The sixth question companies ask about social media

I was just reading TechMeme and saw that Jeremiah Owyang has a great post on the five questions that companies ask about social media.

I have a sixth one: “how will doing this help my sales?”

How do I know that? A multi-billion-dollar-a-year company just asked me that.

Yeah, that’s similar to #2 on Jeremiah’s list, but gets much more directly to the point.

Of course, this is a question that isn’t answerable. Even if you think you can answer it, this is “code” for a way to tell the person asking to please go away and don’t come back.

Why do I say that?

Because there’s no way to prove that ANYTHING a business does will lead to more sales.

Even those “pay per click” ads on Google aren’t guaranteed to increase sales.

Quick, name one thing that’s GUARANTEED to increase sales at any company. Any one that you could come up with I could say “um, no” to if I wanted to.

And, anyway, companies do things that aren’t directly tied to sales all the time.

How about those press releases that the same big company just sent me. The speeches at conferences that this big company does all the time. The sign on the side of their Silicon Valley office. Does that increase sales? Cost a lot of money.

How about the security equipment that you have to pass through in its lobby. Did that increase sales?

How about the CEO’s nice windows in his office? Did those increase sales?

Ahh, but I do like hearing this form of no. It makes my creative juices run and they are giving us a chance with another meeting, which is better than hearing “hell no, now get out of my office.”

How do I answer this? Well, why did a guy who is selling $50 million a year in wine take half a year away from his business to learn to do this? He told me that it cost his business $24,000 per day that he was away in lost sales. Ask him today about the impact of that investment on his business and he sure is smiling a lot lately. But, can he prove that it increased sales? Why, yes he can, but then he took the time to do it and not say “I’ll only do this if it increases sales.”

How would you answer that question?

Best answer left here gets a new Seagate/Maxtor 160 GB BlackArmor hard drive. Encrypts all your stuff so if it gets stolen no one can break into it.

98 thoughts on “The sixth question companies ask about social media

  1. There isn’t one thing that is the killer app for sales. Rather it is the interaction of multiple connected “things”. If a company proclaims certain values and benefits from purchasing it products or services then doesn’t deliver social media can actually hurt your sales.

    On the other hand if your brand knows how to have conversations and build relations then those very attributes can help you improve and delight customers. Delighted customers is the kill app for improved sales.

    If you culture is not built on open communications and strong relations then no matter what you do apply “tricks of the trade” with social media will help you improve sales.

    Make sense?

  2. There isn’t one thing that is the killer app for sales. Rather it is the interaction of multiple connected “things”. If a company proclaims certain values and benefits from purchasing it products or services then doesn’t deliver social media can actually hurt your sales.

    On the other hand if your brand knows how to have conversations and build relations then those very attributes can help you improve and delight customers. Delighted customers is the kill app for improved sales.

    If you culture is not built on open communications and strong relations then no matter what you do apply “tricks of the trade” with social media will help you improve sales.

    Make sense?

  3. To ANSWER THAT QUESTION – you (and he, and everyone that wants to improve results…) will have to QUESTION PRIOR ANSWERS. The increase (sale, etc) will come from knowing what isn’t working (and baseline info from which to measure/’guarantee’ that progress is/was made). That PRE/POST info comes from asking the right questions – of the right people – in the right sequence (Listening 2.0 via WEB 2.0 within Enterprise 2.0, etc).

    Even if that isn’t the answer you (may/not) want here – it may still be worth discussing – http://unettednations.wordpress.com/answer-my-question/

  4. To ANSWER THAT QUESTION – you (and he, and everyone that wants to improve results…) will have to QUESTION PRIOR ANSWERS. The increase (sale, etc) will come from knowing what isn’t working (and baseline info from which to measure/’guarantee’ that progress is/was made). That PRE/POST info comes from asking the right questions – of the right people – in the right sequence (Listening 2.0 via WEB 2.0 within Enterprise 2.0, etc).

    Even if that isn’t the answer you (may/not) want here – it may still be worth discussing – http://unettednations.wordpress.com/answer-my-question/

  5. Have the company ask their hundred latest costumers, why they chose their product and how the got the information to back up their purchase. Tell the to twitter you, when they have realized that information and conversation is king in a sales act. Then they are ready for you and the market.

  6. Have the company ask their hundred latest costumers, why they chose their product and how the got the information to back up their purchase. Tell the to twitter you, when they have realized that information and conversation is king in a sales act. Then they are ready for you and the market.

  7. Quick, name one thing that’s GUARANTEED to increase sales at any company.

    If you cut prices, your sales will increase.

  8. Quick, name one thing that’s GUARANTEED to increase sales at any company.

    If you cut prices, your sales will increase.

  9. It all boils down to *Relevancy* as others previously hinted. What communication method (and message) is most relevant to your targeted audience?

