The sales funnel is a misleading myth. No buyer moves smoothly through the AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) model. Your customers naturally move through a series of needs, wants, and emotions that ultimately lead them to or away from you.
I like to call it the sales cyclone.
Your goal is to be top of mind in those moments and influence them to desire your product or service above all others. Social media is one of the best ways to target your most likely buyers, place your brand in front of them on a frequent (but surprisingly not annoying) basis, and influence them to buy in a completely non-sales way.
Let’s look at the framework that I use to put brands in the middle of more buyer’s journeys.
Understand Why Your Customer Buys
Why customers buy is really a whole article in itself, but it’s essential to think through the basics of this psychology to formulate your social media strategy.
Customers buy in one of a few specific scenarios:
In Moments of Pain or Helplessness
Hope is a powerful influencer. If someone is in jeopardy of losing their job or can’t hit their personal performance objectives, you have an instant sale. Positioning your product or service to remove a punitive alternative or simply make life less stressful is one of the easiest ways to make a lot of sales.
For Personal Gain or Advantage
Everyone wants to achieve and advance in life and career. If your product or service improves their daily life at work or home in a significant way – there’s a sale. (Secret: sometimes that gain isn’t even related to the product. This is why salespeople take clients golfing, to fancy dinners, and the offer of an Amazon gift card will get people to do most anything.)
For Ego – Perception, Respect, Envy
Humans are vain creatures. We will go to great lengths to gain the admiration of our friends, family, and colleagues. This is why we buy Ford F-150 trucks to commute to a cubicle and go out of our way to buy and carry around expensive coffee in Starbucks branded paper cups.
This understanding of why customers buy is going to drive your social media campaign creative.
Now that we know the moments and motivations that bring us to buy, it’s time to figure out the process.
Understand How Your Customer Buys
Every customer has a buying process. As marketers we think about this a lot when we consider B2B customers – they have champions, committees, and procurement officers. All those people need to be influenced and motivated to buy, even if indirectly. However, even in B2C scenarios, we need to influence the buying process.
Let’s start with this less obvious one: B2C.
Even an individual consumer doesn’t typically buy with a unilateral decision. There are spouses, friends, and family that enter into every buying decision. We consult our spouse and friends to buy houses, cars, and even jeans, or the decision to go to Starbucks or Tim Hortons, or to buy Nike or Adidas.
This is why it’s important to design campaigns that influence individuals to influence groups to influence individuals. Brand awareness and affinity become a significant part of our campaign to influence large, but closely affiliated audiences. Therefore, social media is so impactful in influencing action. These influence groups self-organize and their behaviors (effectively captured and organized in the advertising platforms) allow us to target them efficiently.
Now, on to B2B.
These decisions are often made by groups and committees of individuals. In these situations, you need to build impressions with as many of these folks as possible, but your most important objective is to equip your champion. This requires you to create atomic content that is easily shared into and from social media, enabling your internal champion to help you market into their organization.
Social media is one of the easiest ways to build your case for purchase. You can literally share, like, and “talk your book” to those that need to support a buying decision. The best part is, you can do it with super-high frequency, and it doesn’t feel spammy.
And, if everything goes right, there’s a good chance that they’ll think it was their idea.
Content to Support the Why and How
Now to execution. Here’s the type of content and campaigns that I suggest running to influence and move your buyer forward in their journey.
- Awareness Content – posts, campaigns, and shenanigans with the singular objective of getting attention and engagement in a noisy world.
- Educational Content – posts and experiences that educate your audience about potential problems, understanding challenges, better alternatives, and solutions.
- Case Study Content – posts that package up examples, wins, and credibility for your champions and buyers to lower their risk of advocating your product or service.
- Look How Smart I am Content – posts that can be used to back up your buyer’s beliefs and philosophies to help them build internal support and approval for their buying decision.
- FOMO Content – posts that makes your buyers anxious about missing out or being outdone by the competition.
Create Demand by Showcasing Your Process
We have the psychology and the content types, now it’s time to create the story.
Too often social media campaigns fail because they lack purpose and continuity. Yes, the Web is a collection of a million tiny bits, but there needs to be a thread that ties all your messaging together. This is the storyline and the purpose of your offering – the Why, as Simon Sinek would say. And, I think the best way to do this, especially with social media is to follow Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice, “document, don’t create.”
Remember buyers must become comfortable and confident in your offering. They need to lower their risk in advocating or making a buying decision for you. Both objectives are best achieved by being their guide, their sherpa, their advocate all along the journey.
Take the time to carefully design your social media campaigns to consistently demonstrate your work. Most often this means document yourself at work – thinking, designing, executing, and delivering results.
Here are some of my favorite approaches. Document your work via articles, images, audio, or video, in these sorts of ways:
- Introducing them to your philosophies and insights around what you do
- Sharing best practices in your business or industry
- Document yourself or your team workshopping common problems
- Showing people how to solve their own problems
- Introducing them to smart people in and around your business
Social Media is the Natural Sidecar on the Buyer’s Journey
The sales funnel is a messy process and it’s often hard to stay connected with prospects throughout their buying journey. Sales emails and phone calls are often ignored or avoided by buyers. But social media allows us to naturally and unobtrusively ride alongside our prospects as they meander along their buying journey.
The key is creating a system and workflow to consistently be a part of their daily social media consumption – ready to assist when they are ready to re-engage in the buying process.