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I was recently talking to an online guru about how people like himself become an authority in a specific community and are able to use this as a competitive advantage to sell his services and products. He said online communities are fantastic places to build and share trust and advice.
What are these communities?
Basically, groups of people who passionately gather to discuss or simply read their similar obstacles, likes, and even differences.
What makes that community successful?
- Common ground.
- Value-added information.
- Safe place to disclose sensitive information.
- Interact with experts in the field.
What makes them valued?
For many, these online communities offer a lifeline into a highly technical field where they are geographically removed from the knowledge center.
The dangers of self-promotion?
People who peddle their warez look at these online communities and think, “This will be like shooting fish in a barrel, all I have to do is open shop and the customers will pour in.”
Let’s keep to the fishing analogy. Let’s say that there is a bend in the river, and the fish love to come there because it is warm, and there is always food in the water. Then one day, one of the fisher people brings a bunch of stinky kids with them to the bend in the river. The kids start splashing and screaming. The food that the fish loved disappeared and were then replaced with kid-trash. Those little fish will swim somewhere else, because they can do better. They are worth more than that.
The fundamental issue here is, “People are not fish, and the people pedaling their warez are not fisherman.” Sales has changed over the years. You are no longer the big closer. Sales is now a simple two-part recipe, you are to be a trusted advisor. To be a trusted advisor, you need two things, trust, and advice.
Advice is easy, trust is earned. The online community won’t trust you if you do not earn that trust. Earning that trust comes from a couple of key aspects.
- Participate in the community, don’t sell to the community.
- Be more concerned about achieving outcomes for others over making your commission.
How successful people make this work?
You are an expert in your field, you know a lot about “X, Y. and Z”. There are people within this community that need your help. They do not need a link to your website, they need someone to fully understand their pain and then offer solutions that can help them, only after you understand their pain should you mention your solution, as part of a bigger context.
Be Authentic and do your homework
James Lamb, a fellow #emailgeek shared his perspective with a tale of two salespeople (names changed for the protection of the innocent), “Salesperson A pushes and pushes and pushes. I tell them to get lost, I report their emails as spam and tell Twitter and Facebook to stop showing me their ads. Salesperson B shows that before they even approached me that they had researched who I was and what I did. The two of us chat and the salesperson admits that their product actually isn’t a good fit for me. But, we’ve built a relationship and I later refer people to them for whom their product is a good fit.”
How do we do this?
At AudiencePoint, we offer a Send Time Optimization, a product for email marketers. We know more about the best time to send an email than anyone else. However, our product is not what we are selling, we are selling trust. The marketer has to trust their career with us to be willing to pay for our product. Trust is woven throughout the entire relationship with our customers, start to finish. In the community, we can talk about STO as what we do, like the postman might talk about his mail route. But, we don’t put the big pitch out there, ever. If you want to know more, you will ask.
You want to close more business, everyone does. The easiest, fastest way to do that is to show your value and that is done through the following behaviors.
- Answer questions
- Post pictures of your cat
- Ask questions
- Laugh when your face is turned into a tattoo
- Like other people’s comments
- Be transparent
- Participate regularly
How do you do this?
if you can’t do the hard work of participating in the community, don’t start. Hard selling in online communities does more damage to your organization and your personal brand than good. James Lamb concludes it perfectly by saying, “A good salesperson makes friends — and creates an opportunity for user-generated marketing. UGM”