customers.

Not many organizations are experts at turning real-time social data into personalized marketing and selling actions.

But that’s starting to change.

Social Listening Moves From Analytics to Action

First-generation social media monitoring platforms like Marketwired (Sysomos) and Salesforce (Radian6) led the social data mining charge by helping marketers convert social data into useful insights. Social media monitoring and analytics are still powerful ways to monitor and learn about your market.

The problem is that in most companies today, social data is not being mined in a systemic way to generate sales, leads and customer satisfactionInstead, most of it is still stuck in analytics for market research, branding, PR and advertising. 

When it is leveraged for action, social data is recirculated within social media marketing silos – we see an opportunity on Twitter, so we respond on Twitter – as though our customers only live on Twitter! Very little social data is being leveraged to drive actions in the channels that we know work best – be that email, direct mail or a telephone call.

Radian6 Dashboard

Radian6 Dashboard

But times are changing.  Social data mining is moving past its role as an analytics tool into driving results in real time.

New targeted ad products from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are examples of how social data mining can drive bottom-line performance. For example, Twitter just launched a new lead generation card.

Twitter's New Lead Generation Card

Twitter’s New Lead Generation Card

In addition, new data mining and social selling tools have arrived that makes it easier to spot business opportunities & to engage with prospects in social media, in real time.

Using NeedTagger to Mine for Customers in HootSuite (live demo)

New social data mining APIs (like our new Social Signals API) are making it easier for marketers to listen for buying signals in social media and take action in other channels – in a fully automated way.

Yet another example of data mining for action is the new crop of predictive sales intelligence applications like LatticeEngines that analyze your customer data, then scan social media and the web to identify high-probability prospects for your business.

Clearly, social data mining has moved into the “action zone”.

But is it producing results?

Social Media’s ROI Problem

Wimpy - well fundedMany smart people claim that social media marketing will never pay like we think it will. That it may never generate sales and leads. That it’s all about “top of the funnel”.

Their claims ignore a large & growing body of evidence that social media marketing actually does generate sales, improves the performance of inbound marketing and can reduce lead costs by more than half. Those of us who serve customer-facing professionals with social media technology know the ROI is there.

But to be fair, the skeptics are correct that it has been really difficult to impossible to prove social media marketing impacts sales and lowers costs in a consistent, reliable way.

Why is this so? We think for three reasons:

  1. Harvesting social media for leads and sales is mostly a manual process today: finding business opportunities in noisy social networks is an expensive, error-prone task. Record keeping is abysmal. Better advertising options are coming along, but they are siloed within each social network.

  2. Social media marketing systems remain mostly disconnected from other marketing and CRM systems. So, the full range of social interactions with a given person isn’t being tracked.

  3. Sales attribution is a mess across all digital channels, anyway. Before social media it was really hard to know what specific actions drove each sale. Now, it’s harder. Let’s face it: “last-click” attribution is not an accurate way to measure social media’s impact on sales.

In other words, a lot of Social Media’s ROI problem is due to a lack of integration with other customer systems of record.

Obviously, we need to clear up this confusion. But how?

Marketing Automation’s Future: Real Time Demand Generation

Like other CEOs of marketing and sales technology companies, I believe that the real-time and pervasive nature of social media is forcing enterprise marketers to integrate the best features from their social media listening platforms, CRM and marketing automation platforms into a real-time demand generation platform.  By hook or by crook, we’ll all have to get there.

The real time demand generation platform of the future will serve as a company’s system of engagement with a wide variety of external stakeholders – not just email contacts and social media followers. More specifically, it will do at least six things well:

