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To kick off season 3 of our podcast, I have invited my longtime friend Mack Collier, Digital & Marketing Strategist, to join me on today’s show.
The idea of this episode came from a share that Mack did on Twitter. We know the fine line we need to straddle in order to successfully sell using social media, and the traps you need to avoid by not looking like all you are asking people to do is buy, buy, buy. This is particularly challenging for the online store owner. Mack has a perfect selling funnel to use with this strategy. Tune in as he shares it with us.
You will find a full transcript at the end of this post.
We chatted about:
- Creating customer-centric content that focuses on a passion point that relates both to your customer and your services or product
- How this content path focuses on your product or services’ passion point
- Providing content that specifically explains exactly what your products or services offer
- When to start the sell and still keep it from being the hard sell
And lastly, I asked Mack about his recent tweet where he said he was looking at LinkedIn more seriously and why he has decided to use it for some of the strategies he is now using on Twitter.
Here are some other podcast episodes that talk about social and your online store:
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You can also download a pdf of the full transcript here: BobWP eCommerce Show Episode 99 September 4 2017
Bob Dunn: Hey, Mack, welcome to the show.
Mack Collier: Hey, Bob, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Bob: We’ve known each other for quite a few years. In fact, I was trying to pinpoint that the other day when we were on #Blogchat and I honestly can’t remember. Maybe it’s good that I can’t remember. I’m sure there are some listeners out there who may be hearing your voice for the very first time, so can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Meet Mack Collier, digital marketing specialist and founder of BlogChat
Mack: Yeah, I’m a digital marketing strategist. I help companies of all sizes create and build out their digital and content marketing strategies. I also help companies build out their customer service programs, brand ambassador programs, brand advocacy programs, and the like.
Bob: Keeps you busy, right?
Mack: Yeah, it’s fun, and this kind of ties in to what we’re going to talk about today, but I enjoy anything that helps companies better understand who their customers are and also understand the customer’s point of view. I view it as my job to bring the customer’s point of view to the company and make sure they understand that. Because I know that the companies that truly understand their customers and have a passion for wanting to understand their customers, those are the companies that will succeed. So, that’s what I try to help them do.
Bob: I think that a lot of times, especially with online store startups, that’s where they’re lacking. They don’t quite understand their customers, they haven’t taken the time to learn their needs and everything around that, so this is perfect. And I saw you list these four steps in Twitter, it was a graphic, and it was titled “How to Sell to Social Media” and I thought, “Wow, there’s a podcast.”
First, are we talking all content when we are looking at selling through social media?
It was a perfect topic for a show, and I thought, “Well, I’ll reach out,” and here we are. Before we get into those four points, of course this is all based around content. And when you’re talking content, are we addressing all media, for example blog posts, video, the content is on your blog, your online store, etc? Is that kind of the assumption we should make?
Mack: Yeah, more or less. I’d like to talk about the buyer’s journey some and I think that as customers become more aware of a particular brand and more aware of the what they’re looking for in a particular product, I think that as their behavior changes, they naturally gravitate toward maybe video or a blog post It just depends on where they are and what their interest level is as far as learning more about the brand, learning more about the products. So yeah, we’re talking more or less all forms of content but with the understanding that at some point they may be looking at a blog post versus a video versus what-have-you.
Step #1: Create customer-centric content
Bob: Okay, now I’m going to start with the first one, and I’m going to read these verbatim, then I’m going to ask you a quick question after that to really get across what I saw and what brought me to bringing this topic to the podcast. Number one, create customer-centric content that focuses on a passion point that related to both your customer and to your products or services. Can you elaborate that and maybe even throw in an example?
Mack: Yeah, well, I’ll tell you what, let me back up a half-step and just kind of give you some insight into why I wanted to even write this post because one of the things I constantly hear from either clients or just other companies is typically the top or one of the top reasons why they’re even interested in using social media to begin with is because they want to build awareness. And they see it as, “Social media is a way that we can get the word out about who we are, what we do, and just drive digital word-of-mouth,” and it’s a great way to do that. The disconnect comes from the fact that if you think about that, “I’m trying to build awareness.” Well, if you’re trying to build awareness, that means that you’re trying to help people know who you are, but obviously, these are people that don’t know who you are. So, if they don’t know who you are, then you have to take that into consideration.
What I think a lot of companies do is they start using social media with the idea being, “We’re going to use it to help build awareness.” But then they immediately start trying to sell and you can’t really do that if you take into account the fact that if you’re trying to build awareness with somebody, you’re trying to connect with a group that doesn’t know who you are. And you can’t sell to someone until they know who you are. So that’s why I kind of wanted to start with these four steps to talk about how to sell with social media and you were talking about the first one, start with creating customer-centric content that focuses on a passion point. The idea is when you’re starting to create content and when you’re trying to introduce yourself to someone that doesn’t know who you are, your content needs to be focused completely on the customer. Because basically you’re trying to connect with a stranger, more or less, and if you’re trying to connect with a stranger, then you have to make sure that what you’re saying is completely relevant to them. You need to talk about who the customer is. You need to focus completely on what’s interesting to them.
