Social media seems to continue to be the nut that can’t be cracked when it comes to sales figures. With few exceptions, retailers and the business world in general have yet to figure out how social media can be a part of a solid sales campaign. There are various reasons for that. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons why social media isn’t yet a major sales driver is the common unfounded opinion of “experts” and consultants in the field. While there are many reports out there that describe why social media is not a sales driver, there are not many that make a case why social media is a sales driver. Growing numbers in online sales clearly show that people are willing to “get sold” online and some brands are doing a good enough job to create business from social media.
In order to understand why social media can be, and should be, a sales driver it is important to understand what has actually changed and what is still the same, since the internet and social media came around. Despite ongoing different sounding claims of some, there are quite a few similarities between “old world” sales and “new world” sales.
In the “Old World” a retailer had a brick-and-mortar store and took advantage of the classic advertising tools such as newspaper, magazine’s, tv, radio and other tools to increase sales. In the “New World”, that took us all by storm, the same tools are still available, plus a ton of opportunities to advertise on the internet and on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and many others. Over the past 15 years there has been a clear shift from newspaper and magazine advertising to online advertising. It just so happened that over the past 15 years more and more people have internet access and became savvy in moving around on the internet and do their business there, including shopping. Even socializing has in big parts moved to the internet. Brands with huge advertising budgets pay tribute to those facts.
Imagine this scenario 20 years ago: A potential customer is visiting your store and is browsing around for an hour. Nobody ever during this hour has made an attempt to interact with this potential customer. For some reason, after an hour of undisturbed browsing, the “new business” is walking out of the door with no contact info left. If you are the owner or the sales manager, what would you say?
Now imagine this scenario from today: An interested online surfer is visiting your Facebook page or your Twitter property and likes your page and follows you on Twitter. This is a case that happens in the thousands every day to every major retailer. What are you going to do with that? Bragging that you have a million likes or followers? If this is all you do, I am not surprised you haven’t experienced major sales growth rooting from social media.
20 years ago, and still today, someone visited your store because there was/is an interest in the products/services you sell. Today, someone is visiting your Facebook page or Twitter for the same reason. Here is the change that most brands don’t understand: You now have additional showrooms with additional sales opportunities. If you don’t take advantage of the opportunities to sell, like in the example above, you will not show results coming from your “new” showrooms.
What does this mean for retailers and other sellers in the social media world? Interact, interact, interact. Like in your brick-and-mortar store, you must engage your visitors and potential customers. And, you must offer what you have to sell!!! If you don’t offer anything in your showroom, what are people supposed to do? If you offer something you have a chance to track the offer. If you don’t make offers, you can’t track who is buying from your “new” showroom and you will never find out how social media works for you.
While there are a few details to work out, it is that easy. No kidding. The internet and the unbelievable growth of social media has created mass opportunity. Besides of additional and better advertising tools, today, major brands even have the opportunity to take advantage of huge numbers of influencers and brand advocates. I am always stunned when I see a major brand with 100,000 or even more followers on Twitter, but the brand is only following back 100 or 200 of their followers. If you care about your brand and your business, here is a huge opportunity to get free advertising and promotion for a lot of stuff you want people to know about.
Over the past 30 years I have been in sales, marketing and business development roles in 5 different industries. I have never seen so many “warm” sales opportunities as I have seen on social media. No tele-marketing campaign, no email marketing campaign and no other marketing campaign offers so many warm leads then a social media marketing AND sales campaign. No other marketing offers the opportunity to tap into the network of your “friends” and followers and with that multiply the number of recipients of your offers.
Why is it so difficult for brands to figure out how to develop a successful social media sales campaign? This is a multi-million dollar question. Looking and sitting over it and thinking about it, in many cases the problem lies in the structure of social media departments and its leadership. You can find a lot of people that are so called experts in social media, but have never sold a piece of merchandise. Especially not in the old world. You can also find a lot of people that have sold tons of merchandise in the old world, but don’t even know how to set up a Facebook page or a Twitter account. In both cases the ability of connecting the dots between the old world and the new world is missing. The same counts for the world of consultants and experts. There are not many that have done work in both worlds and have the ability to connect the two. If you want proof for this theory, the healing solution for everyone seems to be advertising on social media. This is how far it goes for the most, when it comes to connecting dots.
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