  1. listen and respond to individuals on a 1-to-1 basis, in real time (in any channel): to do this, we have to manage and track every type of communication, marketing action and selling interaction we have with each person, in real time. This is not a recommendation that we should respond to every signal in real time, nor that every engagement needs to be personalized – that’s not scalable. But we do need to keep tabs on people in real time and be ready to respond in a personal way & in the most appropriate channel, when needed.
  2. listen to every person that matters in our market (not just our contacts & followers): maintain real-time intelligence on every person that matters to our business: prospects, customers, contacts, influencers, advocates and partners. Social media’s strength lies in its ability to not only listen to everyone that matters, but to leverage social relationships where possible to spread the word. In contrast, most marketing automation platforms restrict our market reach to email contacts & followers.
  3. completely inform every engagement and action we take with every person: capture a complete & accurate view of each person’s behavior, profile and history of our interactions (manual or automated) throughout the lifecycle of our relationship with them. Then, make this profile available to every automated system and to every employee that might interact with that person.
  4. select the right channel for every engagement and automated action: marketers should be able to leverage all of the intelligence we have on a person to take action in the channel(s) that make the most sense for each interaction.  We should be able to listen in one channel and act in another – seamlessly.
  5. automate as much work as possible, reserving the hardest problems & most sensitive interactions for our most valuable resource (our employees): using a blend of predictive analytics, natural language processing and human expertise, we should automate as much predictable work as we can, so we can spend our scarcest resource – skilled labor – on the most important people, events and exceptions.
  6. provide analytics suitable for A/B testing cross-channel, real time engagement with individuals: support agile, data-based decision making regarding the owned, earned and paid media investments we make, down to the individual person or persona where needed. Content, contacts and market segments will be shared across multiple channels and across owned, earned and paid media. We need analytics that can deal with this complexity.

Note: some MAP vendors call their vision, “Revenue Generation” – but unless their system is closing the deal and taking the order, I think that’s stretching it a bit.

Putting aside the jargon, I think it’s easy to understand why we’ll need marketing technology like this in the future.

It’s because our customers are pressuring us to get our digital act together – and real-time, personalized engagement is what they increasingly expect. Social media makes it too darn easy for people to share bad experiences, so you must respond to people and address those issues in real time if you want to compete in the public marketplace of the future.

I am a customer of many brands myself, and I would love it if the brands I do business with would behave in such an informed & responsive manner. Wouldn’t you?

Of course, I am not the first to point out what we need. Lots of visionary technology leaders led the way. Some of them are putting their words in to product.

If you attended Marc Benioff’s keynote at last year’s Dreamforce event in San Francisco (“Business is Social”), then you heard this integrated vision in spades. With lots of emphasis on “social”.

Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop, describes their company as a enabler of Behavioral Marketing, which is:

Silverpop CEO, Bill Nussey

Bill Nussey

…real-time, cross-channel, insanely relevant campaigns to one person at a time automatically driven by analytics of their actions, preferences and profiles.

 

 

Silverpop’s Director of Product Strategy, Bryan Brown, further explains how real time behaviors can, and should, drive better performance:

Marc, Phil, Brian, Bryan and Bill all seem to agree that marketing is going to be real time, personal, social and data-driven. They also understand that more social media marketing features must be integrated within their platforms (see update below).

Of course, implementing this real-time demand-gen nirvana will take time and effort. There are challenges we have to overcome – starting with where we will store all of our real-time data about people.

What’s Missing: A Complete System of Record for 1-to-1 Engagement

One thing I’m sure we need (soon) is a single system of record (SOR) to house all of the data about the people that make up our market – especially social data, which is the largest data resource available about people.

Some of my colleagues in the software industry might argue that we already have this system of record – theirs – but I disagree. We’re not there yet.

So what type of enterprise platform should house it? In the enterprise software world, there seem to be four candidates:

  1. a social media monitoring/management system (SMMS): HootSuite, Sprinklr, et al
  2. a customer relationship management (CRM) system: Salesforce, SugarCRM, NimbleCRM, et al
  3. a marketing automation platform (MAP): Marketo, Eloqua, ExactTarget, Hubspot, Responsys, et al
  4. a new type of real-time marketing/customer experience platform (RTM/CEX?):  lots of startups chasing this right now

I don’t think there are any social media monitoring systems out there that are capable of serving as a single system of record for multi-channel digital marketing and engagement, so I’m not going to analyze the pros/cons of doing that.

Some think the best system of record for real-time 1-to-1 engagement is a CRM system like Salesforce.com. There are good arguments for doing this. And, there are new “Social CRM” platforms like Nimble CRM (which we use) that provide much better 360-degree views of your interactions with a person online.

Today’s SocialCRM platforms work well for on-the-ground social selling and relationship management, but there’s still that nagging issue that each person’s marketing context is missing. For example, we don’t know what emails our marketing team sent to that lead. And, we don’t know what sort of content they’ve clicked on in Twitter. It’s easy to ruin a good sales opportunity when you work like this.

While it’s theoretically possible that some of the new crop of startups focused on real time advertising and marketing in social media will take the lead, I won’t address that group here because I think it’s too early to know.

