As simple as it may sound, business activities need to be aligned with a company’s overall goals. One of the most common goals for any business is to generate sales and turn a profit. Without customers and an effective marketing strategy, these things would be impossible. This, however, presents a few questions. How do businesses get customers? And, how can the company generate sales from these customers?
Any marketer worth their salt can tell you the answers: through lead generation, and leading customers through the purchase funnel. And, better yet, marry these ideas with effective marketing strategies, like strong social media campaigns.
But… what is lead generation?
Simply, lead generation is the creation or initiation of interest in a business’ services or products. Additionally, lead generation is the process by which sales leads are created. It is every business’ hope that these leads will convert into sales. However, not all leads are created equal. Some leads are considered of a higher quality than others as certain leads or prospects are more likely to complete the desired next steps toward the ultimate goal of a purchase. Leads come from many sources, such as advertising, events, calls, social media, websites, emails and other places online. In a 2014 study, 78% of respondents said that email was their most used channel for lead generation.
Lead generation and management allows leads to be moved through the purchase funnel.
And what’s the Purchase Funnel?
The purchase funnel has many names, as it sometimes called the “sales funnel,” “marketing funnel,” or “customer funnel.” No matter what it is called, the purchase funnel is a marketing model that helps marketers visualize the customer’s journey to a purchase. The AIDA-model is often applied to the purchase funnel. The acronym stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. In the Awareness stage, the customer learns that the service or product exists. In the Interest stage, the customer expresses interest in the product. In the Desire stage, the customer decides they want the product or service. In the Action stage, the customer takes the next step toward purchasing the product or service.
Different purchase models exist, including newer ones that take technology changes and newer consumer behaviors into account. Marketers use the purchase funnel to strategize campaigns that target customers in different stages of the buying journey. Materials used to market to someone in the Awareness stage may not be used for another customer in the Desire stage, for example.
What does social media have to do with this?
In a guide that detailed multi-touch attribution models, the marketing analytics technology company Bizible analyzed data from 480,000 leads that moved through its Salesforce marketing analytics platform. They found that search was responsible for the most generated leads, but that when social media was the first touch activity for consumers, it shortened the marketing cycle. Additionally, in 2012 a report from Social Media Examiner found that 58% of marketers that had been using social media for more than three years reported that social media helped them boost sales.
Social media is a powerful tool that can be leveraged in lead generation and the purchase funnel, if goals are aligned properly. Here are a few ways marketers can take advantage of social media for lead generation:
Go where the audience is
Businesses interested in drumming up leads on social media need to first do their homework. Determine where the target audience hangs out online and go there. How to figure out where the audience lives online? The advice is the same as an old adage: “Before you speak, listen.” Monitor social networks to determine both who the influencers are and whether or not the target audience is there. Spending time wisely on the right networks will increase the chances of success.
Create consistent, shareable content
The brand message should be on target for the audience. Focus on the niche that will be most interested in the product and tailor social media communications to them. The content should be customized for each individual network, as each platform has its own etiquette and the various social audiences will respond differently.
Become a thought leader
Businesses interested in rising above the competition should establish themselves as an authority in the industry. Become the go-to source for consumers and industry professionals. This expertise can be used to solve customer problems and develop a relationship of trust. People are more likely to buy from organizations they trust.
Master the gentle push
As previously mentioned, social media can shorten the sales and marketing cycle. Use these networks as another outlet to reach out to consumers that are in the purchase funnel and offer them useful information. Don’t be too salesy! Businesses should gently push, not shove, prospects toward products and services. Share knowledge to help customers make decisions.
Social media is wonderful for engaging with customers and delivering unbeatable experiences. It has its place in every stage of the purchase funnel, as it can be used to interest new prospects, empower customers with the knowledge to make a purchase, and even be used as a customer retention tool. Businesses that offer value through social media will find customers responding positively.