Hashtag: #Success

Sales pros adept at using social media to build business weigh in with revenue-driving insights. Stimulate sales in the age of digital selling.

Sales pros adept at using social media to build business weigh in with revenue-driving insights. Stimulate sales in the age of digital selling.  

Danny Rosin loves meeting face-to-face with clients and prospects, sharing ideas and building a relationship in that immediate, tangible manner. And yet, Rosin is also one of the promotional products industry’s best practitioners of a new-school business approach that makes social media an essential tool in the sales shed – an augmenter of traditional sales techniques.

The reason Rosin is so devoted to social? Because the Internet has revolutionized how people shop.

Before ever speaking with a promo pro, many buyers investigate you online. What they find through Google, your website and, of increasingly high importance, your social media accounts, has significant bearing on whether or not they will consider working with you. Social platforms serve as conduits for delivering more value to existing clients, staying top of mind with buyers and generating fresh sales. “What you do in social matters,” says Rosin, president of Brand Fuel (asi/145025). But just what should you do?

Provide Value

Social-savvy distributors use social media to raise awareness about their brands, building an online image that makes them more attractive to desired buyers.

One tactic these canny professionals use to portray themselves well and earn positive attention on social platforms involves sharing content that is interesting, entertaining and/or useful to clients and prospects. “Social is about pull marketing,” says Kirby Hasseman, owner of Hasseman Marketing & Communications (asi/221824). “By providing valuable content, you pull people in.”

Recognized as a top-25 social media influencer in the industry on an independent list compiled by the Quality Certification Alliance, Hasseman delivers value across social platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, Linked- In and YouTube. Routinely, he produces two video series that he shares through these forums. In “Delivering Marketing Joy,” Hasseman interviews business leaders on topics of interest to marketers, entrepreneurs and salespeople. “The Weekly Word,” meanwhile, is a series of short videos that build a personal development tip around a single word, such as “happy,” “time” and “grit.”

In addition to his videos, Hasseman stays active on social by sharing content potential buyers might like. His Twitter feed, for instance, features everything from inspiring quotes and tips on how to improve brain function to links to articles, blogs and videos that shed insight into brand-building. Similar content populates his Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

60% of B2B buyers in America use social media as part of their vendor discovery process.

74% of B2B sellers in North America who exceeded their 2014 quotas said they are “highly effective” social media users or “better than most.”

7 out of 10 B2B sales reps who exceeded their quota in 2014 reported that they closed at least one deal as a direct result of social, while 41% said they closed six or more.

The upshot of this digital activity is that Hasseman is framed as a reliable expert, which helps bolster business. Not long ago, Hasseman was at a restaurant when the owner of a local jewelry store approached him. She recognized Hasseman from his social media activity. “She mentioned that she liked the content I was putting out,” he says. The two got to talking. Before long, the owner hired Hasseman to handle her business’ social media presence. Soon, he was providing branded merchandise for the store as well. “There are at least a dozen stories I can go through that started out like that – with someone seeing what we put out (on social media) and taking an interest in working with us,” says Hasseman.

Case Study

Build Buzz

Brand Fuel (asi/145025) has a knack for translating real-world happenings into buzz on social media.

When President Danny Rosin and his team orchestrated an original game called “BrandLibs” at the Triangle American Marketing Association High Five Conference, they encouraged people to tweet and post about the fun using the hashtag #high5conf and #BrandLibs. Additionally, the distributor took pictures of attendees playing the game and interacting with Brand Fuelers at the conference. Images were posted on Facebook. What’s more, people snapped their own pictures and shared them with their social networks. “The engagement was fantastic,” says Rosin.

The buzz on social forums enhanced Brand Fuel’s image as a fun, clever company at the center of modern marketing. The social dynamic also increased the interactivity of the game, which included a wordplay competition in which people were challenged to write creative responses in blank spots left intentionally in speaker bios that were printed on large display blocks. Everyone who interacted received a set of magnetic poetry.