    Could be online social media (which is WOM on steroids) but that’s only if your targeted audience communicates in that way.

    There is the debate the Internet removes the need for targeting as it allows you to grab the long tail; however, I think for most products or services this is not true.

  10. It all boils down to *Relevancy* as others previously hinted. What communication method (and message) is most relevant to your targeted audience?

    Could be online social media (which is WOM on steroids) but that’s only if your targeted audience communicates in that way.

    There is the debate the Internet removes the need for targeting as it allows you to grab the long tail; however, I think for most products or services this is not true.

  11. how will doing this help my sales?

    Because if you don’t, you will surely lose sales and customers to the competitions that do adopt social media. We have witnessed the revolution of search marketing and how search has changed the way people find products and services. When was the last time anyone opened a yellow page to find an address or phone number to a business? It’s hard to imagine any billion-dollar companies still haven’t adopt search marketing today but 10 years ago, it was unheard of.

    Social media is the next revolution. It will be another powerful form of advertising medium whether companies want to adopt it or not because like search, it is in the user/customer control. The customers decide which blogs to read, where to read comments or reviews about product, which social networking site to be a part of, etc. It is the companies that need to follow their customers, not the other way around. The question to ask is not whether social media will help my sales but how much sales will I lose.

  12. Basic economics and trust! Social media like many other forms of marketing feeds sales.

    Sales are a transaction of trust. The company trusts that their product is desirable (or necessary) enough for the customer to demand it. When the customer trusts the company and their product enough to supply their demand they make the purchase and the sales transaction happens.

    Social media builds trust – the lubricant of good business. High levels of trust make business easier. Low levels make it more difficult.

    A company and their products will be discussed in the social media “marketplace” whether the company contributes or not. It is not much different from the ancient forums or agoras where business was discussed by word of mouth and rumors and gossip spread. Today the niches of society are electronically connected and able to act quicker because of it.

    Ignoring the growing marketplace that social media facilitates means missed opportunities. Participating where the market is at is key to survival. Even to just keep up with the competition who are embracing social media.

  13. how will doing this help my sales?

    Because if you don’t, you will surely lose sales and customers to the competitions that do adopt social media. We have witnessed the revolution of search marketing and how search has changed the way people find products and services. When was the last time anyone opened a yellow page to find an address or phone number to a business? It’s hard to imagine any billion-dollar companies still haven’t adopt search marketing today but 10 years ago, it was unheard of.

    Social media is the next revolution. It will be another powerful form of advertising medium whether companies want to adopt it or not because like search, it is in the user/customer control. The customers decide which blogs to read, where to read comments or reviews about product, which social networking site to be a part of, etc. It is the companies that need to follow their customers, not the other way around. The question to ask is not whether social media will help my sales but how much sales will I lose.

  14. Basic economics and trust! Social media like many other forms of marketing feeds sales.

    Sales are a transaction of trust. The company trusts that their product is desirable (or necessary) enough for the customer to demand it. When the customer trusts the company and their product enough to supply their demand they make the purchase and the sales transaction happens.

    Social media builds trust – the lubricant of good business. High levels of trust make business easier. Low levels make it more difficult.

    A company and their products will be discussed in the social media “marketplace” whether the company contributes or not. It is not much different from the ancient forums or agoras where business was discussed by word of mouth and rumors and gossip spread. Today the niches of society are electronically connected and able to act quicker because of it.

    Ignoring the growing marketplace that social media facilitates means missed opportunities. Participating where the market is at is key to survival. Even to just keep up with the competition who are embracing social media.

  15. The one-word answer is “Loyalty.” The two word answer is “Feedback loop.”

    By opening communication channels between your employees and customers, your employees get direct feedback on what they’re doing right and wrong. Your customers get a sense of control over what they’re buying. Engaged customers are much more likely to come back again.

  16. The one-word answer is “Loyalty.” The two word answer is “Feedback loop.”

    By opening communication channels between your employees and customers, your employees get direct feedback on what they’re doing right and wrong. Your customers get a sense of control over what they’re buying. Engaged customers are much more likely to come back again.

  17. I am sure you can measure sales leads and conversions resulting from social media efforts. The Internet is imminently measurable, and referrals and conversion percentages are the first clues of success. We measured Goodwill if Greater Washington’s social media effort last year, and saw direct sales results.

  18. I am sure you can measure sales leads and conversions resulting from social media efforts. The Internet is imminently measurable, and referrals and conversion percentages are the first clues of success. We measured Goodwill if Greater Washington’s social media effort last year, and saw direct sales results.

  19. Richard, the B2B and B2C worlds are also pretty different for this. Even in the B2B world there are some tangible ways to measure “sales” resulting from social media. I put together a really quick list of things I would measure for three goals:
    1. Selling to new people.
    2. Selling more to an existing customer.
    3. Selling more to an existing account.