Step #2: Focus on your customer’s passion point.
For example, considering and talking about a passion point, how do you create content that focuses on a passion point that relates to the customer and the product? What in the world do I mean by a passion point? A passion point is simply something that the customer is passionate about, that’s interesting to them, that’s relevant to them, that somehow relates back to your product. And an example of this is I’m sure you probably read the same book I did in college or in high school, “Positioning” by Al Ries and I think Jack Trout, classic marketing book and the whole idea was every great brand owns a certain position in the customer’s mind. For example, when I say Volvo, probably you and a lot of audience will think, “Oh, safety,” because Volvo cars, they own the safety position in the customer’s mind. So, that’s an example of a passion point. That’s an example of something that customers are interested in, we want safe cars. For example, if we’re a mother with children, we’re thinking about, “If I’m going to buy a new car, I want to make sure it’s safe for my children.” So safety is a passion point.
So, if Volvo, today, was trying to build awareness for who it is and it’s trying to connect with customers that don’t know who they are, they could focus on safety. They could focus on vehicle safety because that’s an idea that’s relevant and interesting to the customer and that’s something they’re passionate about. So, that’s a good way to just focus on this idea of you want to create content that’s completely customer-centric. You’re completely taking into account what’s important to the customer. Your car isn’t important to the customer yet, but the idea of buying a safe car, that’s something that’s important to the customer. That’s something they’re already thinking about, so that’s what you want to talk about. The idea of how do we help you buy a car that’s more safe, how do we focus on you being safer when you’re driving. Does that make sense?
How do we create a content path focusing on how our product relates to the customer’s passion point?
Bob: Makes total sense and that’s a perfect example. Now, if we move to the next step, now it’s create a content path that focuses on how your product or services relate to that customer’s passion point. Again, what’s that next step and give us a little bit of details here?
Mack: Well, once you’ve already created the content that’s focused on vehicle safety, driving safe, helping a mom create a safe experience for her family when she’s driving, you’ve already got the customer’s attention. You’ve got them interested, now they know who you are, then you shift your content a little bit. Instead of focusing solely on talking about how the customer can have a safer vehicle, you start to talk about, “Here’s some of the safety features that Volvo cars have.” Another example: if you sell cookware, if you sell pots and pans, you would start out by talking just about cooking, “How do I help the customer become a better cook?” because you’re introducing yourself. Then, once they know a little bit about who you are, then you start to talk about how your particular pots and pans can help the customer become a better cook. Because once you get them interested, you focus on an idea that’s interesting to them such as vehicle safety, helping my family be safe while we’re driving, what can I do? Or, you’re focusing on something else that’s interesting to them like cooking, how to create meals for a family in 15 minutes, something like that.
Once they are interested in what you’re talking about, then you shift gears to the second point and you start to talk about how your product can help with that particular area. With the Volvo, you talk about, “Here are some of the safety features that Volvo vehicles have that are going to help you become a safer driver.” If you’re selling pots and pans, then you’re going to shift gears, in the second point you’re going to start to talk about the connection between your pots and pans and how it’s going to help the customer become a better cook.
Bob: Now, looking back on the last two points, especially the last one, are we going to now start focusing more heavily on the features and benefits than that previous content or am I misunderstanding that? Exactly what do we do in this next content phase?
Step #3: Start talking more about the specifics.
Mack: The first thing to understand about this third step, where we’re talking about creating content that more specifically explains exactly what products and services you offer, is this. Most companies when they think about, “We need to build awareness,” start at this third step. Because now we’ve already talked about the first two steps and now you’re starting to get a sense of, “Oh, okay, I see what you do.” First you talk completely about the customer and you talk completely in terms that are important to the customer. You talk about vehicle safety, you talk about being a better cook. Then in the second step, once they’re interested in those areas, once they’re listening to you, you help them understand how your product relates to vehicle safety or how your product relates to becoming a better cook.
You’re getting them more and more interested. Then you can move to the third step. But if you start with talking about about your product and its features, your customer doesn’t know who you are and is basically saying, “You’re selling to me when I’m not ready to buy.”
This is why it’s important to follow these steps. Every person you’re going to interact with is ready for some type of content. It’s your job to figure out what type they want at each particular stage. Because as long as you give them the content they want at that particular stage, you’re going to hook them in, you’re going to get their attention, and that gives you the opportunity to then move them to the next stage. Each stage, you’re moving them closer and closer to purchasing.
