Commandment 3: Stop Selling

Effective digital marketing means you have to learn when is the right time to sell.

Sales and marketing activities are the only ways for companies to generate revenues. The people in sales and marketing are the link between the company and its customers.

History tells us that the only way this happens is through direct interaction. Here’s a good example to understand this:

The company creates an ad and sends it to their local newspaper. A customer saw the ad. They go to the store to see the actual product. The customer interacts with the people inside the store, ask questions then decide whether to purchase or not.

While marketing and sales activities are still important, the decision to buy isn’t made any more in stores. Rather, they’re made way before the actual visit.

Now, imagine a company whose primary (most cases, only) message is selling their products and services? They make variations of their messages as sales and discounts, limited-time offers, etc.

Let’s say 80% of what you see in their social media accounts are “buy from me” messages?

Would you grow fond of this company? Would you enjoy “following” them?

…the Internet has turned what used to be a controlled, one-way message into

a real-time dialogue with millions.

Danielle Sacks
The Future of Advertising
Fast Company
November 17, 2010.
Buyer's Journey Then and Now

Decisions are now made before they interact with your actual products or services. People visit the store for the purchase, but decisions are already made earlier. So how can you influence them to buy from you? Change your communications. Instead of selling to them, educate them.

The Internet has turned what used to be a controlled, one-way message into a real-time dialogue with millions.

Before getting to the actual details, let me be the first to say that I am not against hard-selling or sales messages. I like to use the Pareto Principle, so a good ratio for sales messages vs. non-sales messages is 80-20. And just to be clear, the 80 is for the non-sales messages.

3 Quick Fixes to Create Value and Stop Selling

Write individual articles on your FAQs

This should be a no-brainer. If you get asked questions 3x, I’d consider that already as frequent. Use the whole question as your title and URL.

For example, you’re a marketing agency. A common question asked in that field is “How to Create Marketing Plans.” So make an article (or series of articles) with that title. This will help your readers find what they are looking for and help you with your SEO as well.

Application: When people ask you these questions, say, via email, answer them briefly, then link back to your article with the full explanation. Because you only have 1 topic per page, you can go all-out on this one — include images, include videos, if necessary.

If you don’t know where to start, head on over to customer support or the sales people and ask them what questions they get. They’ll love it. You’ll get your content. Win-win situation for everyone.

Pro Tip: Categorize your FAQs. It can be as simple as product-related or company-related. It can also refer to departments concerned (aka functional) like billing, technical, account, etc. Here are more default categories you can use: features, how-to, troubleshooting.

Another pro tip: Depending on how your company is setup, create a spreadsheet that is shared among concerned departments. Then, invite everyone concerned to a weekly 30-minute meeting to go through newly added items. For example, here’s a sample of what I have for one of the companies I’m consulting for. It’s a spreadsheet that is shared among marketing, sales, and operations.

It allows me to track all these FAQs, the answers to them, and whether we have an article about it or not. And it saves me time as well when I need topics for the blog.

Create articles showcasing the benefits of using your products or services

Focus on the benefits of what you are selling, not on the features. How can your product or service improve your customers’ lives? What is it that they’ll get or receive after buying and using your product or service?

As an added bonus here, an article I recently read to use emotions in your landing pages. This might not be a landing page, but it’s a good idea to think of the “soft” aspect, the emotions, and how it makes people feel.

Here’s an example I just came up with. I hope I’d done justice to this. Coffee (Java Chip Frappucino) at Starbucks (since I’m writing this post at a Starbucks and drinking exactly that).

  • Features
    • Freshly ground beans
    • Contains dark chocolate chips
    • Cold
  • Benefits
    • Cleanse your body with antioxidants while drinking the finest coffee
    • Feel relaxed and refreshed (chocolates have melatonin, the feel-good hormone)
    • Cool down and refresh your body

Talk about other people’s successes

One of the rules I live by is “You’re not that smart; they’re not that dumb.” It’s one of Horstman’s Laws and is very applicable here.

Your customers will know if all you are after is their money. It’ll show in your communications, your approach, your products and services. Eventually, you’ll lose them.

The best part is that it’s so easy not to be tagged as selfish. Just talk about other people! Here are a few things you can do:

  • Conduct surveys and release the results as an industry report;
  • Perform a case study (or two, or all) of your customers;
  • Share your customers’ success stories and how they use your products.
  • Ask them to write for you (guest blog) or write about you (blog about you).

Pro Tip: Easily do this by creating a stream on Twitter for your brand name and product. If you see someone tweeted something, take a screenshot. Write an article out of it and include that image. Share it on social media and tag that person. You can also do this on other social media sites.

Another pro tip: Create a Google Alert (or other alternatives) for your brand mentions. Perhaps even adding some known “words” in your industry. That way, you stay on top of all these things. You can then take action to increase value. For example, a customer blogged about your company and said she had a great experience shopping at your store. Immediately thank the customer on social media for featuring you and include that link. Reach out to her and thank her directly. Maybe send your regular feedback form. There’s really an infinite number of things you can do once you have this information.

The internet has changed the way people buy. Companies no longer has control over information and the buyer’s journey. There is a lot of competition out there as well — both direct and indirect.

The question to answer now is, “has your marketing adapted to these changes?”

Ariel Lim

Ariel Lim

Management consultant / MBA / Inbound marketer who helps startups generate leads, create and execute strategies.

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