How do you capture the attention and engage with the segment of the market that is unavailable to your solution today? Especially if the majority of potential buyers are unaware or not interested in your offering. You currently focus your efforts on “available” market which means those you can actually “reach”. In reality, “reach” does not mean “relevant” let alone “receptive”. But, traditionally, that is all we had.
“Just because you can reach me with your direct marketing does not mean I am emotionally available (receptive)to responding to your message.” As a matter of fact, I may have been neutral to your brand, but become resentful of your direct marketing if I consider it intrusive.
Alternatively, many prospective buyers who might be receptive to your message, don’t receive it because they don’t know the right language to identify your solution as an option. They can describe their problems and symptoms, but aren’t educated sufficiently to realize they are part of your market. Call them the “hidden buyers”. They usually turn into “blue birds” as you have no idea where they came from.
We see this playing out in the social networks. A majority of discussion in markets via social networks, communities, forums, blogs, etc. are between prospective buyers talking amongst themselves; exclusive of vendors. The challenge is that the ability to catch their attention and engage with them sufficiently to get them to respond is harder than traditional marketing.
So, how do you reach this hidden market? If it is hidden to me, why should I care? The simple answer is they represents to new prospective buyers in the market that have not self-identified to you or your competitors. They are the silent lurkers in the crowd who are analyzing, listening, quietly asking their contacts for advice. They have a need, but haven’t seen a clear path to a solution. If you wait till they raise their hand, you have a good shot of losing the opportunity. Or worse, someone else influences their requirements and you don’t get that inbound lead. This also impacts your close rate, your cost of customer acquisition, and skews your perception of market requirements.
A lot can be learned from who didn’t buy from you, those who rejected your solution as an option, or those who were unaware that their pain could be solved. Social target marketing represents a huge opportunity for lead generation. The idea of getting to prospects before your competitors is compelling. Doing it cheaper than alternatives is fantastic. Doing it in a way that you can measure effectiveness and product an ROI is the holy grail. The challenge is that it ain’t easy and requires a tremendous amount of up-front work to do it right. Added to the fact is that this will represent a much smaller stream than traditional lead generation.
If you look at as a zero sum game, it is difficult to justify the road for most companies. But, there are intangible benefits that could each provide incentive to go down this road:
- Understanding why buyers purchase and the differences between them. Not a demographic conversation, but a motivation one. Incredibly valuable for organizations to get a handle on buyer psychology.
- Every new potential prospect developed through social marketing is “found money” as they were not identified through traditional means. They weren’t participating in the traditional channels. They didn’t show up on your lists, attend your shows, know your reps, etc.
- Targeting to buyer motivation and addressing pain is critical to closing higher percentages. Every good sales rep knows they have to do solution selling and identify the drivers for why an individual buyer will purchase. Complex sales complicate this as there are multiple “buyers” and often competing drivers that can derail a sale. Bringing those forward and starting a conversation with the buyer’s pain is only going to strengthen the appeal for the solution. If you don’t know why buyers make decisions today, social target marketing can provide the answers.
- The best sales come from referrals, but most organizations struggle to generate those referrals. Partner leads are hit or miss, customers occasionally will refer, but at the end of the day, most organizations have to create their own demand. Alternatively, most organizations actually have the right relationships with someone in the organization. The challenge is how do you systematically mine those relationships and then make them actually produce opportunities. Social target marketing works wonders for building relationship networks that actually work.
- Influencing sales requirements, getting through gatekeepers, identifying influencers, and qualifying leads. The challenge for many sales organizations is working through the nebulousness of the complex sale. So much to get right, so much that can tank a sale, so many relationships to build, so much information to qualify. Again, social networks can be your best friend or the biggest time waster for sales organizations. Knowing how to leverage and how to target market to work with the sales process is critical. (Works great for account penetration, cross-selling, and up-selling, too)
- Lastly, buyers don’t make decisions in a vacuum. Just because you claim it on your website doesn’t mean I believe it. I will validate what you say. If your company doesn’t win the “influence war” when I do my validation or ask my network for referrals; your sales person or channel partner is a “dead man walking” and doesn’t even know it. Influence isn’t the occasional fluff PR piece, it is credentialed market influencers telling people that your solution is better than the alternatives. This presupposes that your solution is better, but if you don’t win the influence war, how will buyers know it? Because you told them?
I can get into much more detail around psycho-graphic versus demographic qualification, buyer psychology, and brand differentiation, but the reality is that if you accept that social marketing has a place in your organization, then the idea of social target marketing should be really appealing. Some of it has a hard ROI, some it a soft, but all of it is actually impactful and measurable.