Besides, this post is long enough! There are many new companies focused on parts of this problem – just in social media (chart courtesy LUMA Partners):

Social LUMAscape

Social LUMAscape

Another potential system of record for 1-to-1 engagement is a marketing automation platform (MAP). 

Using a MAP as the system of record for real-time demand generation makes a lot of sense to me for several reasons:

  • we maintain our marketing contacts there
  • we measure cross-channel digital marketing performance there
  • we analyze and score our leads there
  • most social media engagement and marketing activity is top- (or middle-)of-the-funnel
  • most MAPs are already integrated with that other important system of record, CRM. 

If you use a MAP & a CRM platform today, then using your MAP as your marketing system of record is a “duh” conclusion.

But half of businesses haven’t made that leap yet. For them, here is a quick overview of what a marketing automation platform does:

WHAT IS A MARKETING AUTOMATION PLATFORM (MAP)?

Marketing automation platforms reduce the cost of acquiring customers by automating and integrating digital marketing tasks that companies traditionally perform in a solo’d fashion, including:

Marketing Automation features by Marketo

Marketing Automation features (by Marketo)

Marketing automation is also referred to as inbound marketing (Hubspot), behavioral marketing (Silverpop) revenue performance management (Marketo and Eloqua) and revenue marketing (The Pedowitz Group).

An important side-effect of integrating so many marketing activities around a single contact data base is that you get much better insight (and hard data) regarding how well your marketing investments are paying off in terms of leads, sales and satisfied customers. As long as all channels are integrated with your MAP, that is.

More than 20 vendors offer full-featured platforms for various industries and company sizes. Most marketing automation platforms were designed in the early- or mid-2000s, before social media came on the scene. They were designed to optimize web content management, SEO and email marketing activities. So, naturally, that’s where most of their capabilities lie. 

And business is good – demand for MAP technology increased by more than 50% in 2012.

Enter the new kid on the block, social media marketing.

In just a few years, social media marketing has grown from an experiment into a legitimate digital marketing channel that competes for billions in budget with search engines, display and email.

Closing the Gaps

mind the gap

For most digital marketers today, it is obvious that their social media data and applications must be integrated with other digital marketing efforts (eventually). Otherwise, we’re just marketing with one eye closed.

Likewise, most of the marketing automation industry executives I’ve talked with readily admit their platforms will need to integrate with many social media marketing activities.  Many are working to accomplish this right now.

But how, exactly, should these two worlds come together? what are the specific gaps that need to be closed?

Integration gaps exist on both sides of the divide: within social media monitoring and marketing platforms; and, within marketing automation platforms.

In social media platforms, for example, users do not have access to critical information about customers and prospects stored in CRM and MAP platforms. As a result, many social media teams lack a complete view of the company’s relationship with a person during an engagement. This is not a good thing.

On the marketing automation side of the house, there are at least four integration gaps with social media platforms that need to be addressed:

  1. most MAPs treat social media as a content publishing (broadcast) channel, rather than as a place to engage with people directly (which is what it is). For example, most MAPs lack social media prospecting tools, social customer segmentation, social lead scoring and real-time 1-to-1 engagement panels. Hubspot’s new Social InBox product stands out as an exception.

  2. most MAPs limit your social marketing reach to existing contacts (email contacts and followers). This flies in the face of the reality that very few brands are directly connected to more than 10% of their socially-active prospects on any social network. If you limit your reach to fans and followers, then you’re ignoring 90% of your prospects!  Act-On’s Twitter Prospector tool, LoopFuse’s Nearstream tool and Vocus’ Buying Signals offering are recent attempts by marketing automation providers to close this gap.

  3. MAPs rely on keywords to identify social media posts that matter. Analyzing people and posts for commercial intent is extremely important in social media marketing because that’s how we identify actionable events, prioritize our work & save time monitoring. Unfortunately, due to the conversational language of social networks, searching posts for keywords is not a reliable way to surface commercial intent in social media. Leading social media monitoring platforms offer natural language processing options for this reason. To get a feel for the difference, watch this video in which we demo keyword-filtered streams next to intent-filtered streams inside HootSuite.

  4. MAPs don’t incorporate enough social data in their analytics. Hubspot’s Megan Kearney recently wrote an excellent piece about the gaps between SMMS and MAP platforms, in which she commented on the social analytics gap:

By integrating social media into full marketing analytics that pull data from all channels, more and more marketers are starting to be able to understand how many leads, customers, and dollars their social media efforts are generating and what type of content generates the highest quality lead.

