A shortcut is only a shortcut because it is a lesser-known way. Once everyone becomes aware of the shortcut, then it takes a new role in the world as “The Way.”
Over the last several years there has been a monumental shift in the way businesses are selling their goods and services to consumers. Whether B2B, B2C or some combination of the two, businesses have taken their physical sales forces and replicated them in the virtual world. In the world of B2C this is most commonly referred to as “E-Commerce” and in B2B the favorite lexicon is “Social Selling.”
Using Social Media and Content Marketing To Sell?
Ever since Google’s Zero Moment (ZMOT) study, the cat has been out of the bag. The use of content as a way to engage buyers in the sales process is commonplace. With the data not only showing strong growth year over year, but continued growth, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that buyer’s are now looking at 15-20 pieces of content during their purchase journey.
With the data of ZMOT along with some staggering statistics from analysts like Nielsen and Forrester on the role of influence in the new buyers journey, what is now known for sure is that people are looking to brands and their networks for guidance in their purchase decisions. Often looking something like this
SEARCH –> CONTENT –> SOCIAL PROOF –> MORE CONTENT –> BRAND ENGAGEMENT –> PURCHASE
B2C Purchase Journey:
SOCIAL INFLUENCE –> CONTENT –> BRAND ENGAGEMENT –> PURCHASE
While the journey may vary a bit for every buyer, both content and social queues are now playing a part in all but the most transactional purchases.
I have had people tell me that no one does content research on the groceries they buy and to that I often suggest that while they may not do specific research before choosing their groceries, their decision to purchase certain foods are often impacted in a big way by the content that is shared on social networks about a product.
Consider when a story comes out about an unhealthy ingredient that you may find in your favorite snack food. Does it influence your decision to continue eating it? While the answer for everyone is individual, the fact that you stop to consider means that the social buzz around the product is impacting part of your purchase decision.
What is absolutely certain is that brands of all shapes and sizes have taken to content and social as a marriage made in “Marketing Heaven” to get to their target consumer. Regardless of sale type, this is no longer the unknown shortcut rather this is now just the way.
Every Business Has The Choice In How They Go To Market, But Selling Is Social Period
Regardless of the target market or the terminology used for engaging customers in the online world, the bottom line is that selling is a social activity.
Whether the first meeting is done live and in person only to be followed up by some iteration of the journey outlined above, the influence sphere for the vast majority of purchases are going to be touched by social media.
For companies that have been doing this for a while, they are safe. Now it just comes down to tweaking the content, the brand story and the systems of engagement on social channels.
However, for companies that think they are embarking on something new or worse yet that they can avoid the online component of a buyers journey, they are missing the point. At some level, online influences every sale. This is the affect of content, of social, of search, and what the new purchase journey looks like.
But just realize that social selling isn’t new, regardless of what you call it. For brands large and small that desire to be found, seen and heard online, the key to winning more business is to make sure the buyer can find out what they need to know online from your brand, your social and your content. Perhaps this not so new but more important than ever method is best described as “The Way.”