When I write this column, I normally like to focus on topics like finance, cash flow, or business development (sales). These are important topics, and there are thought leaders around the world who do a great job of discussing these topics.
But most business owners (me included) need a nudge every once in a while to get back to what works, and to also remember to keep learning … which reminds me of a quote: “The most dangerous phrase in business is, ‘We have always done it this way.’ ”
After spending a decade knee-deep in integration, I moved to the marketing side because I saw a gigantic gap. Much like integrators that have set themselves apart because of a special or unique offering, I realized that the way people buy things is changing. Just think about how you buy things, whether personally or for your business. Has it changed in the past decade?
These changes are directly correlated to information parity and the amount of content now available on the web. Through brand- and user-generated content being shared on sites and across social media, we can now accomplish most of the purchase process entirely online.
However, what I hear all the time from business owners within the integration business is (more or less) how silly and irrelevant social media is. While I agree that there are certainly irrelevant and silly approaches to how social media is used, it is far from silly for most integrators. And here is why …
Share Your Brand Promise with the World
Never before has there been a more available channel for companies to share their thoughts, value, and ideas with the world – especially at the price of only your time (which is valuable).
The problem that most businesses have is lack of an inherent audience. In the past, marketing was always a matter of buying access to someone else’s audience, which is why media (local and beyond) controlled marketing for so long.
But for integrators using social media to reach a target audience, it’s an extremely effective approach when done correctly (“correctly” being the key word).
The first thing most integrators need to do is stop attempting to boil the ocean with their social media. You want to know why social media is silly? Because you aren’t Inc. Magazine; just sharing stuff with no purpose will do nothing to educate, engage, or inspire your target audience.
Instead, the focus needs to be on connecting to your community and expanding from there. Your community is your stakeholders: employees, current and past clients, and partners. If the energy that went into social media and content marketing was to make sure that you were just consistently connecting and communicating with that group, you would instantly make a meaningful impact on your business.
How Integrators May Want To Think About Social
One great way to think about this is to consider one of the things integration companies struggle with most: staying in touch with customers between sales.
Some companies use newsletters for this, and those can be effective. But with the volume of newsletters out there, it can be hard to even get them opened, let alone read. So what if your sales team shared an article once a week with a handful of key clients or prospects on LinkedIn? Could that make a difference?
Social media is also a great way to present your brand to the world. When companies are researching a prospective vendor (and they do), what does your social media say about your business? Does it say “serious and structured,” “fun and lighthearted”? Or maybe it says “we don’t exist.” Either way, with customers engaging with nearly a dozen online sites prior to making a purchase, there is a good chance that they look at your online presence before they buy. You should think about not only what your website says about you, but also your social sites.
Lastly, social has been (and always will be) a fast-paced version of 1:1 marketing, driving word of mouth. In the past, we picked up the phone and asked for referrals. In a world gone social, we get to know companies online and we refer them to others sites that help us learn about what’s important to us. In the simplest terms, it is a virtual referral. What integrator doesn’t love a referral?
Social media isn’t silly, and it isn’t a trend. What it really reflects is a seismic shift that aligns with the way people buy: online. As integrators, we can stay closer to our clients and stakeholders by using social media, and realizing that it isn’t about twittering and tweeting, but about sharing our brand story, values, and ideas, and connecting with others who share in what we believe.
After all, people don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it … or so they say. -Daniel Newman, BroadSuite Consulting