The Race To Integrate Is Underway

salesforce-exacttarget

Oracle’s recent acquisitions of Eloqua & Collective Intellect and Salesforce.com’s acquisitions of Radian6 and ExactTarget/Pardot are clear signals that more MAP-social integration is in the cards.

It will take time for these products to be integrated, but it’s pretty clear that real-time demand generation platforms are on the way.

Another sign: leading marketing automation providers are now adding native social media marketing features to their offerings, for example:

Nice progress, but a lot of integration remains.

Which begs the question: what can a marketer do today to bridge the social-MAP gap?


NOTE: If you had the patience to get this far, then I’ll let you in on a secret: this is the first of a series of three articles. In our next two posts, we’ll explain how you can tap into the massive amount of social data created every day to improve the performance of your marketing automation systems – even if your organization doesn’t use social media that much.

How To Mine Twitter for Prospects & Customer Issues using HootSuite [video demonstration]
Did you know? The killer whale is the world's largest dolphin.

Do you use HootSuite for social media listening and engagement?

Then you might be interested in the following 11-minute demonstration video, which shows how to use the NeedTagger app in HootSuite to monitor Twitter for three types of business opportunities:

  1. Sales prospects – 1 stream per region
  2. Customer complaints – 1 stream per product line
  3. People who need your content – 1 stream per topic or blog post

 

Note: NeedTagger is FREE to try, but you will need a paid plan to use more than one stream at a time.

 

NeedTagger is an intent marketing (filtering) platform that helps you find and connect directly with people who need your content, products and assistance right now.

Our apps help front-line sales and marketing professionals save time and stay focused on social selling, content marketing and customer support activities.

Our API-based data processing service (in private beta) helps marketers gain deeper insights into their market and extract actionable events from noisy social streams.

Already use NeedTagger?  then:

 


For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling"
  Check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

Social Selling is Like Water [video]
Did you know? A baby dolphin must learn to hold its breath while nursing.

“This is Water” is a great video that will inspire you to look at your job in a new light.

Based on a unique commencement speech made by author David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College, the video points out that tedious, mind-numbing, personally risky & difficult jobs – like social selling and prospecting can be – don’t have to wear you down.

In fact, the same tasks that drive you crazy right now can inspire you to succeed and thoroughly enjoy your job – if you think about them, and your role in the world, in the right way.

This video was produced after David Wallace’s untimely death in 2008.

(thanks to Matt Bertuzzi of the Bridge Group for sharing this video today)

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

How Many B2B Leads Can You Get From Twitter?
Did you know? The killer whale is the world's largest dolphin.

How many leads could your company get from Twitter, if you focused on it as a channel?

In this post we offer examples, facts and figures that will help you frame the size of the Twitter lead generation opportunity for your business.

Regardless of your type of business or market size, it is likely that every day there are at least a handful of new customer engagement opportunities waiting for you on the world’s largest public social network.

Whether you can turn these moments of opportunity into high-quality leads is up to you. But it might help you to know that many of our 2,500 customers have been successful landing new customers from Twitter.  Check out our Pinterest Gallery of Satisfied  customers for a few examples.

flipboard 86174v5-max-250x250

 For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

Twitter’s Role in B2B Selling and Lead Gen

Most B2B marketers agree that Twitter adds SOME value in sales and lead generation, but opinions differ widely regarding what that value is.

Some say Twitter’s value is limited to sharing content and news to attract an audience. Others say it’s great for monitoring your competition. A few even claim you can generate a sale with a single tweet (that’s not been our experience, for what it’s worth).

It is clear that for some B2B organizations, Twitter has proven itself a valuable source of leads.

For example, Marketo uses Twitter Promoted Tweets to generate leads at a fraction of the cost of other social channels.

We believe Twitter’s highest-value role in B2B marketing is in the front-end of the selling process, i.e., social prospecting and lead nurturing.

In our experience, Twitter has proven itself an ideal channel for handling the following activities:

  • identifying in-market prospects (by monitoring for people sharing specific needs & issues you can address)
  • warming new leads
  • establishing yourself as a respected thought leader and problem-solver in your field 
  • driving highly qualified traffic to your website
  • compressing the sales cycle by tackling the most common questions and issues that stand between you and the deal
  • measuring the impact of your content marketing, lead generation and outreach activities.

The scale of Twitter’s B2B lead generation opportunity is also misunderstood: it’s probably a lot larger than you think.

