Are your social media efforts paying off? If you can’t answer that with an unequivocal “YES!” then keep reading. The problem doesn’t lie with social media – it likely resides within your business itself. Without taking care of the below fundamentals, your social media strategy doesn’t stand a snowflake’s chance in Hell of surviving.
What Business Are You In?
I know the above hardly seems like a Web 2.0 question but if you fail to answer it, your social media work will be nothing more than glorified surfing of the Internet. Business strategy matters. Clearly defining your customers, their needs, and your offerings are the first steps toward building a successful business. Beyond that, you’ll need to ensure your business model is actually profitable. To get started, you’ll need to go through some basic marketing, branding, and product positioning work. Without this foundation, all your social media efforts will be worthless.
To be clear – I’m boiling the science of product development, marketing, and branding down to an extremely simplistic level. There are plenty of wonderful scientific tomes and resources out there to really help you hone your customer segmentation and corresponding product messages. Such study is outside the scope of this post.
Defining Your Customers and Their Needs
Who exactly are your customers? How old are they? How web savvy? Male? Female? Both? White collar? Blue collar? Businesses? Individual consumers? Too many times I’ve seen businesses take this fundamental step for granted. Do so at your own risk. The more clearly you articulate who your customers are and how they behave, the higher the likelihood you’ll be able to target your offerings and your communications in a manner that effectively drives your business. Spend a few minutes right now writing down who your customers are. Commit it to paper. Here are a few examples. Nothing fancy. Just write a straightforward sentence on who those customers are. Try something like this…
– My customers are white collar professionals ages 25-45 working at Fortune 500 firms. They’re career and results oriented and they’re typically in analytical jobs.
– My customers are stay-at-home moms ages 21-40 who are interested in reentering the workforce once their children go to school full time.
– My customers are information technology senior executives at small to mid-size companies.
– My customers are college and graduate school students who are interested in entering the corporate workforce.
Once you’ve identified your customers, you’ll next need to define the problems they have and how your products or services can meet their needs. Don’t be the proverbial hammer looking for a nail. The more squarely your offering solves a customer’s problem, the more compelling a solution they’ll find it (yes, this is Marketing 101). For the above customer definitions, here are some potential problems you could solve for them:
– My customers have difficulty clearly articulating their ideas as fact-based stories. This difficulty prevents them from being more influential and better leaders.
– My customers aren’t sure what the most effective strategies are to prepare themselves to reenter the workforce in roles that will challenge and satisfy them.
– My customers constantly face the challenge of needing to do more with their technology yet they never have enough budget or resources to get the job done effectively.
– My customers are seeking reliable information on companies and their cultures so they can select a job where they’ll be happy. They are also unsure of exactly how the networking, interviewing, and salary negotiating processes work.
See? Simple (not really, but it can get very messy if you overcomplicate it). The pithier and crisper you can articulate the problems your customers face, the easier it will be to target your offering and the messages you put into the social media marketplace.
Defining Your Product or Service – Solve a Problem!
Great! Now you’ve identified your customer and their problem. This is where you come in. How are you going to solve that problem for them? How will your product or service make their lives better, easier, more fulfilling, etc.?
If you can’t explain your product or service in an “elevator pitch” how do you expect your customers to grasp what you’re selling? An elevator pitch is simply articulating an idea in the time it takes to ride an elevator a few floors. Picture this: you’re on the elevator and a prospective customer gets on with you. You politely ask how their day is going and they articulate their woes. You have three floors worth of elevator ride to tell them about what you do or sell and how it will help them. GO! For example:
– We offer training classes designed to teach logical and structured thought processes. Those processes will help your people tell compelling, fact-based stories which will enable them to be more compelling leaders.
– We offer advice on workforce reentry and provide tools, frameworks, and exercises that help you understand the types of roles you’re best suited for. That understanding will help steer you toward a great job and a successful reentry into the workforce.
– We provide access to a network of software vendors and consultants who are very experienced in working with smaller companies with small budgets. Our network of providers ensure their clients buy only the most critical core functionality and avoid costly, budget-busting bells and whistles.
– We have a network of professionals who have recently transitioned from school into the workplace. These individuals contribute their perspectives to comprehensive company profiles that discuss culture, interviewing processes, and salary/benefit plan expectations.
Try not to overthink this step. Simpler is better. People don’t want to spend a ton of time figuring out what it is you do or offer. They’ll get frustrated and leave. They have short attention spans. Heck, you’re probably getting bored reading this paragraph. The bottom line is your offering needs to be clear, simple, and address an existing problem as it’s perceived by your customer.
Amazing. A whole post about social media with nary a mention of tweets, blogs, posts, HTML, or any of the other stuff we tend to be in love with talking about. Look – great social media starts with a great platform so before you go ape with the tweeting and the blogging, spend some time thinking about the above points. If you do, the messages you get out there on teh interwebz will be that much more powerful.