I have a confession. It’s a hardship that I haven’t wanted to speak of, but sometimes you just get the courage and it has to be shouted to the world.
One of the most fabulous bakeries ever is less than 5 minutes away from where I live.
Phew. That felt good.
There are tons of reasons why this is a problem. I can hit them up for a scone or a muffin on my way to work, for example. On the weekends, I hear their giant brownies and turtle brownies and lovely shortbreads calling my name. Literally. Calling my name. And all of the people who work there are incredibly nice, so you feel good about supporting this bakery. It’s a big problem.
However, there is one really good thing about this whole scenario, and that is that my particular bakery offers me a chance to illustrate how you can go from a friendship to selling in the world of Social Media.
Lesson 1: Know what you’re selling, know what your specialties are, and make sure other people know, too
If people do not know what you are trying to do, they…don’t know what you’re trying to do. A bakery makes it pretty darned easy, really. Over the front of the building is a sign that says, “Bakery.” When you walk into my particular bakery, the first thing you see are mock-ups of wedding cakes and a sign that says they are an award-winning wedding cake bakery. That’s their specialty.
How can you present your products and services in an organized way online? First, you need to ask yourself some key questions that probably other people would want to know, too. For example:
• What kind of business are you? Do you make products, are you a service provider? For what industry or industries?
• What is your specialty? What are other offerings that may not be as great as your specialty but are definitely things you’re proud to offer?
• What are additional products and services you can offer that would supplement your main sources of revenue? For example, a lot of people use affiliate links on their blogs even though that is not the main push of their business.
How can you make sure people know this stuff without coming across as a used-car salesman? When I walk into my bakery, I am greeted with a warm hello (if someone is at the counter at that moment). I am not greeted with, “Oh come and buy the scones because we make such a good profit margin on them or actually if you could just go ahead and buy a wedding cake we have some great ones and that would just be awesome ahhhhhh!” I’m in a bakery, so from that point on, the staff lets me figure out what specific item (or ehem, items) I want to buy.
How can you accomplish this online? If you blog and tweet, you have 3 really easy ways to do this automatically.
1. In your Twitter profile, say what you do, or hint at what you are trying to accomplish. I mention in there that I am coming from an advertising agency perspective, so it’s not a surprise if I jump in when folks are conversing about agencies. Does this mean that you might not make Mark Schaefer’s list for most funny Twitter bios? Does this mean that your love of golden retrievers may have to be left unspoken? Yes, I’m afraid so. But people will be able to see what you’re about.
2. A little blurb on your blog front page is a helpful reminder. Again, I indicate on my little blurb that I work for my family-owned agency, and I’m the 3rd generation. I feel both facts are important because 3rd generation indicates longevity and strength without sounding like a braggart, right?
3. Your about page on your blog is a great place to talk about what you’re doing, what you want to accomplish, and what you want visitors to your blog to do. You have all of the space you want there. Use it.
Lesson 2: Keep your ears open and wait for the right opportunity
So far, my bakery has just helped me illustrate things because they sell baked goods. But here’s where it gets really interesting.
The same woman is generally there in the mornings when I pop in, so we chat while I labor over deciding between a scone and a muffin (I seldom have a choice in mind). One day, I was talking about how I was kind of thinking about moving. She said in a very light way that she actually rents out apartments in a couple of houses if I was interested. She gave me the address and invited me to keep her posted if I wanted to pursue the opportunity.
If people already know what you are doing and what you want (roughly), you have set the stage for grasping opportunity when it comes your way. I saw a person I had been talking to for about a year mention that were looking for a specific sort of agency. I popped in and said, “Hey, we do that.” This was not an intrusive tweet because I have expressed I work for an agency and they had made the ask. I did not hard sell it either. I dropped it in, just like the lady at my bakery lightly dropped in that she had an apartment for rent available.
This is a delicate dance, and jumping the gun can make people feel like you betrayed them or became a random spam bot all of a sudden. Actions that can fall into that category include:
• Sending product offers on a regular basis to your blog subscribers
• Using direct messages on Twitter to sell your products and services
• Jumping into a conversation that is not really related to your business with a hard sell
In Social Media, building your business is very much about letting preparation meet opportunity. You build relationships, all the while gently reminding people what you do. When the opportunity comes, you offer your products or services with respect to the relationship you have built.
If you are searching for the ask, still be respectful of the person. Say, “I just saw you that you asked about xyz. I can help you with that if you are interested in hearing about our offerings.” If you say something like that and have nothing in your Twitter bio about what you do, by the way, it could seem really creepy!
The blurry area between engagement and building your business
A lot of people, I think, are looking at Social Media as either all engagement or all selling. In fact, it’s a mixture of both. It’s a dance of balance, composure, patience, and constant preparation.
Does this make sense? What would you add?
This is post #54 in The Engagement Series. If you are worried about missing a post, please feel free to hit the subscribe button!
1st image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/aschaeffer
2nd Image Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/PsychoPxL