A question we often get from B2B sales & marketing professionals is,

how many NEW customer engagement opportunities exist on Twitter – for a company like mine?

The quickest way to answer this question is to search for people expressing needs related to your business, right now.

But if we take a step back and look at Twitter as a whole, the scale of the B2B lead generation opportunity on Twitter is very large – and poised to grow many times over.

200 Million Unmet Needs (Last Month)

Since early 2012, we’ve been monitoring Twitter for 14 types of tweets that contain commercially-relevant intent (see chart below).

We call these special intent-laden tweets, “needs”.

Our best estimate is that about 3-5% of tweets represent commercially relevant needs.

By “commercially relevant”, we mean that an average sales, customer support or marketing professional would classify the tweet and the person as worthy of further monitoring or worthy of taking some sort of action such as: following, retweeting, sending an outreach message, etc.

In March, 2013, we identified more than 200 million opportunities to engage with people around moments of need. The chart below shows how they break down by type of need.

Note that we aren’t yet mining every possible type of need. Further, we only identify English language opportunities.

14 Types of Commercial Intent on Twitter by NeedTagger (estimated)

14 Types of Commercial Intent on Twitter by NeedTagger (estimated)

In addition to the Types of Needs above, we also mine Twitter for people discussing important Life Events, Trigger Events and more than 60 common household and business purchases.

Specific B2B Examples

So let’s now dive into the industry view of these needs.

Listed in the chart below are a few of the pre-tested sales prospecting filters we offer for B2B customers today.

The stream volumes below identify explicit buying signals – they do not find tweets containing other forms of intent, such as people asking questions, complaining, offering opinions, etc.

B2B opportunities available on Twitter (sample)

B2B opportunities available on Twitter (sample)

As you can see, the volume of B2B needs expressed on Twitter is large enough to interest most B2B social selling professionals.

Keep in mind that only about 16% of the US population uses Twitter today, and the number of active users and number of tweets posted each day is increasing rapidly.

The list above represents a small slice of the opportunities we’ve identified for our B2B customers, because the majority of our users don’t use pre-tested streams – they build custom-filtered streams for their business using our self-service apps.

Here are a few examples of B2B prospecting streams created by our users:

B2B Leads - NeedTagger customer streams (examples)

B2B Leads – NeedTagger customer streams (examples)

It is important to note that the vast majority of commercial needs expressed on Twitter each day are overlooked by most businesses.

This is partially because Twitter is young, but it’s also because even socially-savvy business professionals believe Twitter is too noisy to get any business value from it – other than following the news. 

LinkedIn Is the King of B2B Social Selling

LinkedIn is widely considered the king of social prospecting for most B2B industries today and for good reason: professional networking is the best means of getting introduced to a potential client or customer for most B2B companies.

In addition, the conversion rate of traffic sourced from LinkedIn seems to be higher than other networks.  A recent Hubspot study revealed that LinkedIn traffic converts 277% better than Twitter.

Hubspot conversion rate survey 2012

Hubspot conversion rate survey 2012

But… You Can’t Connect With Everyone

That said, the reality is that most of your socially-active sales prospects are not directly connected to you on any private social network like LinkedIn. Most never will be (is our guess).

This may sound hard to believe, but do the math for your LinkedIn account right now:

  • how many companies and sales prospects (people) likely exist on LinkedIn for your business/market?  
  • how many of them are directly connected to your account right now?

If you are connected directly to more than 10% of your potential buyers on LinkedIn, then you are way ahead of most.

90 pct dont follow you online

 

The other shortcoming of LinkedIn is its limited use: the vast majority of people do not visit LinkedIn every day.  Many don’t check it weekly.

Why Twitter Is the ‘Queen’ of Social Selling

If LinkedIn is your social selling rolodex, then Twitter is your 24-7 business conference.

Twitter users are more active than LinkedIn users. Active Twitter users check their streams several times a day, and heavy users post every hour. This means that if your prospect uses Twitter, then you have more opportunities to engage with him or her.

Twitter is also much more open, and thus easier to mine for opportunities.  Did you know that over 70% of the world’s publicly-searchable user generated content is posted on Twitter?  The other 30% includes Facebook, LinkedIn, blog posts, discussion forums – you name it.

Taken together, Facebook and LinkedIn contain more user-generated content, but the vast majority of it is not available to you (unless you pay for ads – maybe).  Only a small number of conversations & posts on FB and LI are publicly available for prospecting – and reaching out to people you don’t know is not standard protocol.

