Archive | Content for Social Selling

Matrix Section – Educational Content – articles, posts, Status Updates, Blogs, video, infographics etc.

Article Marketing – how to generate leads with articles in LinkedIn

Wurlwind Educational Content Article Marketing Graphic

The Internet has allowed everyone to become a publisher, including on LinkedIn, but it needs some smart article marketing techniques to stand out, get read, and convert readers into leads.

LinkedIn Article Marketing Challenges

There are many challenges when it comes to achieving a reasonable return when publishing articles in LinkedIn, including:

  1. Not all of our connections will see the article. There is a double whammy here. Firstly your connections who LinkedIn notifies may not be active on LinkedIn when the article is published. And secondly, LinkedIn doesn’t present every article to all of our connections.
  2. Reader time and attention is very limited. We filter out so much content these days. Articles really need to stand-out to grab attention.
  3. Relationships matter – LinkedIn detects who we have a ‘relationship’ with and presents our content (or not) accordingly. So, we need to have good relationships with people in LinkedIn, as this affects the distribution, and also the inclination of people to read.
  4. Getting people to engage and comment and Like an article is difficult. It is doubly so if the piece is heavily sales or lead generation oriented – a so-called click-bait article. People will be reluctant to comment if they are seen to be sharing very sales oriented content.

For individuals and smaller businesses it is hard to compete against large companies, agencies and people like celebrities with large followings. However there are ways to improve results.

Six Article Marketing fundamentals

Success comes from careful planning, as well as thorough execution.

  1. The Topic

Give this very careful thought. Research what your reader / prospect will be interested in. Especially think about the business issue(s) that are giving them some concern. By picking an ‘evergreen’ topic the article should have long-term value, and be a sales asset that you can still signpost people to and promote 1, 2, 3 years from now. Beware of self-promotional topics, and those that are trending topics or hyper topical, as they are likely to date very quickly.

2. The Reader Journey

I’m a big fan of The Challenger Sale, and one of their premises is to “Lead prospects TO your solution”, rather than to “Lead with your solution”. The Six Step Sales Choreography of Warmer, Reframe, Rational Drowning, Emotional Impact, The New Way and Your Solution, can be applied to articles just as much as to presentations. It’s a gentle but effective way to lead readers TO the next step, typically going to your website.

3. The pay-off

Again, from Challenger Sale, they refer to Educational Marketing. Provide the reader with some value that will help them to do their job better. Accept that very few people will click through, and make sure that even those who don’t click feel that there was a good return for the 2-5 minutes they invested to read your article. Even better, provide value so that they are prepared to share it with others.

4. The Article

You’ll need a headline with impact, a powerful header image, an engaging first paragraph, additional images, quotes etc. Use of Sub-headings, lists etc. make it easier to scan. There are probably a dozen styles to choose from – insight, case study, listicle, compilation, how-to, and so-on. A good friend of mine – Tony Coll – has coined the CHORTLE pneumonic to build emotional impact into articles.

5. The Promotion

Having invested time in writing the article it then deserves to be promoted. Unfortunately relying on organic traffic and viewers in LinkedIn is unlikely to achieve much. In a similar way that books on Amazon need to be promoted so too do Articles in LinkedIn. So, view this as a positive activity, as you send requests to advocates and colleagues to comment, you email your list to highlight the new article, schedule several status updates on various social media, and so on.

6. The Follow-through

Hopefully people will be commenting, in which case reply to each comment in LinkedIn. A few more people will be Liking, so look at what they’ve published and like in return. And if the topic has been well chosen it should enable you to strike up conversations either with suspects and prospects, or to approach people to see if they know people who would benefit from reading the piece, as a potential referral or introduction. And keep an eye on People who Viewed you Profile, and there may be several people worth approaching there.

What’s the return on Article Marketing?

That may sound like a huge amount of work. And to do it thoroughly is does take time.

Article Marketing is where there are advantages to having a lot of connections, especially ones you have strong relationships with in LinkedIn. A good article will reinforce your market position, move readers along their buying journey, or prompt them to provide a referral or an introduction.

