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Finding Your Market Using Social Media

By Sander Biehn | Jul 15, 2015

The bright-eyed Marketing Director was just off the plane from New Jersey and ready to address our sales team in Minneapolis. She had some big news. We were getting a billboard on I-35E just north of the city. Business Markets had been notoriously ignored when it came to media spend and this was going to be our big chance to shine in Minnesota. We all fantasized about how it would help us make quota and the Marketing Director was sure she’d be promoted.

The billboard came and went and that year’s layoff was deeper than usual.  We’d never see marketing spend on media again. Whenever it was discussed, someone invariably brought up ‘the billboard’ to a cacophony of sighs.

I never forgot that billboard. So when I was trying to reach my customers using social media a few years later, I built my plan around lessons learned from the failed billboard.  Here’s what I did:

1) Find the audience: I started by figuring out where my audience was online. Using the metaphor of the billboard, I needed to know what streets they drove each day in order to figure out where to plant my messages. Notice that I did not place the billboard in their front yard or just outside their kitchen window. That lack of subtlety is reserved only for the most arrogant and well-funded b2c brands.  For the same reason I did not connect or attempt to directly converse with prospects I had never met.  However, once I knew that my target customers read certain posts and publications, it made it easy to figure out where I needed to be relevant.  If the customer ‘liked’ or ‘shared’ a post from a particular media outlet or online group, I knew I had to become relevant there.

2) Get customer-centric: Traditional marketing is about building things like ‘awareness’ and ‘brand consideration’, but this was the mistake our billboard committed so many years ago. Business buyers are sophisticated and liking a brand is not enough of a reason to choose a vendor or supplier. One sin I was not going to commit was to talk about my company and our offerings incessantly. I made sure to engage with prospects on the topics they were discussing. I only discussed our products and services as they related to my buyer’s business problems and goals.

3) Empower sales to carry the message: The average American sees hundreds of advertising messages each day.  We have become experts in deciding what messages are ‘trying to sell us.’ We have become incredibly adept at ignoring them. Consider how many billboard messages you actually retain from your drive to and from work each day. You may read them, but they are filed in your mind as ‘just ads.’  Meanwhile, sales people have been told for decades that they must bring value and thought-leadership to buyers in order to be viewed as credible.  By giving sales teams the right content, tools and training, you can bring extremely targeted content to the right consumers of those messages with very little effort. In my case, this proved to be spot on.

4) Augment your existing marketing activities: Events and conferences are big ticket items and a big gamble that need to pay off in high-scoring leads and, ultimately, sales.  Using social media to attract prospects to you and to build a relationship before they even enter Salon B has a huge payoff. While marketers traditionally jockey for the best real estate at a conference (or the most thrilling customer even), sometimes there is a much larger sales value in engaging prospects about the event on social before during and after the event. Efficiency trumps massive marketing spend when applied at the buyer level.  When I focused on efficiency, I saw a payoff.

Whether you are using social media in your marketing efforts or not, there are lessons to be learned from the infamous billboard incident.  Engaging with target buyers is much easier and less expensive than you might think with proper approach.  Instead of investing in expensive big bets, use an intelligent and focused strategy to outperform the competition with social media.

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