Like I said, a lot of companies start at the third step when they need to start at the first one. In the third step, creating content that more specifically explains what the product and services you offer, at this point the customer, they’ve already interacted with your content, they know the connection between you and the passion point they’re interested in. At this point, they’re starting to consider buying your product. They’re starting to consider buying your product, so they want to learn more about your product. Step #3 is the stage where the customer is starting to do research. They start comparing and contrasting. They start looking at things like, “What’s the warranty like? What type of materials are being used? Should I go with this particular material or that one?” That’s when they start asking questions. “Do you have a nonstick coating on your pans? What type of materials are you using in your car to make it safer? Are you using steel frame? Aluminum frame?” These type of things.
Because that’s the point at which they’re doing research, so this is the point at which they want content that more directly sells the product because that’s the type of content that they’re interested in. They’re considering making a purchase, they’re doing their research proactively, so at this point they want you to talk to them more about the product itself because, again, that’s the type of content they’re ready for. Again, as long as you give them the content they’re looking for at every single stage, that’s how you hold their attention and that’s how you move them closer to buying from you.
Step #4: Selling your products and services
Bob: Which takes us right into the last stage, selling your products and services. We’ve moved up through those phases instead of going right to the third one. Now we’ve created all this content, we want to sell the product and service, what can you tell us about this last phase?
Mack: Yeah, the last one is easy, you just take their money.
Mack: Yeah, they’re ready to buy from you and you just give them a way to complete the purchase. And the reason I say that is because, and I know you’ve written about this and I know you deal with a lot of bloggers, there’s so many bloggers that, for example, they want to make money off their blog or they want to have brands approach them about sponsorship opportunities or working as an influencer, or what-have-you. They want all this but if you go and look on their blog, they have no page set up that talks about how a brand could contact them or how a brand could work with them. They basically don’t create a way for the brand to complete the sale. So even if the brand comes there and thinks, “Wow, Bob’s blog looks like it’s got incredible engagement… ” Even if they decide they want to work with you, if you don’t have something set up that makes it painfully easy for them to contact you, that you clearly communicate to them, “Yes, I do work with brands. Yes, I do accept sponsorships.” You have to get them, once they’re ready to the point where they’re ready to buy, give them a way to complete the sale.
And it’s the same thing, I know you’ve seen it, too. In #Blogchat, a lot of times there’s so many bloggers who they’re frustrated ’cause they don’t know how to make money off their blogs. How do you get sponsorships? And a lot of times it simply comes down, to, you got to ask, you got to let these companies know that you’re willing to do it. And in this context, that’s what I mean by you selling your products, giving them a way to buy from you, giving them a way to do business with you.
Bob: Okay, great. So the four phases totally make sense. I like how succinct it is. It’s not rocket science, it’s just following a pattern. Now, I’m going to throw in one last question in just because of something I saw today, which really has nothing to do at all with what we’re talking about but I thought it’d be fun to ask you anyway.
We’re talking about social, you just today tweeted and wrote a blog post that people can go and read about how you’ve decided to put a little more of your efforts into LinkedIn versus Twitter. And I know we all have our own reasons behind that and I thought it was an interesting post. I could relate to it ’cause I’ve been doing some stuff on LinkedIn, so it reinforced some of my own thoughts. Give us a feel of why you, and of course you’re out there selling your services, selling yourself and your brand all the time, why you are kind of moving a bit away from Twitter, towards LinkedIn?
Why have you decided to put more time in on LinkedIn?
Mack: Well, I’m still going to be spending a lot of time on Twitter, I’m sure.
Mack: LinkedIn is a site that peers and other professionals keep telling me, “You need to really understand LinkedIn,” and I never have. I’ve given it several chances over the years and it just never has clicked for me. But, a few weeks ago I decided to go back and look and I noticed a few things. The first I noticed was the home feed, the way the home feed is set up, it helps you organically find content that’s focused on business and it’s also a great way to help you build your network out organically. They basically give you a running summary of, “This is what the people within your network are doing. Here’s the post that Bob just shared. Here’s the comment Carrie just left on John’s post. Here’s the person Kelly endorsed. Here’s what … ” Basically, it’s a way for me to see what content is interesting and relevant to my network but also see the people my network is following.
And I love that aspect because one of the things I loved about Twitter back in the ‘old days’ was I loved how, if you were following someone, if they tweeted to someone that you weren’t following, you could still see their tweet. It was a great way to organically find new people to follow. Because if I’m reading your tweets and I see that you’re having a discussion with John about some WordPress issue and I don’t know who John, I may decided to click over and look at the conversation and check him out. I may decide to follow him, too. That was a great way for me to organically build out my network. I like that aspect of LinkedIn, but I also like the fact that LinkedIn is, and always has been, really focused on business. It’s focused on business content and I don’t like to strictly talk about business but I do appreciate the fact that LinkedIn is a little bit more focused on one particular area.