However, it all depends on how many leads and new customers you’re actually looking for. And only you know what the maths looks like, and how much time you have.

So, maybe you want to scale back for your first few pieces. Maybe focus on ones that will be REALLY useful if/when you email a link to prospects who are currently in your sales pipeline. You are directly helping current sales campaigns and increasing your chance of closing those deals.

Publishing FOUR articles is (currently) a good idea as LinkedIn will list the other 3 you’ve published at the bottom of whichever the reader is reading. So, maybe one a month for 4 months is a good target?

If you’re the Managing Director or a public face for your business you can greatly assist your team by writing articles that will help them with their lead generation, sales campaigns and client relationships.

If you’re a solopreneur, a business owner, independent consultant or similar or going through a career change, then article marketing is a powerful way to position yourself and open doors and gain referrals.

I hope this has encouraged you to plan and write your first, or another, article in LinkedIn.

If you’d like to talk this through, and be guided through the process why not schedule a call with me, Mark Stonham, and I will help you to save time and improve your results.

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Educational Content – the fuel that makes Social Selling effective

Wurlwind Social Selling - Educational Content

The Internet has allowed everyone to become a publisher. But not everyone understands how to link content with sales.

Many claim that Content is King. We add that Distribution is Emperor, and Context is Queen.

While Self-Service via search and Content Marketing is important in low value high volume situations, when it comes to low volume high value touches in Social Selling it’s the role of the sales person to convey the right message to the right person at the right time through the right channel and using the right medium, ideally.

The value of a sales consultant is to provide guidance towards a decision, as an experienced and trusted advisor.

Well crafted content is a way to increase the impact and productivity of sales consultants, so prospects are prepared prior to contact with a consultant and can be sign-posted to relevant content as a follow-through, with a follow-up.

Quick Tips for effective educational content for LinkedIn and Social Selling

It’s all too easy to hand craft every message, or to suffer from writer’s block, so start with these three tasks to give yourself a fast start or a boost in LinkedIn.

  • Identify routine communications on LinkedIn ( eg. making and accepting connection requests) – and create standard phrases, paragraphs and email text to start from
  • Create a series of articles that address the most frequent topics that come up in meetings with prospects – and publish these as articles in LinkedIn
  • Create a set of engaging messages highlighting aspects of the article(s) – and use these in your mix of status updates and in emails.

And don’t overlook your Personal Profile (and those of your colleagues) and Company Page as they also count as Content, with potentially a higher number of views than individual articles.

 

The Power of Trigger Events and Commercial Teaching

Our approach to selling – and especially to social selling and content to support social selling – has been influenced by many things, especially these ideas:

  • identify the trigger events that cause buyers to move from status quo to researching – and write content around those topics
  • find a way to reframe the buyers thinking about what’s important – which is about emotional connection rather than logic
  • where possible relate your message to how they can improve the commercial performance of their business

Think about what content you’ve read, seen, heard or watched recently – what was memorable?

Popular song writers are especially good in all four areas – for example love songs that become associated with life events.

What content do you need for effective Social Selling?

In practice there are some key pieces of content that most sales people will need, and benefit from, including:

  • LinkedIn Personal Profile – the Headline and Summary especially
  • Template to Invite people to connect on LinkedIn
  • Template response when people invite you to connect
  • Status Update Plan / Guidelines, such as the Mix of Six
  • Reliable 3rd party sources of on-topic content
  • Articles on the half-dozen main topics of interest of prospects
  • An Article per social prospecting or lead generation campaign

Further suggestions will be added periodically, based on what’s working for us and our clients.

Download our Pocket Guide to Social Selling

If you haven’t already done so get a copy of our guide, which covers more LinkedIn Tips and introduces the Social Selling Matrix.

The “Mix of SIX” LinkedIn Status Updates for Social Selling Success

Mix-of-Six-LinkedIn-Status-Updates-for-Social-Selling-SuccessIf you’re struggling to work out what Status Updates to post on LinkedIn this article is for you.

The “Mix of Six” LinkedIn Status Updates will help you to get much more from LinkedIn, whether you are an entrepreneur or business owner working on your own, whether you head up a business or a sales team, or if you are a sales person working for a company.

