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With all the talk about using social media to promote your business, it seems like as good a time as any to look at how some people are using LinkedIn for just this purpose.

Two Options
If you’re going to use LinkedIn to promote business for you, you can connect with prospective clients and centers-of-influence directly or indirectly.

The former means using the ‘search’ function of LinkedIn to help you identify other LinkedIn members whose profiles suggest people who might find your services or expertise to be of interest.  You’ll also want to check out which LinkedIn groups their profiles show they belong to — because water (and, prospects) have a magical way of finding and connecting with their own kind.

The latter means using the many opportunities LinkedIn offers to help you make others aware of you and your expertise.  Typically, this means you’ll be using various ways of connecting with other members that are less direct.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at a few of the more popular and effective ways you can use LinkedIn to promote awareness of and attract response to you as well.

KEY POINT:
LinkedIn is where you can find business opportunities and be found by them as well

Wayne Gretsky the renowned hockey player was once asked for the ‘secret’ for his success.  His reply?  “Other players go to where the puck is now.  I go to where the puck is going to be”.

Anticipation . . . determining where the thinking is going
In marketing, the same principle applies. You want to engage with prospective clients where they are going (to be) in their thinking about what you do . . . i.e. ‘the conversation’ just as Gretsky did with the hockey puck.

Keywords . . . the key to being where your prospects are going to be
While outbound marketing tactics — cold calls, mass media advertising, etc. are still viable, inbound marketing — being found by prospects when they’re seeking information about what you do — is growing rapidly as a critical component of effective marketing.

Being Found . . . is your first step
Once someone finds you online, thanks to your keyword-relevant content and a Google search, you want to invite them to get what they want — useful, relevant information on the topic of interest — from your blog or website.  That means a landing page offering a whitepaper, report, etc. in exchange for their contact information — which you can use to cultivate a relationship that may lead, sooner or later, to a new client relationship.

KEY POINT:
Be there . . . whenever your prospects’ are thinking about what you do

In Marketing, there’s an expression for content that converts unknown website visitors into known ‘people of interest’ — ‘bait-piece’.  Yep.  Just like putting ‘bait’ on a hook when you were fishing as a kid — it attracts people who are interested in what you do . . . and invites them to take an action you want.

Every Client Starts Somewhere . . .
In marketing, especially online marketing, you want a prospect to ‘raise their hand’ and tell you who they are.  Why?  So you can begin or more deeply develop a marketing dialog with them that provides the information and creates the opportunity needed to turn a casual visitor into a paying client.

The Ultimate Bait-piece . . . is Yours For The Asking
Kip Bodnar over at HubSpot — the leader in online, inbound marketing services (did I mention we’re a reseller for them, too?) has just released the ultimate ‘bait-piece’ on the topic of how to create e-books that attract traffic to your website and generate leads you can develop into productive and profitable clients.

DOWNLOAD Kip’s e-book . . . just click the image in this post.  See?  This really works!

KEY POINT:
You catch more visitors with ‘bait’ than without it . . . and an e-book is great bait!

There’s a real shift in the way marketing is being done in 2011.

Outbound Marketing = ‘Old School’
Some marketers advocate what is called “Interruption” marketing — because your marketing messages are interrupting the attention of people who may (rebuttable presumption!!) be interested in hearing about you and your products and services.

Inbound Marketing = ‘New School’
In contrast, thanks to the proliferation of online social media — not just social networking sites — it’s very possible to engage with people on a topic and at a time when they’re interested in what you do or could do . . . for them — i.e. ‘NO Interruptions!”

Which Is Better?
Both kinds of marketing have their place.  Like life, few things are pure black or pure white.

Outbound marketing . . . cold calling, direct mailings, advertising on mass media, etc. are still valid for many businesses.  But, the shift is underway in how big a role and how much of a value the ‘Old School’ ways may be for companies like yours in the future.

Inbound marketing . . . using your blog with relevant and quality content to attract interested ‘eyeballs’ to your site, offering whitepapers, videos, etc. to motivate visitors to identify themselves to you and give you permission to cultivate a relationship with them, over time, until they are ready to make a buying decision . . . is growing in stature, importance, value and acceptance.

KEY POINT:
The world of marketing is changing . . . and the digital world is the ‘sandbox’ you want to be playing in! 

This is the logo of a unique organization that’s found a good cause to support and a way to do so that leaves everyone a winner.

Thanks A Bunch is a website where you make a $10 contribution and a member of the US Armed Forces (or, their family in the states) will receive a gift card worth $50 that can be redeemed at over 14,000 restaurants in the US and around the world.