    I think those three things are goals a Sales or Marketing executive would nod their heads on. Then it’s about how they would define success. Any strategy, social media or otherwise won’t be as successful as it can be without this definition. After that it’s the how to do it and how to measure it. I put details in a post on this (formatting is easier that way to break things up): http://blog.bulldogsolutions.com/2008/06/08/trying-to-answer-richard-scobles-sixth-question-companies-ask-about-social-media/

  20. Richard, the B2B and B2C worlds are also pretty different for this. Even in the B2B world there are some tangible ways to measure “sales” resulting from social media. I put together a really quick list of things I would measure for three goals:
    1. Selling to new people.
    2. Selling more to an existing customer.
    3. Selling more to an existing account.

    I think those three things are goals a Sales or Marketing executive would nod their heads on. Then it’s about how they would define success. Any strategy, social media or otherwise won’t be as successful as it can be without this definition. After that it’s the how to do it and how to measure it. I put details in a post on this (formatting is easier that way to break things up): http://blog.bulldogsolutions.com/2008/06/08/trying-to-answer-richard-scobles-sixth-question-companies-ask-about-social-media/

  21. There is really only one practical answer to this question that encompasses all scenarios:

    Q: “Will engaging in social media increase my sales?”
    A: “That depends – WHO IS YOUR TARGET MARKET?”

    Interesting you chose @garyvee as your example; let’s dissect that a little bit.

    Gary’s business is wine, more generally, alcohol. Everyone knows and understands that alcohol companies generally target the college-age crowd as one of their main demographics. Why? Because every year millions of people turn 21, and their alcohol tastes and preferences are formed generally in those early adult years. They also consume the greatest quantity of their product.

    Gary understood that the MySpace and Facebook phenomenon was being fueled by people in his target market, or younger. For Gary, he is simply using the latest and greatest technology to engage his audience and build brand awareness as they come of legal drinking age. Will that carry over to increased sales? Only Gary can answer that question.

    Let’s assume now, that the company who asked you this question was Depends undergarments. With the exception of a few seniors (Bob Bly and BillTheEditor perhaps), there are not, and probably won’t be, too many seniors in this media any time in the near future. Will engaging in social media result in more sales? Probably not today. Perhaps in 40 years as we are yelling at the whippersnappers that volunteer at the old folks home to not wheel our chairs so fast down the hall, all the while being nostalgic about the Facebook/Twitter/Friendfeed days, we’ll all be wearing Depends, and talking about our brand awareness was built there. But increase in sales in the near term? Not hardly.

    Therefore, the only logical answer to that question is dependent on the company, and its target market or audience.

  22. There is really only one practical answer to this question that encompasses all scenarios:

    Q: “Will engaging in social media increase my sales?”
    A: “That depends – WHO IS YOUR TARGET MARKET?”

    Interesting you chose @garyvee as your example; let’s dissect that a little bit.

    Gary’s business is wine, more generally, alcohol. Everyone knows and understands that alcohol companies generally target the college-age crowd as one of their main demographics. Why? Because every year millions of people turn 21, and their alcohol tastes and preferences are formed generally in those early adult years. They also consume the greatest quantity of their product.

    Gary understood that the MySpace and Facebook phenomenon was being fueled by people in his target market, or younger. For Gary, he is simply using the latest and greatest technology to engage his audience and build brand awareness as they come of legal drinking age. Will that carry over to increased sales? Only Gary can answer that question.

    Let’s assume now, that the company who asked you this question was Depends undergarments. With the exception of a few seniors (Bob Bly and BillTheEditor perhaps), there are not, and probably won’t be, too many seniors in this media any time in the near future. Will engaging in social media result in more sales? Probably not today. Perhaps in 40 years as we are yelling at the whippersnappers that volunteer at the old folks home to not wheel our chairs so fast down the hall, all the while being nostalgic about the Facebook/Twitter/Friendfeed days, we’ll all be wearing Depends, and talking about our brand awareness was built there. But increase in sales in the near term? Not hardly.

    Therefore, the only logical answer to that question is dependent on the company, and its target market or audience.

  23. Permission to extend…

    First of all media isn’t social, but people are, this is just people talking about your product, nothing new over advertising or any other process. People talking works, people not talking doesn’t work, just online, you have a greater expansion, with the caveat, of those that, are (and live) online.

    You can pound on head with advertising, or you can go hard-sell pressure, will see results for a bit, but then you have to continually hit that drug with ever-increasing levels to see the same starting metrics. Best way, is getting your user base, to do the hard work for you. They already trust your product, and people trust them (well minus the shrills), you are already halfway in.