The Benefits of the “Mix of Six” LinkedIn Status Updates

If you follow this plan for 20 business days ie. a month, I’m confident that you will notice a big difference in the results you get from LinkedIn, in several ways:

  • More profile views and connection requests
  • More traffic to your website landing pages and blog articles
  • Better sales relationships with customers
  • More sales conversations with prospects.

Once you get into the swing of this it should take you about 15 minutes a day to post these SIX updates.

The following sections cover the six elements in the graphics, with an explanation about WHY, WHAT and HOW to build them into a plan and into your daily and weekly LinkedIn activity.

Landing Page Links

While it’s great to have many connections on LinkedIn and be posting and sharing lots of great stuff it can feel very unrewarding unless there are specific results in terms of leads. From a sales perspective it’s important to identify who is moving forward in their buying process. Unless you put in place the mechanism to generate and capture leads it’s likely that your results will be disappointing.

Sure, there are other ways that people can express interest in what you do. But having an online lead capture mechanism in place is a solid foundation. It can also be a great sales productivity tool too, as you can send an email to people to download an information sheet, ebook or toolkit after you’ve had a phone call with them, for example.

Offering some ‘free’ information, such as a toolkit or report, in exchange for their email details is an effective way to capture their details. To achieve this you need suitable landing pages and ‘bait’ on your website, and ideally an email nurture sequence behind it to follow them up automatically.

Then you create Status Updates that you post in LinkedIn with an attractive message inviting them to access the tool/report. These Status Updates can be pre-scheduled in Hootsuite or other apps so you don’t need to remember to do them every day.

Tip: Think of what questions or problems your prospects have, and how you can create a valuable Checklist or Tool to help them. Then create the lead capture page. Then create a range of Status Updates, and Tweets as well, to bring visitors to the page.

Advanced Tip: Set up Google Analytics Goals against the Thank-you pages beyond the Sales pages to monitor results. Include Campaign codes in the URLs as you get more sophisticated.

Note: These Status Updates may well be shareable, if your Info offer or Toolkit is good. Show appreciation to those who do share them as this is hugely valuable to you.

Blog Article Links

Articles that are educational are the bedrock of content marketing and social selling. Articles of 600 words+, with a strong headline, images and maybe video, do take time to create (say 2-4 hours). Therefore, pick evergreen topics that have a long shelf-life, and which are very applicable to your prospects and your personal branding. They should be written so they are very shareable, so not too salesy and promotional.

Now that LinkedIn has introduced Pulse and opened it up to everyone this allows individuals to write long-form articles within LinkedIn. This is a powerful alternative to having to have a separate blog or a blog as part of a website.

Tip: If you’ve not written a post in LinkedIn yet, write one. Then write a second, then a third, perhaps a month apart. You can pre-schedule Status Updates to attract readers to them using Hootsuite or equivalent. Check regularly for who has Liked and Commented as these are prime opportunities to engage with them, thank them, connect with them and start a sales conversation. LinkedIn has also updated the analytics and stats on articles to make this even more powerful and easy to do.

Advanced Tip: Ask your colleagues, power group, advocates, key customers etc. to Like and Comment on them. Send them a request by Email within LinkedIn to a small distribution list is a good option. Be prepared to reciprocate – see later.

Industry News

As an expert in your subject you should be reading articles by respected industry sources. It may actually be worthwhile reviewing your sources and tracking down new ones. Having done that, pick an article a day, in your area of expertise, to share with your connections. Add some insight to it, highlighting an important element of the story, for example.

Tip: Email newsletters from trade associations, research bodies and similar authority sources are a great source of articles.

Advanced Tip: Install the Hootsuite Hootlet in your Browser and connect it to your various social media accounts. This is a very quick way to share a web page to LinkedIn, and to Twitter and other social media too.

Sector Leaders

Who are the people in your specialist area who have created a powerful presence for themselves on LinkedIn? Not only can you learn from them about the subject area you can also learn how they are using LinkedIn.

More importantly, by commenting on and sharing their material you are raising your profile with them, and also with the people who follow them. This has the potential to increase the number of people who visit your profile and accelerate your ability to reach out to others to connect.

