As a small business owner, you are more than aware of the importance of prospecting for new customers. It is a crucial practice to increase your sales and grow your business – not to mention make an actual profit. In this new digital age, prospecting has begun to move from the days of handshaking meet and greets to a whole new platform – social media.
Giving local business seminars, cold calling potential clients, advertising, and monthly chamber of commerce meetings are still all important aspects of any small business owner’s prospecting toolbox. However, with the rising popularity of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and – specifically, LinkedIn – a whole new wave of prospecting opportunities has arisen.
Knowing how to navigate these platforms is a great way to not only earn new clientele, but to actually listen to your existing customer base, receive feedback, and then respond accordingly. Let’s not forget – it is as important to keep your current customers happy as it is to gain new ones!
The first step in beginning to prospect through social media is to figure out which platform is the best one for your business. In an ideal scenario, you will be able to use all of the major platforms to reach out to potential customers and listen to existing ones. However, depending upon your budget, this may not be feasible.
Either way, the first step is to figure out which platform(s) your customers are using. One way to do this is to look at what your competitors are using. Look at their social media use and see where they get the most interaction. You can also ask your existing client list which social media outlets they prefer. Finally, nothing says you cannot start with the major three – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – and measure results after a few months.
Once you determine which platforms to pursue, the next step is to connect with existing clients and potential customers. Look for major “influencers” in your field and reach out to their followers. Friend and follow users that are actually interested in your product and not just friends and family. Remember, these social media accounts are specifically to communicate with customers, and as such, you want to keep your list free of offensive users, spammers, and anyone that will not be interested in your product or services.
The next step is actual communication. When you post, be certain to vary the type of content you put on your wall or Tweet. Avoid constant “selling” of your goods and instead, try to post interesting and informative content that is relative to your industry or the customer’s needs. Give your followers a reason to revisit your profile and seek to engage them. Remember, an informed customer is one that is more likely to purchase from you, so be sure to give out helpful tips and news frequently.
Once you have a good schedule of informative, educational, and entertaining – but relevant – information, feel free to drop an occasional sales pitch or advertisement for your website or services. Just make sure you limit these types of posts, as a constant influx of them will chase away followers and subscribers to your channel. The thought to remember is this: give and ye shall receive.
Finally, posting alone is not a good enough strategy. In addition, you will want to have conversations with individuals and companies. Seek out interesting conversations and join in. If someone has a question you know the answer to, respond and lend a hand. If someone wants to know more about a product you carry, use the soft sales approach and give them information about it without trying to sell them – that can come later on. Odds are the person will be grateful and will view you as a good source of information. And now, instead of a sale, you’ve earned yourself something much more valuable: a relationship with a customer.