11 Key Steps to Grow Your Brand’s Marketing Sphere of Influence
Always Be Closing? Hardly! Put away the sales pitch, Bevis! Sure, eventually you want to sell, but the point of your initial contact is bringing people into your ”Marketing Sphere of Influence”. There, you’ll build long term personal/business relationships that will eventually lead to sales. That doesn’t mean never sell. That’s plain stupid.
Instead, don’t lead with sales. Put it on the back burner for a while. Concentrate on growing your marketing sphere first, then building solid relationships with key folks in it. Even better, those relationships will bring others into your sphere, without you lifting a finger. Once they’ve arrived, it’s up to you to engage, over deliver, and cement the bond.
The upside of building your brand’s “Marketing Sphere of Influence” and focusing on long term relationship marketing?
Higher revenue + Lower sales costs = Higher profits.
You’ll probably even make some real friends along the way, and how can you put a price on that?
How to Grow Your “Marketing Sphere of Influence”:
1 – Know (Really Know) Your Target Audience and What Drives Them
Marketing 101? Maybe, but it’s the foundation for all that follows. How else can your organization create solutions the market wants, and what it may not even know it wants? Henry Ford said if he’d listened to the market, he would have built a “faster horse”.
Fortunately, he knew people really wanted a reasonably priced, highly flexible, personal transportation solution that didn’t poop in the driveway. Once he created that, people talked about it. Think about how much social media play Ford would have created today with his poopless horse…..
2 – Exude Credibility
Does your brand look, sound, and feel the part? Marketing is a belief system. It’s all about trust. Your target market must believe you’ll deliver before they’ll invest their time and treasure even investigating your solution, much less issuing a PO or whipping out credit cards. Instill that belief, and your battle is largely won. Unfortunately size really doesn’t matter here. There are some large organizations who don’t project well.
For sphere of influence purposes, if they trust you, they’ll communicate about you. Marketing is largely a communication problem, and being credible is a key part of the solution. How can you create credibility?
It’s a fact. People make snap decisions based on appearance. Where do you think the “Don’t judge a book by its cover” adage came from? Because you look credible doesn’t mean you are, and vice versa. If you don’t look credible however, people will likely never stick around to discover the truth; good or bad.
Online, a good looking website, social proof, and excellent overall user experience drive credibility. Does your website and blog deliver here? When (if) the time comes, projecting personal credibility is a key part of the process, too. You may never meet your customer, then again, many sales relationships are face to face. In B2B, it can make the difference between 10’s or 100’s of thousands in sales. In that case, you’ll have to win the credibility battle all over again, although it may be easier this time around, providing your interpersonal skills are up to par. Cara Anne Alter posted about how to boost credibility in face to face meetings on the Inspiyr blog
3 – Be Trustworthy.
After you exude cred, follow up. A 1999 Swan, Bowers and Richardson study at the University Of Alabama identified trust drivers in the sales process. They also found trust is the key component in the long-term sales relationship; what you’re trying to create.
4 – Create Emotion
Do people really buy on emotion and justify with logic? Yes, and more so than you might think. Creating a bond is largely emotional as well.
Emotion creates value, too. See below. For sphere enhancing purposes, it makes people want to share and connect.
The question is: How to create it?
Knowing your audience and what motivates them plays a role, but there are certain emotions that transcend that. In a recent post on TechCrunch, Kobie Fuller Twitter: @kobiefuller lays out how to create emotion and use it in your marketing. As he points out, due to the explosion of the Internet and social media, this is one place where size doesn’t matter. It’s all in how you use what you’ve got. “Creative, emotion-driven marketing enables any size company to drive product awareness with millions of consumers in real-time.”
5 – Deliver Value
Deliver value, both before and after the sale. Extend that beyond your brand’s offerings. Does your content deliver value, too? That value drives the relationship and helps grow your marketing sphere of influence.
Many value components come into play:
Immediate usefulness – Is your content packed with actionable information that solves an immediate need?
Easy, Always – Frustrations abound in daily life. Stood in line at the DMV lately? That kind of crap shouldn’t extend to your organization. Make every step in your content consumption, promotion, and buying process as easy for your audience as possible.