    Do and then talk to the people who talk, and talk to people who don’t talk, just talk and talk, but forget not the do. Talking without doing, is well, just talking. ‘Actions speak Louder’ as they say.

  24. Permission to extend…

    First of all media isn’t social, but people are, this is just people talking about your product, nothing new over advertising or any other process. People talking works, people not talking doesn’t work, just online, you have a greater expansion, with the caveat, of those that, are (and live) online.

    You can pound on head with advertising, or you can go hard-sell pressure, will see results for a bit, but then you have to continually hit that drug with ever-increasing levels to see the same starting metrics. Best way, is getting your user base, to do the hard work for you. They already trust your product, and people trust them (well minus the shrills), you are already halfway in.

    Do and then talk to the people who talk, and talk to people who don’t talk, just talk and talk, but forget not the do. Talking without doing, is well, just talking. ‘Actions speak Louder’ as they say.

  25. Glad you raised this question directly and upfront – the worst is that.. they ask Why dont you find way to increase our sales (not footfalls) in the outlet near to your house thru social media?

  26. Glad you raised this question directly and upfront – the worst is that.. they ask Why dont you find way to increase our sales (not footfalls) in the outlet near to your house thru social media?

  27. There’s always activities that are difficult to measure (i.e. changing the signage in a store, for instance), those activities have always existed.

    And yet, Social Media folks sometimes are frightened when challenged to provide something. You can prove that this stuff does or does not work, I’ve done both.

    It is easy to say it cannot be measured or proven, it eliminates accountability. It is a rush to prove it does work, so try!!

  28. There’s always activities that are difficult to measure (i.e. changing the signage in a store, for instance), those activities have always existed.

    And yet, Social Media folks sometimes are frightened when challenged to provide something. You can prove that this stuff does or does not work, I’ve done both.

    It is easy to say it cannot be measured or proven, it eliminates accountability. It is a rush to prove it does work, so try!!

  29. No one would deny that “word-of-mouth” won’t help increase sales. This “social media” is just word-of-mouth advertising with a new distribution system. Granted, it may be limited in scope and you have to doubly remain wary about the narrow demographics, pandering egos and over-hyped nature of it all, but not playing the game is no answer either.

    The best way to increase sales is to let your current customers do most of the talking. Anytime anyone anywhere is talking about your product, even in a pro/con way, it will help increase sales, whether it be the local Kiwani’s Club or even a buncha self-important stuffy bloggers.

  30. No one would deny that “word-of-mouth” won’t help increase sales. This “social media” is just word-of-mouth advertising with a new distribution system. Granted, it may be limited in scope and you have to doubly remain wary about the narrow demographics, pandering egos and over-hyped nature of it all, but not playing the game is no answer either.

    The best way to increase sales is to let your current customers do most of the talking. Anytime anyone anywhere is talking about your product, even in a pro/con way, it will help increase sales, whether it be the local Kiwani’s Club or even a buncha self-important stuffy bloggers.

  31. Robert,

    Good question. IMO, big companies need to see other big companies having success using social media.

    The answer to the question is that we’ve seen it work – just look at the Levi Project 501 case study.

    In short the results were:

    “Social media drove 38% of the awareness about the campaign as compared to 30% of awareness coming from TV and low single digits for everything else.

    During the five weeks that the program was running, the top 5 selling products changed from traditional products to the featured products. The traditional core products had a price point of about 44 dollars and sold to an older demographic. The products featured in the campaign were Levi store exclusive, more fashion forward and had price range of 58 to 70 dollars. Literally overnight they got a different demographic and a sales lift that made a measurable impact on sales.

    Once the campaign ended, the top 5 selling products switched back to the traditional top 5 selling products.”

    The last point indicates that social media needs to be more than a campaign, it needs to be built into the fabric of everyday marketing to have sustained impact.

    Best

    Alex
    Alex Nesbitt
    Digital Podcast

  32. Robert,

    Good question. IMO, big companies need to see other big companies having success using social media.

    The answer to the question is that we’ve seen it work – just look at the Levi Project 501 case study.

    In short the results were:

    “Social media drove 38% of the awareness about the campaign as compared to 30% of awareness coming from TV and low single digits for everything else.

    During the five weeks that the program was running, the top 5 selling products changed from traditional products to the featured products. The traditional core products had a price point of about 44 dollars and sold to an older demographic. The products featured in the campaign were Levi store exclusive, more fashion forward and had price range of 58 to 70 dollars. Literally overnight they got a different demographic and a sales lift that made a measurable impact on sales.

    Once the campaign ended, the top 5 selling products switched back to the traditional top 5 selling products.”

    The last point indicates that social media needs to be more than a campaign, it needs to be built into the fabric of everyday marketing to have sustained impact.

    Best

    Alex
    Alex Nesbitt
    Digital Podcast

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