Tip: Search for your keywords in LinkedIn Pulse and see who is writing articles about your area. Choose to follow a couple of specialist Channels within Linkedin Pulse. Take a few minutes to look at their LinkedIn Profile and Activity. Like and Comment on 2-3 of their Status Updates and Posts. Follow them and also send a personal invitation to connect with them.

Advanced Tip: Have a look at their Connections, and see which Connections you Share. This may indicate people in your network who are actively researching a topic on LinkedIn, and an opportunity to re-engage with them. Alternatively, it may indicate peers who could become part of your power group, where you can actively support each other on LinkedIn, by sharing on a reciprocal basis.

Super-Advanced Tip: Becoming an Industry Leader whose content is shared by many people is an aspiration that some people are able to turn into reality. It takes dedication and commitment to achieve, and infrastructure to monetize it as well. What is amazing is that LinkedIn provides the vehicle, for those who want to make this journey.

Customer Content

Sharing content created by your customers has many benefits. This includes maintaining your relationship with them for repeat business, as well as testimonials, referrals and other sales related pay-back.

The other side is that you are actively raising the profile of their business to your connections. The more successful your customers are the more likely they are to refer you and give you more business.

Tip: Take care to share quality material that is reasonably consistent with your personal brand and relationship. You may need to visit their website, LinkedIn Page or the profiles of senior executives to find suitable pieces. If you add the name of the author into the status update you create your contact will be alerted to the mention, giving you kudos.

Advanced Tip: Create a Tag Group within Contacts for your prime customer contacts – and ideally they will be 1st connections. Now set a reminder in LinkedIn in the Relationship Tab for each contact for 1 month and recurring. And check the ‘Keep in touch’ area regularly! You can also send an email within LinkedIn to this group, perhaps asking them to Like one of you articles.

Prospect Content

If your target list is senior executives, business owners, or other hard-to-reach people, you can improve your chances of getting through by sharing their content on LinkedIn. It helps if your target people are present and reasonably active on LinkedIn, otherwise you may need to look for alternative strategies.

Tip: Search the Internet for Press Releases by your prospect, case studies, senior people being quoted in the news, etc. When you find one, create a positive status update highlighting the ‘good news’ and giving the key person a name-check. If they see it, or pick up the email notification, then it could start a conversation. If they don’t see it there’s no harm done. Doing a “I found this article and thought you’d find it interesting…@mention  “ type of message could well be seen as intrusive, and doesn’t look good in your own Recent Activity stream either.

Warning: Do this in moderation, otherwise every other connection you have will be flooded with random status updates if you share say 50-100 items a day in an attempt to get noticed by prospects. On the 1:6 basis, be very strategic about choosing which prospect you are trying to get through to before sharing their content on LinkedIn. The alternative, for higher numbers of shares is Twitter, if they are active there.

Check your LinkedIn Settings so people can see your Updates

Before you start ramping up your activity in LinkedIn it’s worth check that people can see your Recent Activity and can Follow you.

Go Into Settings / Profile and Privacy Controls.

  • The Second Line is “Select who can see your activity feed” – I suggest you select Everyone or Your Network.
  • The Sixth line is “Choose who can follow your updates” – I suggest you select “Everyone”.

Ask a colleague to view your profile to double-check.

What not to share on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn is a professional network and a place to build a positive business brand for ourselves and for our companies, businesses and organisations. Therefore be very careful before Liking and Commenting or Creating content that has any of the following characteristics:

  • Confidential – an HR department or lawyers may be straight onto you
  • Commercially sensitive – competitors may well pick up on this
  • Critical – there are private ways to get things off our chests
  • Complaining – being negative in public can have unforeseen consequences
  • Condemning – personal attacks in public are not pretty
  • Cats and other whimsical content – belong on other networks
  • Mathematical challenges – even if you know the answer you risk looking a fool
  • Personal material, about you or others – belongs within a family & friends network

How long will all this take?

To be fair, planning, sourcing and developing some of these elements if you don’t already have them will take time. However consider it to be an investment as it will have a long term payback. Monitoring and following upon the sales conversations that this starts, through LinkedIn, by email, over the phone etc. is then part of regular sales activity.

