With shopping going online in a big way, it is a major challenge for the sellers to track the consumer and the competition. Greg Moore, managing director, Huthwaite Asia-Pacific discusses here how sellers can optimize social media to focus on customers buying behaviour and navigate the sales process:
In the past, when bricks and mortar reigned supreme, a seller’s competitors used to be the guy down the street peddling his wares or perhaps in another country reachable only via post or telephone. Now, competitors are generally unknown and everywhere courtesy of one element which has played a role in all of our lives – the internet.
One significant result of the proliferation of the internet is social media, which has reduced the barriers and boundaries between people facilitating the ease of doing business say, from a remote location in Tanzania to a store in New York City. It has lessened costs and reduced labour expenses by making communications a breeze by reducing the time taken to communicate messages.
The change is not only in the mode of communications between businesses. It also extends to the relationship between buyers and sellers. More and more, consumers are relying on information resources available online in order to research their purchases. Online conversation creates a level of uncensored transparency and will often include reviews and queries from other potential customers. Retailers must find a way to engage consumers on a social level whilst promoting their products and services through addressing feedback both positive and negative.
Sellers have to be aware of changing dynamics in buyer’s preferences and adapt accordingly, finding new ways to intermediate in the customers’ purchasing/buying journey. Huthwaite, the pioneer in buyer behavior research, has uncovered evidence indicating that by focusing on the buyer first, sellers can then uncover how to meet their needs – leveraging sales and marketing in a more aligned and fluid fashion. Therefore, sellers are able to detect rapid changes in customers buying behaviour and accordingly cater to these new and ever-changing preferences.
Rather than view social media as a competing tool, sellers should optimise these direct channels to their target consumers. Here are four ways that sellers can use social media to navigate the sales process:
Research/Brand Platform: Social media channels enable sellers to understand the kind of user behaviours or opinions in a closer and quicker setting. One need not spend much on research to seek the type of buyers to approach. In the past, sellers who wanted information about consumer behavioural patterns may employ the use of research companies or send individuals out to ask questions and gather and compile the information to study and make conclusions from the research. Now, with the advent of social media, a company can just go to Facebook or online blogs to read what consumers are saying about their products and services or observe the people coming to their websites as well as using the search engine optimization tool to deduce the familiarity of their brand name. The latter is definitely much cheaper and less time-consuming. Observing the kind of behaviour when it comes to product purchases online and the behaviour of buyers on cyberspace will provide much insight into the needs of their target consumers.
Prospecting: Social media is useful for a prospecting in the B2B environment to learn about the latest news and developments of your prospects businesses. This can then be used to channel your messages. For instance, if the individual prospect blogs, or posts on LinkedIn, then you can learn about what is important to them and what is likely to strike a chord when you approach them.
Building Relationships: Social media channels enable buyers to make their grievances known and sellers can learn more about their buyers’ problems and issues with the products and services and address them. This can enhance buyer confidence, help to build the relationship between the buyer and the seller, enable the seller to easily identify the needs of the target consumer and ultimately cater for these needs.
Given potential buyers can interact with organisations at an individual level and corporate level; it makes it imperative that there is consistent messaging – a “buyer-focused” approach and strategy implemented and managed across all social media channels.
Achieving Brand Consistency: Consistency in branding and messaging is a necessary promotion any social media strategy. By continuously reaching out to buyers online and leveraging on the relationship, sellers can deliver their key messages in a targeted and popular stream of media. Sellers can communicate with their customers on social media platforms and build relationships with their clients, consumers and prospects; a level of engagement that was previously unavailable.
Rather than viewing selling in a social world as a difficult and complicated process, sellers should optimize their social media efforts through leveraging activities across all channels in a positive and consistent fashion. Focus on the advantages posed by social media rather than its drawbacks and make use of them to facilitate the efficiency of sales processes. The alternative is to ignore a channel that is rapidly gaining in popularity and importance with consumers.