There are two kinds of people in your digital network: social agents and prospects. Everyone in sales knows what a prospect is, but what is a social agent? And who are your agency's?
Social agents grow your agency by sharing your content online to amplify your message. While they may never hire your agency, they do business for you by recommending your agency to others. Social agents are equally as important to agency growth as prospects, and the biggest mistake business development executives make is undervaluing them.
Here is a non-agency example: Say you own a small company that makes and sells bamboo flooring. One day, a prospect gets on Facebook and posts the status, "Looking to put in new floors in the house. Thinking bamboo. Any recommendations?"
You have a cousin who sees this status online. While your cousin has never bought your bamboo floors himself (he prefers carpet), he knows you do great work in a timely fashion. Because he knows you well, cares for you, and because he knows the value of your work, he feels comfortable attaching his name to your business' reputation. He responds to the status with your name, website, and his affirmation that you install the best bamboo floors of anyone in the area.
Winning the invisible sale
While your cousin isn't your customer, he just found you one, and depending on who else read the status, he might have found you several. That's a social agent. And he just won you an invisible sale.
Invisible sales happen when prospects seek out information on their own before making a purchase. Invisible clients digitally self-educate and make up their minds about whether or not they want to consider your agency. They begin self-educating about their agency options before you even know they are thinking about firing their current one. You can't reach them because you don't even know they're considering an agency switch. But a good network of social agents acts as your extra eyes and ears in the digital sphere. And when you empower your social agents with a properly executed content marketing strategy, you've got a recipe for agency growth without the pain of the normal RFP process.
How agents become your social sales force
You have limits. There are only so many hours in a day to reach potential clients. Even if you spent 24 hours a day, seven days a week, reaching out to prospective clients, there still would be a limit to how big you could scale your network (and who has that kind of time?). This is the entire reason companies develop sales forces to begin with.
Dunbar's Number helps to explain these limits. It states that humans can only maintain meaningful relationships with approximately 150 people at a time. Right about now you might be thinking, "But our agency has 900 followers on Twitter, so Dunbar's Number clearly doesn't apply to us." But alas, it does. On social networks, a person keeps in touch with an average of 100 to 200 people on Twitter and 190 friends on Facebook, regardless of the actual number of listed friends and followers. So whether it's in-person relationships or social relationships, you still max out on "meaningful" pretty quickly.
This maximum suggests that the only way to effectively create a large prospecting program online (and offline) is to leverage your network. Think of it this way: Each of your 150 people has their own set of 150. Even if only half of them value your agency enough to recommend it to others, that's 75 people with 150 contacts each, bringing your prospect reach from 150 invisible buyers to 11,250. The numbers don't lie. Social agents make a huge difference.
Social agents are your social biz dev team. They are on social networks, hearing opportunities you can't hear, and more importantly, recommending you to tens of thousands of invisible buyers that don't know you. Invest time in cultivating your relationships with social agents because their reach makes them your best clients, even if they never hire your agency.