I suggest, set yourself an activity based goal over a 20 day period, to research, set-up and run with this plan.

  • Set aside half a day to re-read this article and to work through the planning worksheet which you can get below.
  • Then set aside 30 minutes a day – and be focused about finding and posting suitable articles, and not wandering off on interesting thought lines, triggered by what you find during your activity.
  • Creating a Worksheet, like the one I have that you can download below, may take you an hour or so.
  • Writing articles takes longest, and is the most frequent activity, so prepare ahead. This article, and graphic, and the Linkedin Post to go with it has taken 6 hours. However, if it generates half a dozen inquiries and 3 sales, and saves me time repeating myself, and raises my profile, it’ll be time well spent.

Sales people working in small, medium or large businesses may well be able to use articles written by the business owner or other specialists in their business rather than writing their own articles, at least initially.

LinkedIn Status Update Planning Worksheet

To help you research and organise the websites and pages you need I’ve prepared a short worksheet. Work through the SIX sections, find and record website URLs on the sheet, so you have them all in one place, to use and to add to.

Then use the document to work through day by day to write and post status updates, and record your progress.

Until I get a Form set up you can request the Worksheet by emailing me: Mark Stonham here.

And Finally:

If you’ve found this useful please Like and Share this page.

The APPS approach to a compelling customer value proposition

For most business owners, sales managers and sales people the priority is sales and lead generation.

Social Media is relatively new and Social Selling is a very new concept. But, definitions apart, are your customers buying in different ways now to say 3-5 years ago? Are you making purchases in different ways? Buying is changing and Social Selling is a response that in some ways counters that buying change.

The Internet, Search and Content, Social Networks and profiles, mobile devices and more are having a fundamental impact on the way that buyers buy. Research indicates that they are perhaps 70% of the way through the purchase process before they talk to a sales person. And buyers have developed elaborate means to avoid being interrupted or distracted by an idea or a product or service that is not on their agenda.

If you are interested in ideas, approaches and strategies for lead generation and social selling read through this page. What is outlined is a strategy that connects Social with Sales, that provides linkages between B2B selling and buying that can be directly supported by Social Networks, particularly LinkedIn. Businesses who are already using Social Selling techniques are reporting significant benefits, and sales people who are leveraging social media are performing better against their targets than those who aren’t using Social, yet.

Take just a minute to review the Fours Steps of the APPS approach and see if they could improve your value proposition and sales messaging.

ALIGN – the foundation for a strong value proposition

Buyers now have access to so much information, research, news, comment, that it’s become a noisy market and hard to be heard. Choosing to align with buyers is a strategy that pays dividends at many levels.  To illustrate the point, here are four levels to consider:

  • Market and Sector Trends – as an expert in your field you should know what the big trends are. Maybe there are regulatory changes, cycles such as consolidation or diversification, in-sourcing versus out-sourcing, innovation and new technology impacting a market. How do these impact your potential customers, and how do you align with them, and can you interpret them for your target audience? You can keep tabs on trends through online sources, thought-leaders and others in Social Media, especially LinkedIn.
  • Company or Organisation Goals – companies you are targeting as potential customers will have goals and objectives.  Maybe they want expansion and increasing sales, is it developing and launching new products into new markets, is it retaining existing customers and protecting market share.  Try to identify what these are, and align with them. You can identify key company information from their website, search and through Social Media.
  • Department or Position Goals – what is it that the VP, C-Level Executive, Departmental head, and those around and reporting to them needs to achieve as part of their role in the organisation, to support the tactical, operational and strategic aims of the business? Identifying who’s who in a company, and some insight into their official responsibilities can be gained from LinkedIn.
  • Personal Goals and Interests – where people have a LinkedIn profile and if they also post status updates it may be possible to develop a picture or profile of the individual, and from that identify how to align with their emotional needs. Are they an ambitious high-achiever looking for promotion? Are they keen on a healthy work-life balance? Are they putting back into the business or domestic community? These and other aspects can be gleaned from Social Media and used to align your message.