Significantly, the game allowed Brand Fuel to meet new people, some of whom became clients. “We put about $3,000 into the whole experience,” says Rosin, “and within a two-month window we got $50,000 worth of business from it.”

Mix In A “Commercial”

Television networks draw you in with content and then show you commercials at intervals during the shows. Sales pros can take an analogous approach with social media. This means that, while rampant, hard selling can damage your brand, it is OK to sprinkle in posts and tweets that are more straight sales-oriented.

This strategy generates business. In addition to the curated content that Motivators (asi/277780) delivers on its social channels, the distributor also includes posts on hot deals. “Our reps always have stories about their clients calling in to take advantage of an offer,” says Bill O’Shea, e-commerce manager.

For instance: Motivators posted on Facebook a “Buy One, Get One Free” jacket offer. A Motivators rep saw the post and shared it on LinkedIn through her personal account. One of her existing clients, a dental office worker, saw the post, liked the deal and showed her boss. It was an eye-opener. Previously, the client had only purchased pens, but the post suggested Motivators could provide a wider breadth of products. So while the dentist office opted against buying the jackets, it did invest in tote bags. “The post opened the buyer to Motivators as an option for all of their promotional needs,” says O’Shea.

Participate In Groups

Consistently interacting in special groups on social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn can lead to new revenue streams.

Vickie MacFadden has digitally networked her way into sales and laid the groundwork for relationships with clients by participating in groups. The groups on Facebook and LinkedIn are online forums where people with similar interests gather for discussion. MacFadden, owner of PROMOrx, joins business-themed groups that afford her an opportunity to network and provide insights. “I try to be helpful and responsive, posting answers to questions that come up, having conversations,” she says.

Devoid of sales angling, the responses convey MacFadden’s business acumen, honesty and personable demeanor. Certain group participants have picked up on this and contacted MacFadden to do business. One woman was impressed by the straight-shooting advice MacFadden gave in a discussion about logos. “She private-messaged me and said, ‘I like you. You tell it like it is. Can we talk?’”

It happened that the woman was a buyer for a major corporation that needed branded merchandise for a training session. Through discussions with the buyer, MacFadden determined what items would work best. A high-end water bottle and a journal set with a pen were among the items that MacFadden delivered. Not only was her client happy, a buyer in a different department at the corporation was impressed by the items and contacted MacFadden, and another sale ensued.

Similarly, LinkedIn groups have served as centers for sales generation. In a group built around an interest in trade shows, MacFadden connected with a professional in charge of coordinating an Israeli company’s presence at a stateside trade show. After offline discussion, the coordinator referred MacFadden to the end-client, and the sales ace engineered a deal that involved thousands of pieces, including stylus pens, tablet cases, USB drives and mints. Since then, the contact has connected MacFadden with other buyers. When it comes to participating in groups, focus on relationship-building. “People going ‘buy me, buy me, buy me’ get tuned out,” she says.

8 Tips For Social Media Success

Be Targeted: Pick a couple social forums or so and focus on getting the most out of them. For many reps, keying in on LinkedIn,Twitter and Facebook makes the most sense. Sales pros say those platforms provide the best opportunities to brand-build and interest buyers.

Be Consistent: Establish a consistent routine for when you post. There is no final word on how often you should post, but some studies suggest that you get optimal engagement when you post 5-10 times per week on Facebook, five times a day on Twitter and once per weekday on LinkedIn. Still, what works best for you might be different. Best bet? Experiment and look for a sweet spot.

Get Automated: Service providers like Hootsuite and Bundle Post help you streamline social media management. Hootsuite lets you schedule messages, engage your audiences, measure ROI and more. Similarly, Bundle Post helps you curate unique content, post marketing messages, hashtag and schedule messages.

Follow Strategically: Follow clients and people who are important social influencers in subject areas relevant to you, such as promotional products, marketing, apparel trends, branding and more. It’s likely you’ll gain insights from the influencers’ content that will be helpful to you. Plus, you’ll be able re-tweet/share content they put out, which ties you into their thought leadership.

