Prove it or Lose it: Branding is Not Enough to Make the Sale

“Well, we didn’t get nearly the number of leads we wanted to from our Facebook page this quarter, but at least we got some good branding out of it.”

Sound familiar? Sound like an excuse?

If you want to make social media sell for you, take action on this harsh truth: Branding is rarely executed as a consistent, reliable process. Branding (the meaning of which is still not universally agreed upon) is not enough to create sales. Nor is branding—or its “kissing social cousin” engagement—consistently able to produce customer behavior (e.g. leads). Direct response must be built in to the campaign for leads and sales to manifest. It doesn’t “just happen” thanks to our friends branding and engagement.

Customers Expect Proof, Upfront

People are buying, yes, and doing so as a result of content marketing. But they’re only buying when the business behind the content is willing to prove the effectiveness of the product or service (in some small but meaningful way) prior to the purchase. This is so important you might want to read it again.

Julias Shaw of Kingmaker Marketing points out how this idea made Frank Kern and his followers so successful at selling online. The concept begins with you giving materially useful things to your prospects, like tools and utilities that solve problems for them. Prospective buyers factor your (the seller’s) kind, productive gestures into consideration when you finally offer a chance to do business with them. This way your product is nothing more than a chance to solve their nagging problem or an opportunity to achieve their ultimate goal. Good deeds plus helpful tools/advice equals a no-brainer purchase decision.

“One of the reasons Frank has such fanatically loyal customers that are willing to pay premium prices for his products is that he totally avoids selling with negativity,” says Mr. Shaw. “By using Results In Advance he is able to move his prospects close enough to their goal before he ever asks them to buy anything that he can focus on the positive, towards propulsion mechanisms in all of his marketing.”

Branding and Engagement Prove Little

Here’s the rub. Social media engagement doesn’t usually prove things to the customer. Branding and engagement aren’t designed to solve a problem that brings buyers closer to the purchase. Think about how you use Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc., in your life. You’re probably not buying based on sentiment (how you feel about a brand) very much any more. In fact, you’re likely buying less based on how engaged marketers think your are with their brand!

I’m not saying that branding or engagement doesn’t matter or that we should stop engaging customers. Heavens no. I’m saying branding is increasingly not enough. It does not, by default, produce reliable behavior that can be optimized in ways that create more buying activity, more often.

“But Jeff, I can prove people are buying based on how engaging our content is by correlating a rise in sales to a rise in engagement!”

I’ll give you that point, although causality here is loosely provable at best. Yet I won’t agree that branding/engagement is as powerful as a system of “give-and-take” that exchanges measurable value between customers and your business. Engagement and branding are easy to create but not so easy to prove as effective when compared to campaigns using branding/engagement and a problem-solving, direct response approach.

Prove It or Lose It Bubba!

Today, people are buying based on a brand’s ability to deliver some results before the purchase. Software? Give me a free trial—and don’t give me any talk about limiting functionality of the trial version. Consulting? Show me, materially, that you’re worth your salt. You get the idea. And, no, this isn’t about “free” as a new business model. That’s just hype!

Delivering results before the purchase demands a systematic, yet practical, way to court your customer—to prove to them that actually buying your product or service will certainly give them full results. They’ve got to be sure and nothing creates certainty like actual proof! So how can you begin to take next steps?

More Engagement or More Sales?

First, adopt a new perspective on social media. Start applying social media to uncover insights on customers’ micro-problems, goals or burning desires, then putting those discoveries to work through traditional lead nurturing.

Some argue the big opportunity social gives us is to create more engagement in hopes of creating preference. But successful social sellers use social media to create demand. In parting, which of the below seems more powerful to you?

  1. Listening for customers’ brand perceptions, sentiment, etc., and creating better ad messaging that creates more engagement (awareness leading to preference).
  2. Understanding customers’ problems or goals and finding creative ways to create organized, measurable response that helps customers “guide themselves” toward a purchase.

Thanks for considering.

About Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell and corporate trainer to small businesses and global corporations like IBM and Brazil’s energy company, Petrobras. He’s an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. He’s adjunct digital marketing professor at Loyola University’s school of business and author of Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.


Blog: Off the Hook Blog


You can find Jeff on Twitter @jeffreymolander.

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