One more time: Facilitate your customers’ buying process. Make it easy to buy from you. I’m amazed how often organizations don’t. Why don’t they? It’s marketing 101 (again). Have a disinterested third party take a look at yours. What they discover can often drive conversions .
Make it easy to find, navigate, consume, share, and buy. Simplify any interaction your customer or prospect may possibly engage in. A frustration-free user experience boosts value. People are more likely to help your sphere grow if they’re overwhelmed with satisfaction.
Emotional triggers – Emotion itself delivers value and contributes to sphere building. Does your content, product, or service drive strong emotions? People respond to emotion and build a connection because of them: satisfaction, humor, and even fear. See #4 above.
6 – Identify Key Influencers
You can work smart or work hard. Your boss probably expects both. Besides, you’ll get farther using both strategies combined. On the “work smart” front, one of the best things you can do to grow your circle is identify those who have large and engaged followings; predominately in your space. How?
Some you’re bound to know already. Who posts and publishes in your industry’s main blogs, websites, magazines, and books? Another powerful source is speakers at conferences, trade shows and seminars. Check leaders of companies and trade associations for your industry and related ones. Their reputation preceeds them, and they’re the influencers you’re looking for.
For circle growing purposes, you’re after those who are socially active. No, not the ones who hit operas, clubs, and the biggest parties, but those you’ll see frequently on social media, with large and engaged followings. Do they frequently share others’ content and talk about it? Them’s the ones you’re lookin’ for!
How to find them? What separates man from beast? Tools. Lee Odden at Top Rank posted an excellent list of 9 influencer discovery tools on his Top Rank blog.
7 – Build Key Relationships
Reach out. I hate the term; it sounds too much like being saved from drowning, but it applies here. You’d be surprised how many influential people are not only accessible, but happy to help. Don’t stalk them. Most are genuinely all right folks. If you’re looking for help, help them, too…. first, actually. Chances are you do have a thing or two to offer. Take stock of what your organization has and how it meshes with what the influencer’s doing.
Constructively engage them on social platforms. Add to their conversations. Demonstrate your insight.
Many influencers have projects they’re promoting, and if you’re offering them more exposure and another platform, so much the better. Maybe you’ve used their products and services. If there’s an existing customer relationship, it significantly lubes the process of them helping you grow your marketing sphere.
8 – Engage In Your Space
Engage people in your space. One of the best ways to drive engagement are groups, forums, and communities. Google+, LinkedIn, Entrepreneur’s Inspiration Station, and Biznik are the bee’s knees here. You’ll have a pipeline straight to the “right people”. Share ideas, tips, and strategies; even laughs. There are more groups than you’ll ever be able to constructively participate in. Separate the wheat from the chaff. It’ll take a while, but it’s worth it.
There are a bazillion groups on LinkedIn and Google+.
How to make the choice?
- Are a great fit for your market or an aspect of your business?
- Are your influencers actively involved in?
- Have active and engaged members? – Both are important. Some groups have a litany of quality, daily posts, yet virtually zero member engagement. You’ll reach few there. Find those with both valuable posts and engaged members.
- Are growing? Membership numbers exploding like a supernova? There’s likely a reason. It doesn’t mean relatively stagnant groups meeting the above requirements aren’t worth a look, though.
Go out on a limb.
Start a group or community of your own. This can be a foray into the land of the lost, but also an intensely rewarding experience, to say nothing of the networking opportunities it brings. As marketing sphere of influence builder, it’s virtually unparalleled, if you pull it off.
For more perspective on this, I reached out to Martin Shervington. Martin runs the Plus Your Business community on Google Plus that helps people use Google Plus to their business’ best advantage. It’s thriving, with nearly 15,000 hyper-engaged members and growing. See him in his element, here. Follow him on Twitter @PlusYourBiz
“Running Google+ communities is a continuous learning curve! There are so many subtle options (as an aside, have you noticed how the word ‘subtle’ is so subtle that it stealthed a ‘b’ in there? I digress) to making them work well for the members.