This means that Twitter is an ideal place for connecting with people who don’t know you yet – and with people who won’t connect with you anywhere else.  And, as we pointed out earlier, unconnected prospects probably make up 90% of your potential market.

The obvious advantage of using Twitter to generate B2B leads is VOLUME: more opportunities exist to connect with a given prospect each day.

The primary challenge to using Twitter for B2B leads is TIME:  no one can afford to spend all day monitoring busy Twitter streams for opportunities.

The best way to maximize your limited time on Twitter is to quickly identify the tweets and people that matter the most to your business – by filtering-out all of the spam, news and noise that does nothing to drive your business forward.

This is where an intent-marketing tool like NeedTagger can really help.

How We Can Help

NeedTagger helps marketers sift through the noise of Twitter to identify meaningful customer engagement opportunities for their business. We help you find and connect with people who actually need your content, products, services and assistance right now.

 

 

The 3 biggest challenges to social prospecting and how to overcome them
Did you know? The killer whale is the world's largest dolphin.

After helping over 2,000 social selling professionals connect with new prospects on Twitter, we’ve learned there are three challenges most first-time “social prospectors” will face.

The challenges we see professionals struggle with when prospecting customers on Twitter include:

  1. not being clear about who you want to connect with (and why)

  2. not knowing what to say to a new prospect, and,

  3. how to identify new prospects quickly and efficiently.

In this post, we address these three challenges and offer ways to overcome these hurdles. Our expertise is in monitoring conversations on public social networks for leads, so in this post we’ll focus mostly on Twitter as a source of prospects.

We also provide an example from our own social prospecting efforts (last night), to give you a feel for how natural this type of prospecting can be.

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

Challenge #1:  who am I trying to meet?

Before attempting to search for potential prospects on Twitter, we strongly recommend that you write-down your prospecting objective in a statement that describes the people you want to connect to.  Use a format similar to this:

People X who need/want/complain about topic Y.

For example, here is one of our social prospecting objectives:

Social selling professionals with Twitter experience who need tools to help them find new prospects.

A lot of new social prospectors struggle to come up with a statement like that. Partially because it immediately begs the following question:

Challenge #2:  what will I say when I find them?

Ah, yes – the introduction. The bane of all prospecting. What do you say?

This second question is where the greatest number of new NeedTagger users get hung up. There are a number of practical reasons for their reluctance, including:

  1. fear of being seen as a spammer: this fear, while very common, is greatly overblown for professionals who sincerely seek to help people solve problems (as opposed to sending coupons, useless landing pages and irrelevant links). If you answer the right questions from the right people, you will not be viewed as a spammer.  That said, if you have any doubt at all about how someone might respond to your message, then engage less directly, i.e., follow them, retweet them or list them.

  2. lack of content: you don’t have the right links/content to share, so traffic generation seems impossible. Solution: place your landing page URL or your company’s URL in your profile, as a default way of generating traffic.

  3. lack of solution-selling knowledge or expertise: you simply aren’t the right person to talk with customers about issues. We see this a lot. For example, marketing specialists aren’t always skilled at selling or answering questions.  Solution: give your sales force the tools they need to prospect directly.
  4. inexperience with Twitter:  you don’t know what to say on Twitter (in general).  That’s OK, Twitter is still a new experience for most. The only solution is time – it takes a few weeks to a few months to become skilled at using Twitter naturally. Give yourself this break-in time before pushing for prospects.

  5. lack of incentive: you are not tasked to generate new contacts, sales or leads. We see this a lot, too. Again, marketing professionals are often not motivated or told to generate leads or to identify prospects. Very often, their job is to share content (broadcast it) and to generate followers and likes.  NOT the same thing, of course. Solution: give your sales force the tools they need.  Or, train a person or two on your social marketing team to answer questions and to forward posts on to the right sales people.

Being prepared with content, putting the right person on the account, and having the right incentives are issues that any company can address. The rest are personal learning curves.

To help our new users learn what to say, we’ve put together a few online resources:

From a social gesture point of view, Twitter offers most of the selling gestures you might use at a real world conference.  You can share your business card (follow them), agree to talk privately later on (follow each other, then direct message), compliment their words (retweet), answer their question (share a link) and offer advice (reply).

