Regardless of whether you are just getting started in social media or if you have been using social media for years, these demand-generation strategies must be a part of your everyday marketing mix.
Let's consider the following ways social media can help demand and lead generation.
1. Seed nurturing. This is the development of relationships, using social media interactions, with very early-stage prospects before they enter your database as leads. It is a vital part of the sales process that consists of investing in and building relationships with prospects, regardless of whether or not you have their contact information.
The key to making this successful is having great content available without requiring registration. You may ask, without any form for the prospect to fill out, how can I generate leads? The answer: You can expect the prospects to return for more content later and be more willing to share their information with you when they do.
Just because you can't identify these individuals early on doesn't mean they aren't qualified leads. Nurture them in social media just as you would the known contacts in your database. If you don't, more-savvy competitors will steal these prospects from under your nose.
2. Lead nurturing. This is the act of building and maintaining relationships with known prospects as they educate themselves. When we think of lead nurturing we often think about e-mail or sales calls, but lead nurturing can be about social media, too.
You should use social media interactions and conversations just as you would online activity on your own website, to increase the relevance and targeting of your marketing and sales efforts. To bolster your lead-nurturing methods, you'll want to focus in and be specific. Use what you've learned from listening to social media conversations to engage with prospects with greater relevancy.
Next, segment and trigger your campaigns based on social interactions. Get a strong indication of buying intent by combining knowledge of social media interactions with tracking of other engagement activities, such as e-mail click-throughs, downloads and Web page visits.
Now you're ready to interact with prospects over multiple media channels. Integrate social media channels with traditional channels such as e-mail, direct mail and phone.
3. Opportunity nurturing. This is using social media to support the sales cycle once the prospect engages in a formal buying process with a sales rep. To do this effectively requires agreement between marketing and sales on what constitutes a sales-ready lead, and on when and how leads should get recycled back to marketing for further nurturing. Social media interactions can provide deep insight into sales readiness and buyer intent, so they are critical to keeping leads moving along the lead life cycle.
There are a few key ways you can make social media a deeper part of your sales and marketing alignment objectives. For example, you'll want to use social conversations to enhance your lead scoring and to impact lead-handoff to sales. And of course you'll want to pay attention to what your prospects are saying to each other, and about their needs, and immediately notify sales reps when prospects and customers show increased activity or make interesting comments.
You'll also want to have social media activities play a key role in lead-recycling campaigns. Continually track and monitor social media behaviors and, when an uptick occurs, score a lead higher and re-establish contact.
4. Customer nurturing. This final approach entails a deepening expansion of your relationships with existing customers. These people are a tremendous source of new and continuing revenue, and should be continuously nurtured just as much as new leads.
Consider using social media to reaffirm customer purchases after the decision is made. “Kill” customers with kindness and validate their decision post-sale. Send additional information, a helpful YouTube tutorial or simply reach out to answer questions.
Establish rules of engagement to keep drip campaigns highly targeted, timely and relevant. And don't forget to listen for new needs and requirements, or even for the risk of defection to your competitors.
The fact is, potential customers are engaging with your company long before they touch you directly. By implementing lead-nurturing strategies through social media you can seed your lead-generation process from the earliest stages. You'll build a reputation as a trusted thought leader and develop highly qualified prospects to contact once they are ready.
Maria Pergolino is director of marketing at lead-management company Marketo (www.marketo.com). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.