The main thing I’ve learned is not to stand still, they evolve and we can shape the experience of members through every post we make, what we ‘remove’, what we engage upon. They live and they breathe, and every day gives a new opportunity to bring people together around the subjects that they love”
9 – Be Ready
If you can’t handle the truth, or the traffic, it makes no sense to push the boulder over the edge. You’ll get things rolling, but why? It’ll just flatten your neighbor’s new gazeebo on the way down. Make sure your user experience is up to par, before you start growing your marketing sphere.
How’s your website and/or blog look, feel, and act? What about your customer service process and phone reps? Are you using social media for customer service, and if so, do you actively monitor it? Many customers now expect you are, and get pretty pissy if you aren’t responding to their Tweet complaints yesterday!
10 – Get Your Stuff Out There
Promotion. It’s what separates compelling content you’ve seen, from that you haven’t. You can’t just post and run. Strategic promotion makes the difference. When it comes to sphere growing, promotion boosts opportunity. More opportunity to be seen leads to more sharing, and the greater chance the right people see it. If you’re not promoting, it’s likely no one else is, either.
Numero Uno? Make your stuff highly promotable. For every piece, ask yourself: “Why would anyone want to?” If you can’t answer that zinger, you’ve lost.
Details that Count
Here’s a little checklist to hit before jumping off:
1) Compelling headline? Do they make people want to read, engage, and share? If they don’t read, you don’t grow. Shoot for getting 2 out of the three every time. Don’t laugh, you know you’ve shared without reading and read without sharing. Your headline is the key to the castle here.
2) Optimize for your keywords on social and search. Growing your marketing sphere of influence means grabbing those looking that don’t know you yet. Even if your brand’s a household name, are you known by those in your market that matter? Now’s your chance.
3) Building your list? If you’ve no list or way to join it, create that before you release any more content. If you’ve got a list of people that love your stuff, whether they’re your brand’s customers or not (segmentation’s a subject for another time), sending them content when you release it gets them to your site, promotes sharing, and grows your sphere. Some will share with those currently outside your sphere, and that’s a chance to grow it. Yeah, it’s more involved than creating a compelling headline, but worth it.
4) Get your line-up ready. Having people primed and ready to share your content, even before it goes live, is a highly effective strategy to growing your sphere. Include those in your organization on your “ready to go?” list, in addition to your close social network contacts, and
Promotion that matters? Its a big, ole’ circle. Those infuencers you engaged with and whose stuff you promoted? Make sure they’re on board for a bit-o-promo, too. If you’re engaged in social groups and being the nice neighbor you are, your content will get shared if it addresses key group needs.
It’s why being engaged and sharing other stuff you find is so vital. Ensure your employees do likewise. Come on, you’re already regretting that new BYOD policy, and trying to pry mobile devices from their sweaty fingers. Embrace it, and use it to your organization’s advantage. Leverage your employees social activity to grow your marketing sphere of influence. Depending on your space and employees’ social media activities, it can be an extremely effective strategy.
11 – Over Deliver
No big revelation here. Over delivering is the classic way to bring in more followers, customers, and even friends.
Keys to over delivering? There really aren’t many. Yeah, it sound like the same, old line, but…..
Know your audience. How can you over deliver for them if you’re oblivious to their real needs and wants? Exactly!
Put yourself and organization in their shoes. Walk through their mud puddle for a change. What would really blow YOUR skirt up? Nothing gets people talking like blowing skirts. Whether you’re pushing porn, peddling puppy dogs, or purveying plastics, it’s all the same. Do that one thing better.
Be the rock. No, not THE ROCK, Dwayne’s got that one covered. Be consistent; the one your audience and customers count on.
Over delivering is just exceeding expectations. Harkening back to the beginning, do you really know your customers, what motivates them, and where they’re coming from? If so, you’re in a great position to make it happen.
Parting Shot – Test and track everything you can. Find whatever’s working. Do more of it, while cutting back on what’s not. No rocket science here….
Your brand’s marketing sphere of influence is one of your key success drivers. Growing it significantly boosts your chances to blow your numbers out of the water next quarter, and the one after that. Come on, your bonus is waiting!
What have you found most effective to grow your marketing sphere?