Of course, Twitter offers several advantages over “real world” conferences:

  • by using the right search tools, you can hear/see ALL of the conversations that matter to your business, in real time.
  • you can respond directly with content suited for their need (see below)
  • you can track results and focus on what works.

The content-sharing advantage of Twitter makes it really powerful as a prospecting platform. Because you can share digital content (not just a handshake), you can meet a lot more needs on Twitter than you might during a face-to-face encounter.

Consider the following ideas:

Which leads us to the third challenge: getting your Twitter prospecting streams set up correctly, so you don’t waste hours monitoring noisy streams.

Challenge #3:  how do I find new prospects (without spending all day on Twitter)?

Given Twitter’s relatively low penetration into our society (so far), a social selling professional probably shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes to an hour each day on Twitter.

This means you need some way to avoid monitoring noisy, high-volume streams all day. The ideal solution is to monitor a low-volume stream of high-quality prospects.  

This is where an intent-mining tool like NeedTagger can really help, because keyword-filtered streams are often too noisy (too many irrelevant posts) or too lossy (miss too many opportunities).

The video below explains how to set up three different kinds of prospecting streams on NeedTagger.

You can find more detailed instructions here: http://www.needtagger.com/2nd-home/how-to-use-needtagger/

 

As you can see, NeedTagger works a little differently than your typical keyword search tool.  We added the concept of “intent” (conversation type) to your search. But filtering by intent makes all the difference.

Still, NeedTagger is easy to master – for those who are ready.

Prospecting on Twitter – An Example

Sales and marketing professionals who’ve mastered social prospecting know first-hand that people on Twitter are actually very receptive to “stranger-experts” stepping-in to help them. This makes sense, as one of the biggest reasons people join Twitter is to find information and connect with new people they can learn from.

Compared with broadcasting content from your account, targeted social prospecting is an order of magnitude more effective in terms of generating useful leads. Our active customers generate 5%-80% click through rates (CTR) on messages sent from NeedTagger.  A typical result is 20-30% CTR.

For example, here is a new connection we made with a prospect – last night:

I found Ron’s post in our NeedTagger stream Sunday night – it was a day old (hey, it was Sunday):

opportunity

I first checked Ron’s profile out on Twitter – he seemed like a good fit for us: an active/experienced Twitter user, in the right line of work.

Note the LinkedIn URL in his profile. That was helpful.

profile lookup

So I reached out and suggested Ron try our tool (see my message below).

I sent the following outreach from our corporate account.

It’s usually better to initiate a relationships from a personal account, but for this type of opportunity our company account works fine.

outreach sent response generated

 

Regarding the outreach message itself: notice the lack of a link in my message to Ron.

This prompted Ron to check out our profile.

This is a softer, more respectful way to introduce your business to someone – versus sending them a link.

landing page

As you can see, this is a natural way to start a relationship with potential customers on Twitter.

In our case, 100% of our new business has come from organic search, personal networking, partner referrals and social selling.

NeedTagger surfaces the most valuable and actionable engagement opportunities for your business on Twitter. It’s FREE to try – just click the blue button above to start connecting with prospects on Twitter.

10 Great Resources for the Social Selling Newbie
Did you know? The killer whale is the world's largest dolphin.

2013 seems to be the year Social Selling hit the mainstream – especially in B2B sectors where “Facebook marketing” never resonated that much.

There is growing evidence that adding social prospecting, lead nurturing and relationship building skills to your arsenal will improve your sales performance. Consider what the most recent Social Media and Sales Quota Report found,

In 2012, 72.6% of sales people using social media as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often.

Even if you don’t buy the “quota” argument, your customers are clearly using social media for business – so you’d better learn to interact with them there.

But getting started can be tough.  Software vendors and social media marketing gurus are publishing dozens of articles a day on the subject. Thinly-written & redundant blog posts are piling up so fast it can be tough for someone new to this practice to know where to start.

As Koka Sexton, LinkedIn’s Sr. Manager of Social Marketing, put it in a recent article about the rise of Social Selling:

There are some great people and organizations out there that know a lot about social selling, best practices and ways to implement it, but there are also many people that call themselves experts that are really good at optimizing your LinkedIn profile and that’s the extent of their expertise.

What is “social selling”?

There really is no single definition – it really depends on who you are, what you sell, and how your buyers buy.

You sort of have to dive in and learn by doing.  That’s what the resources below will help you with.