Interact: It’s called “social” media for a reason. You have to “socialize.” Re-tweet content from your clients, top interactors and influencers you follow. Share Facebook posts from your clients. Comment on the posts, tweets, blogs and YouTube videos of clients and prospects.

Be Responsive: Always respond in a timely manner to questions/comments in your social networks. You have an obligation to your customers to assist them, and social media is a public forum for the voice of your customers. Failing to respond swiftly looks bad, and could scare off current customers and prospects.

Manage Time Appropriately: Social media is part of your sales and marketing arsenal, but it’s not the arsenal itself. Therefore, limit the time you spend on it, and try scheduling specific time in your day for handling social. Some industry sales pros like Heidi Thorne, owner of Thorne Communications, say a half-hour a day is sufficient. “Knowing your social strategy in advance will help you spend your time wisely,” says Thorne.

Be Cognizant: Monitor what is being said about you and your company on social media. Positive comments give you the opportunity to jump in on the conversation, build greater rapport and potentially catch the interest of prospects. Negative feedback alerts you to issues that might need addressing.

Promote Your Posts

Paying to promote a post on Facebook can lead to lucrative returns. Recently, Brand Fuel paid $40 to promote a post that ignited $8,000 in sales. “A relatively small investment can get your content and brand in front of more customers,” says Rosin.

But for the views to pay off, the post’s content has to resonate with target buyers. The post that sparked big sales for Rosin ticked the boxes of “usefulness” and “entertaining,” while also expressing Brand Fuel’s playfully cheeky culture. It featured an image of silicone wine glasses with text that read: “Silicone wine glasses for the pool, beach, camping and more. Because drunk people drop s#+t. With your logo or design.”

While Rosin admits that the expletive may have soured some people, the intended humor of the message resonated with many. The post reached 8,016 and tallied 141 likes. Clearly, the interaction metrics were strong, but the bottom-line ROI is what really made the post a winner. After seeing the product image and funny message, two companies contacted Brand Fuel to order the glasses.

Beef Up Your Blogging

A strong blog helps fuel your success on social media and bolsters your overall online presence. The articles, images and videos you populate a blog with should convey your brand identity, establish you as an expert and, most importantly, be salient to clients and prospects. The relationship between a good blog and social platforms is reciprocal: The platforms are ideal for disseminating the blog posts, while the blog content enhances the value you provide through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which encourages more people to connect with you.

When it comes to blogging, Danette Gossett is top of the class. The owner of Gossett Marketing (asi/212200) and her team maintain three blogs. One is on the Gossett website, the others,InterestingMarketingTidbits.com and SalesPromotions.org, are free-standing sites. “We want people to read the blogs and say ‘Oh, that was interesting’ or ‘That was funny’ and then come back for more,” says Gossett. “When people think of you as a resource, they’re more likely to want to work with you.”

The blogs are packed with useful information. InterestingMarketingTidbits.com features topics like “5 Ways To Use Pinterest To Promote Your Business” and “How Promo Items Lead To Networking.” SalesPromotions.org covers strategies for sales and marketing, with topics like building brand equity.

Interestingly, Gossett has gone so far as to monetize SalesPromotions.org. “We have a couple of sponsors as well as having advertising on the site that we receive click-through revenue for,” she says.

Some blog posts have led straight to sales. One lighthearted post called “Confessions of A Pen Thief” caught the attention of a buyer for a restaurant. “They liked the post and wanted pens for their restaurant so they contacted us,” says Gossett. The restaurant was part of a chain, and after an executive saw the pens, he wanted to get them into other locations. “We’ve been doing business with them for four years,” she says. “They order quarterly, and they’ve added things like napkins and matchbooks. It all started with the blog.”

Christopher Ruvo is senior writer for Advantages. Contact: cruvo@asicentral.com. Follow: @ChrisR_ASI