I think what’s happened with Twitter over time is that it has just continued to grow and grow and grow. I noticed with Twitter, several years ago when Oprah, Ashton Kutcher, and Kim Kardashian, and all the celebrities discovered Twitter, you suddenly had the media coming to Twitter because the media has to follow them everywhere. And then a bunch of people came to Twitter because they love to follow celebrities. And what happened was you just had this huge influx of people and the way they were using Twitter was a lot different. It changed the experience. When it first started out, like 10 years ago when I joined it, it was great to have conversations. And it still is. You saw from the people who were interacting with my post today, we still have conversations there. There are a lot of conversations here.
But the user experience at Twitter has changed a lot. And as it’s changed, I think it’s made it more difficult to have organic conversations. I think it’s a lot harder now to just go out and just tweet, “Hey, what are your thoughts on blah, blah, blah?” I could have done that eight or nine years ago and within seconds people would give giving me their opinions. It was the easiest thing in the world to do. Now, if you do that, you might get one or two interactions, but a conversation never really takes off. I think one of the things that, and I tell clients this all the time with social media, so much of being successful with social media is experimenting, trying new things.
Mack: I think so many companies, especially, when they start using social media, the first thing they do is they start googling, “What are the 10 best ways to start a blog? What are the 10 best ways to build a following on Twitter?” And they look at all these ‘experts,’ who are writing these posts and they take it to heart. I think a lot of it simply comes down to what works for you and just trying something different and taking into account what you’re trying to accomplish, who you are, and just trying something new. Because honestly, that’s the best way to learn. It’s not from reading my blog post or your blog post, we all got there by doing the same thing, by breaking stuff, trying something different, and just seeing what works for us. And I think that’s the quickest way that you can really make a big impact with social media is just get out there and experiment and see what you can learn along the way.
Bob: Totally agree with that because that’s exactly what I’ve told clients and customers in the past as well. And I think it’s funny when we make a move like this or we’re thinking of doing something like this, people think, oh, they’re not going to see Mack on Twitter anymore and they don’t realize that there’s a lot more behind the scenes strategy you’re doing yourself. And they may never have noticed that you’re either on Twitter a bit less because you’re on LinkedIn or whatever, but they take it in context that, “Oh my God, Mack’s disappearing. He hates Twitter and he’s the anti-Twitter guy now.” They don’t realize that there’s a lot more to just being on there and sharing and a lot of strategy that you’re doing for your own needs versus how somebody else may be using it.
Mack: Yeah. A good example of that is I saw a lot of people today who, after I left the post, were talking about, “Well, good gosh, of course there’s no conversations, you’re just sharing links all day.” And that’s actually something I just started doing about two weeks ago and I decided to do it all through August. The only reason I’m doing it is to test a theory because I’ve noticed in the past when I blog more or less every single day, it seems like the more I blog and the more content I have that I share on Twitter, it seems like at some point that it’s almost like Google gets triggered and I start getting more search traffic. And I don’t know exactly what the connection is and that’s part of the reason why I’ve been sharing a lot more links the past couple of weeks just to kind of test that theory. Because I think there’s some relationship there between activity on social media and it impacting the volume of search that Google sends, but I don’t know exactly what it is. I’ve read several articles that have kind of hinted at that, “Yeah, there’s some connection there but we’re not sure exactly what it is.” So this is just me just trying to test a theory out and just seeing what happens. Just experimenting with it.
Bob: Yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing, actually probably for the last several months, maybe even close to a year. I share a lot and it has increased my organic search. I can’t really figure out the pattern and everything but it is helping in a lot of ways and it may be roundabout ways, it may be direct ways, I’m not exactly sure, but yeah, there’s definitely a method to the madness, for sure.
Mack: And that’s what really frustrates me is because I want everything to be orderly, I want to know if you do this, this is what you can expect will be the outcome. It’s exciting but it’s also frustrating because I don’t know what triggers what and then suddenly, one day my Google traffic will be like 20% less and I’m like, “What the hell just happened?” And who knows? It’s impossible to say. I look at webmaster tools and I can’t figure it out, so who knows?
Before you go, where can we find Mack on the web?
Bob: Yeah, really. I’m with you there, I know exactly what you mean. Well, this has been great. Good stuff, I’m glad we were able to add that little bit of more conversation there around LinkedIn and Twitter. So before we go, where can people find you on the web or where’s the best place for people to find you on the web?
Mack: The best place is probably my main site, MackCollier.com. I am on Twitter as well. I’m not on Facebook much anymore. I check in maybe once or twice a week but definitely my site and definitely Twitter and LinkedIn, probably the three best places to check me out. But I would definitely start with my blog because that’s the best place to keep up with me, MackCollier.com.
Bob: Cool. All right. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to join us, Mack, and have a wonderful day.
Mack: All right, thanks so much for having me, Bob. This was a lot of fun.