During the past few weeks, I’ve been catching up with some of the leading thinkers, practitioners and best practices in social selling. I’ve learned that there are some excellent, experience-based best practices and how-to guides available online.

The good news is that lot of “social selling” is really just a lot of common sense sales techniques mapped into a new environment with a few new rules and gestures to learn. Plus a bunch of new tools like ours.

But you don’t need tools to become a social sales pro.

This graphic from Julio Viskovich gives you a glimpse of what social selling really is, as suggested by some of the most experienced practitioners today:

SocialSellingGuide 7 pros share their tips

SocialSellingGuide 7 pros share their tips – borrowed from www.julioviskovich.com/

Alright, on with the resources.

Listed below are some of the best online sites and resources for the social selling newbie, which probably best characterizes 90% of sales professionals today. So don’t feel alone!

NOTE: This list is intended to be a quick starting point for new practitioners, not an exhaustive library. If you are an expert, then I’m sure I missed a bunch of your favorites. Feel free to suggest more in the Comments section, below.

First Reads

  1. The Future of Selling” is a great long-form read by Brian Fetherstonhaugh (CEO of Ogilvy One) that explains the context of social selling: why is selling changing? how are marketing and sales blending together in completely new ways? with plenty of data that makes it clear that social selling is a skill we’d better all get comfortable with.
  2. What Is Social Selling?” is a brief and easy to digest introduction by Koka Sexton, Sr. Social Marketing Manager at LinkedIn. Maybe a bit too much emphasis on LinkedIn (Koka now works there), but then again LinkedIn is definitely the first network to focus on for most social selling efforts.  Koka has been focused on this subject since 2009, so listen carefully.
  3. The Grande Guide to Social Selling” by Eloqua. Nice broad overview of the terms, technologies and practices involved, with an emphasis on how inbound marketing and sales can work seamlessly together.
  4. Social Selling – a Mini-Guide” by Salesforce.com.  Shorter version & slightly different viewpoint than Eloqua.  

Detailed How-To Guides

  1. Social Selling in B2B” An excellent multi-part blog series by HootSuite.
  2. The Ultimate Guide How to Use Twitter for Social Selling” by InsideView.com.  It’s 47 pages long, and worth paying for with your contact info.
  3. Social Selling, the New Practitioner’s Guide” by Julio Viskovich, Social Selling Sensei at HootSuite.  Of all the social selling experts out there, I really appreciate Julio’s no-BS, hands-on demos and how-to guides. You can tell Julio learned by doing. I’ve learned quite a bit from him.

Personal & Career Training

  1. The Rise of the Social Selling Expert” by Jeff Molander (on eConsultancy.com).  Career context.
  2. Seven Critical Skills of The Social Seller” by Dan Bernoske on salesbenchmarkindex.com. Learn how you need to behave.
  3. Social Selling University  – the online home of social selling best practices. Sponsored by InsideView, a leading prospecting/lead gen/business intelligence solution provider.  Best single collection of resources on the internet, in my opinion.

Why is Social Selling Getting So Hot?

Simple: every business needs to generate sales to survive.

You can’t meet payroll with ‘likes’, after all.

wheres the beef - copyright Wendys

wheres the beef – copyright Wendys

In addition, the whole social media marketing craze is getting long in the tooth.

In many industries, social marketing teams and their agencies are getting increasingly pressured by the CEO and CFO to demonstrate results – aka, ROI, leads and sales. In some large early adopter organizations, social marketing budgets this year are actually flat (gasp!).

The pressure is clearly mounting for social marketing programs to contribute more to the bottom line – or be relegated to the role that other over-hyped “marketing techniques” have in the company. As in, none.

That’s OK with us. The shift in priority away from producing “content” and “engagement” to delivering “leads”, “customers” and “revenues” is refreshing and predictable.

We’ve always believed that social networks are an ideal medium for the social-by-nature, solution-oriented sales professional to thrive in. That’s who we designed NeedTagger for.

Our Social Selling Advice to You

It’s been on the back of our business cards since the day we opened shop:

business card NeedTagger - back

We believe that “finding needs and meeting them” is the proper mindset of every great social selling professional.

Wanna get started today with social selling today? Then go find someone on Twitter or LinkedIn (or any network where your customers congregate) who needs something you have to offer – information, content, answers, services, whatever – and offer them help.

You don’t need tools like NeedTagger to start loading your funnel with prospects.  But we’ll be here if you need us.

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

Let us know what you think about social selling by leaving your comments below.