Going with the flow is a lot easier than swimming against the tide, at each of these levels. Having a unique angle is important though, in order to cut through the noise, as an individual and as a company. Are you 95% aligned and 5% unique in your approach?

Being Disruptive and Challenging is effective too!

The ability to disrupt and to challenge buyers and the buying process is a strategy or technique that can also be very effective. The ability to be a CHALLENGER, to move your prospect out of their comfort zone and guide them to a ‘better place’ can be an extremely powerful sales technique. Tactically you might start by sending a thought-leadership article or invite your target prospect to a trade conference or network meeting. This may be suitably disruptive to their train of thought to make it Stand-Out! Intercepting a deal that’s about to be signed with a competitor is another disruptive example.

Being trained and equipped to engage in a discussion with senior execs about how they could significantly change the performance of their business, division or role is a sales strategy that is gathering momentum. Helping them to see and then to Align with a different paradigm is a way to add business value and create deep differentiation. Combining this with  digital media such as LinkedIn and techniques including Social Selling has the potential to really ramp up your sales performance.   

PRIORITY – where social selling can give you the edge

The Status Quo is where most people, departments and companies operate, for most of the time. The plans have been drawn up and now it’s execution time, focusing on the job in hand. Against this backdrop it’s very difficult to gain attention and achieve a break-through with your lead generation campaigns. New ideas, new suppliers, new products and solutions take time and attention to understand, evaluate, gain support for and implement. There is a career and business risk associated with alternatives to the status quo, at the wrong time.

However, a Trigger Event is often the catalyst for people to look for a new ideas, solutions, suppliers and so on. For some reason the Status Quo is no longer acceptable. Alternatives are required. Time and attention will be allocated to looking. What are the Trigger Events for your target customers? When someone changes job this often triggers change. When there’s an internal initiative such as a product launch or exhibition. When there’s an external change, such as a competitor challenging them, or a supplier has gone out of business. LinkedIn and Social Media is a great way to find, or be alerted to, Trigger Events.

Having identified a Trigger Event you may need to gather further information to decide what to do, and again LinkedIn can help.

And then you may decide to contact people to follow-through on your decision, to outline how you can help. Since you can align better with what they are now looking to achieve, and again LinkedIn can play a big role, your chances of engaging with the right person at the right time with the right message are greatly improved. Bear in mind that your smarter competitors may also be on the case too.

PAYBACK – where social proof can re-inforce your case

How often do you check out a person on LinkedIn, before deciding whether to take or return their call, or in preparation for a meeting. Their personal profile can enhance or diminish their standing in your eyes. Likewise you might check out the LinkedIn Company Page as well as the website for the company they represent. Are there strong and relevant testimonials and case studies? Can they clearly add value to your business? At each stage of the buying process is it worthwhile to invest time with this person and company?  And when it comes to part with money, can you be confident that there is a business case, and that the supplier will help you to sell it internally and then achieve the results. LinkedIn is one place where potential buyers can whittle out potential suppliers before reaching a short-list and engage more directly with them.

SIMPLE – the key to effective lead generation

You know too well that there are not enough hours in the working day and tasks need to be heavily prioritised, and many will not be tackled. When a potential supplier makes things simple to understand, simple to act upon, and simple to implement, that represents a time saving, or reduces the investment of time needed. Are your marketing and sales messages simple to communicate and understand? Phrasing them in ways that buyers can understand is a start, talking about outcomes and benefits and examples, and Social Networks like LinkedIn area great place to put these messages across. Are your products and services simple to buy and to implement? Educating buyers in different ways relevant to the questions they ask is another way to make things simple. Again, LinkedIn is a great place to highlight your educational resources, which might be in PDF documents, Slide presentations, Video or other formats.

Is your Customer Value Proposition compelling?

Take a moment to review your LinkedIn Profile, your LinkedIn Company Page, your website home page and other places where your prospects will see you. How well do they score on a 1-10 basis against each of these 4 criteria?

If you’d like us to make a quick independent assessment and provide feedback please send me an email including any relevant website URLs you’d like us to look at. We’d be delighted to provide feedback to you.

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