As the owner of a marketing firm, I’m always on and thinking about marketing. That means if you and I strike up a conversation about business over cantaloupes at the grocery store, I’ll probably end up giving you some advice about how to market your business (whether you ask for it or not).
I am not, however, trying to sell to you.
There are places where it’s appropriate to try to sell to potential clients, and there are those where it is definitely not suitable. Knowing the difference can actually help you increase sales.
1. Social Media
Whether you’re tweeting or “Facebooking”, your goal on social media should not be to sell. You want sales, naturally. But here’s the difference: you’re working to build relationships with potential customers through valuable content and conversation. If you do your job correctly, they’ll want to buy from you anyway. But if you shove your sales message down your audience’s throats, they’ll run screaming.
2. Offline Networking
The same rules apply offline as on. You want to build and nurture relationships at networking events. Prove yourself trustworthy and valuable, and people will turn to you when they’re ready to buy. Ask questions. Connect people. But don’t center your message around how amazing your product is.
3. Speaking Engagements
The caveat here is if you’re selling a book you wrote. Most business owners who speak publicly do so to get leads in their pipeline. Those folks that flock to the stage after your presentation? They want to connect with you right then, not fork over money. Get their business cards and follow up. Add them to your email list.
4. The First Visit to Your Site
Caveat here is: unless you’re Amazon! While you’d think that anyone visiting your site would be ready to buy, that’s rarely the case. Consider that first visit a dip in the water. Visitors are checking out what you have. If you sell larger-cost products or services, they’ll want to glean whatever they can from your site for free. Provide free whitepapers (in exchange for that golden email address). Offer free content on your blog. Maybe give a free trial or sample. Give them a reason to come back, when they’ll be more likely to make a purchase decision.
5. Your Email Newsletter
But wait, you say, I thought email was for converting subscribers to sales! It’s true, but that applies more for promotional emails. Your email newsletter is meant to provide content and updates. Include a note from you about what the company is up to and a useful article that will appeal to your audience. You can include a special offer at the end of the email, but your focus should be simply to stay on top of the minds of your subscribers.
So When CAN You Sell?
Before you get frustrated and say I’ve cut off every channel you want to sell on, realize there is a time and a place to make your pitch and nudge a lead toward a sale.
Landing pages are a prime example. These are simply web pages targeted toward a particular audience. If you sell ten products, you would have a landing page for each product, and copy geared toward the type of people who buy each. So if you sell floral arrangements for weddings, as well as accessories for bridesmaids, boutonnieres for groomsmen, and centerpieces, you would have a separate landing page for each. After all, a bride isn’t searching “accessories for bridesmaids, boutonnieres for groomsmen, and centerpieces.” She’s looking to make one decision at a time. She might end up buying it all for you, but you have to hold her hand when first visiting your website, and help her warm up to what you offer and how you can help.
Let’s go back to email. Promotional emails can be highly effective in making sales. Just focus on a single product or product line, and make your offering dead simple to understand. Use appealing imagery, and link to the landing page (ah! there it is!) for the product.
All of your other marketing tactics, including press releases, social media, and blogging, serve to capture potential customers and engage them. As they explore your web of useful content and social updates, they’ll want to learn more about how your brand can help them. They’ll come around to a sale when they’re ready. It’s important that you let them be the ones to decide when they’re ready to buy, or else you’ll scare off what could have been your next customer.