Social Media Field of Dreams – They Will Come

Field of Dreams ImageI’m sure many of you will remember the awesome 1989 film Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Burt Lancaster and many more. The atmosphere, feel good factor and endorsement of baseball as not just America’s pastime but also a metaphor for American history and life, combined to make compelling viewing, at least to my untutored cinema eye.

It contained the now-legendary whisper: ‘If you build it, he will come’ and the spine-tingling monologue from James Earl Jones. Ray built that baseball pitch in the middle of an Iowa corn field, and people did come. In the early to mid-90’s, this phrase was adopted (some would say hijacked) by the business community looking to make sense of how this new Internet would impact their business lives. Website designers, web consultants, management consultants – you name it, they were there – were queuing up to tell you that, yes, if you build your website, they will come. Except they didn’t. They didn’t know where you were. This was Web 1.0, still a broadcasting, unidirectional medium, from provider to receiver, seller to buyer. An online version of your brochure. Sure, it was one-to-one marketing, kinda, but the traffic was one-way.

As I write this I’m reminded of a talk in late 1997 by John Audette stockbroker, Internet marketing pioneer and a genuinely approachable man. He founded the hugely influential I-Sales discussion group in 1995 and debunked the ‘if you build it’ argument by explaining that designing your website and leaving it there was rather like erecting a billboard in your basement – no-one would ever see it. You had to work at promoting your website, using search engine optimization, link development, and other search engine marketing techniques. It sounds ludicrously obvious now, but at the time, and in the face of a seismic but emerging phenomenon, you needed the clever folk to help you make sense of it.

So, sales professionals and sales leaders, here we are again watching another phenomenon take shape – sales 2.0 – and looking for answers as to how we can make it work for us. But now we live in a web 2.0 world, a collaborative world, where your customers are already listening to you, researching you, learning about you, before they’re contacting you (if you’re lucky). At The TAS Group we encourage sales people to think about how senior buyers engage with you in projects to buy something. They’re generally engaged at the very beginning and very end of projects, but if you don’t have ‘Trusted Advisor’ relationships with them, you don’t get to hear about projects until the RFP comes through the door, and in 95 to 100% of the time that’s too late.

So if you’re in sales, I’d like to make this as blunt as possible for you. You can’t sell this way anymore. You can’t push product at customers. You have to cultivate customers, help them see how you can uniquely help them, collaborate with them, volunteer advice, give without expecting the quid pro quo. And how do you do all this? You do it using Sales 2.0 resources, and that means social media. With social media, if you build it, they will come, if you do it right.

Draw a line in the sand, starting now. You need to start using social media, and doing the following things, today:

– update your Linkedin profile, tell people what you’re doing and what’s important to you. You can even automate this.
– get a Twitter id
– get your shortlist of 20 senior decision-makers you want to sell to
– follow them on Twitter
– get an account on networks and sites where they’re active
– Read their blogs
– listen to them, find out what’s important to them
– Make sure your company has a corporate LinkedIn profile and a blog with regular, informative content

Then, and only then, start to build:
– Share your thoughts and interests, your advice, recommendations
– Help them with links to useful articles, industry reports, industry thought-leaders
– Contribute your expertise, not your fluff
– Introduce them to your other customers and subject matter experts in your company (who also need to be accessible in a web 2.0 way)
– Make it easy for them to approach you and connect with you

The established ways of marketing and demand generation are slightly broken, they don’t yield the numbers of qualified ready-to-go buyers as they used to, and they don’t cultivate the customer very well. This is because customers are not buying like this anymore. If you stay focused on your social media, you’ll cultivate your prospects, grow your pipeline with opportunities you know are qualified, and you won’t need your marketing department. Anything marketing give you on top of your cultivation effort is gravy.

If you build it in a social media way, “Oh…people Will Come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

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