You are familiar with the traditional marketing process -- businesses buy time on media to sell people something. People have been willing to give marketers time in exchange for entertainment or free information.
This doesn't work in social networks, because people are there to be social.
You can, however, be helpful when you arm the people who are interested, those who are looking to solve a problem, with information that will help them obtain a higher budget, or get one altogether.
Help them, help you
Developing content your contacts can use to persuade their teams to buy your services is one of the most powerful and profitable things you can do in marketing.
This is valid especially when you're talking about big ticket items, because you know that those kinds of purchases are made by a group.
Plus supporting one group and helping them persuade another of the value of a purchase will earn you loyalty from that group. In my experience, the agencies and teams who employ that approach win twice -- for the customer, and for themselves.
Some sample executions are:
- a visual deck with competitive comparison charts
- a worksheet for tackling implentation implications for other groups
- experiential tools for teams to test drive your product
- a drag and drop eBook they can configure to appeal to different internal questions
- an industry news bulletin they can use to stay up to date and will make them look good when sharing
This is all content that will also provide some feedback to you about what resonates and what can use more attention and resources. You can also use that information to spot potential trends -- for example, are some groups becoming more involved in the purchasing process?
When to go in depth
At this point, you are offering value by investing in your contacts. One of the most frequently asked questions by people in the consulting and service business is -- at what point do we start running the meter and charging for content and ideas?
Because you can bet that not everyone will be aware of the costs associate with providing high quality content. And we're all familiar with the saying, if you give them an arm... yes, everyone has been spoiled by free online content. Not too many figure out what makes it possible.
So if you own your own business, and would like to turn a profit, you'll need to decide when to say "when". Is it reasonable for a Fortune 500 company to expect a strategy deck as a feebie? Don't feel pressured to go along for fear someone else will get the gig. Let them go, if that is the case.
In depth means there is a commitment by both parties to have a relationship.
An organization that is serious about working with you is willing to pay for further consultation. In that case, you need to be prepared to recommend next steps and corresponding fee structures. For example:
- a research study or in depth analysis of an issue that is specific to that team
- a two-hour consultation with the team to help them articulate the problem properly
- a half day workshop to educate and train groups that will be working more closely together
You get the idea. The difference between providing something of value to your contact often is an attitude of care and service. My mentor once told me that if you liked someone a lot, chances are, they also liked you. Clear communication and honesty do the rest.
Have you tried writing for your contacts' teams or other groups in their companies? Were there any preferences in formats and types of supporting content? How do you draw the lines from investment to paid project?