They’ve teamed up with restaurants seeking to increase traffic by offering a discount to diners.  Their deal for the military and their families:

1) gives donors a tax-deductible 500% ROI (your broker and banker can’t do that!),
2) boosts traffic for participating restaurants at cost or near-cost, and
3) makes a special ‘night out’ possible for a a military family whose father, mother, son or daughter is serving our country overseas.  Man, that’s a win-win-win for all!

How YOU Can Use This Same Idea In Your Business

1. Identify a worthy cause — US military, homeless animals, etc.
2. Identify a product or service or ‘credit’ you can offer (“at cost”)
3. Know your ‘hard cost’ of your offer (so you don’t lose money)
4. Approach an organization or business that serves the worthy cause
5. Make a deal — you offer a ‘killer deal’ and they ‘promote it’ to their people
6. Enjoy the increased, zero-cost traffic
7. Plan to give your new customers a reason to return soon (to buy again!)
8. Create a ‘club’ with ‘free membership’ for everyone you attract
9. Cultivate your ‘members’ to stay top-of-mind over time
10. Keep your competitors guessing how you did it!

KEY POINT:
In challenging times, get creative . . . and you’ll get more business, too!

It’s distressing to learn that almost 60% of companies that used Groupon once would NOT use it again. It suggests these companies were hoping Groupon would be the ‘magic bullet’ for marketing malaise.  It also suggests, to me, that some people in business are either more indolent or ignorant than I’d like to think.

How To Make Money with Groupon or Living Social or . . . Yes, It IS Possible!

Key 1 of 3:  Don’t Give Away More Than You Can Afford. The beauty of any ‘deal’ is that you’re moving your ‘cost of sales’ to your ‘point of sale’.  Instead of the ‘pay now / pray later’ (for results) you only pay when you actually generate business.  That’s HUGE!!

But you still must know what you need to make to cover your hard costs.  Even if you only ‘break-even’ on a promotion but you increase traffic, you will make money sooner or later on these new people who come into contact with your business.

KEY POINT:
Know Your Margins . . . Cover Your (Hard) Costs

I attended a social media workshop today.  Local marketing gurus were assembled by Eric Lopkin, President of The Modern Observer Group.

Joel Leyden, the first speaker, asked a great question . . . “How did you learn about this program?”

In spite of using ‘Meet-Up’ to promote the event, the bulk of the people were in the room because someone they knew had shared the ‘news’ about the event with their ‘network’

Power of The People (We Know, Like and Trust)
While the topic was social media, I wonder how often, in our digital, nano-second mentality online world, you take the time to reflect on the most potent social medium available to your business . . . word-of-mouth?

KEY POINT:
Your Social Network is both online AND offline — leverage them both!

According to the Groupon.com site, you can find ‘deals’ with local merchants that range from 50 – 90% off regular prices.  Exciting!  For buyers?  Absolutely!  For sellers?  Perhaps. Hard to say.

COST OF SALES
Any CPA will tell you that a ‘fair’ price for a product or service is what a willing buyer and seller will agree upon.  In this economy, price ‘discounting’ has become a popular strategy for generating new revenues, customers and leads.

GROUPON . . . Wise Choice or Dumb Move?
I have no problem with the idea of attracting interest and stimulating sales with a (temporarily) reduced price.  Even a ‘deeply discounted’ price like a Groupon special.  But what Groupon reveals, because of the extreme discounting, is a myopic perspective about what you’re doing when you use any ‘incentive pricing’ to attract new customers.

I’ve used Groupon several times.  Each time was a ‘serious saving’ opportunity.  Sadly, I’ve never been sent any follow-up offers (without the discount!) where the cost of using the ‘lowball’ pricing would be recovered.  Not once.  That’s dumb.  If you use incentive pricing to attract new revenues, be ready with a follow-up campaign to leverage the initial experience into a profitable, ongoing relationship.

KEY POINT:
Reducing your fees may be a good idea IF . . . you plan for the subsequent offers that recover your cost-of-sales while building relationships and profits

 

In 1986 John Landis made a very funny movie – The Three Amigos starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short.

Here’s another memorable couple of ‘amigos’ who can make your marketing really effective: Advertising, Public Relations and Referrals. If you’re not using all three to generate leads, you’re probably missing out on some business opportunities.

Advertising may or may not work for you.  But advertising doesn’t necessarily mean a 1/2 page ad.  PR doesn’t mean blowing out press releases mindlessly, either.  And referrals is a strategy that reflects how you operate your business more than how artful you are at asking for ‘people to talk to’.

Regardless of which of these ‘amigos’ is right for you to use — and how — they do kick-start the selling process by generating opportunities you can develop into the sales you seek.

KEY POINT:
Lead generation is a vital function; involving your 3 Amigos in a consistent and effective manner will work wonders!