Sunday, March 6, 2011

How to Sell Your CEO on Social Media Marketing

How to Sell Your CEO on Social Media Marketing

With the changes in how customers buy, social media marketing is becoming more of a requirement than a nice-to-have. With the need to reach more prospects where  they spend their time online, social media marketing has become a key competent in your digital marketing mix. It’s imperative to the success of your efforts to have commitment from company stakeholders and decision makers. Without their stamp of approval, the long-term nature of some social media marketing will likely erode confidence and can lead to program funding cuts.
Social media represents both opportunity and risk, with an emphasis on the latter among people who either don’t understand it or prefer to hold out until it becomes mainstream. The is why securing internal buy-in is a must.  Often, this involves convincing your CEO and executive team why to do online and inbound marketing. Sometimes this problem has to do with company culture or leadership, but often it comes down to communication and how it is explained. Really, many marketing teams could learn from their sales counterparts on how to achieve this.
Here is a 7-step process to convince your CEO to start social media marketing:
  1. Do Your Homework
    As any good sales person can tell you, doing your homework before you get in the meeting can make the biggest difference in terms of success. You need to study your CEO like a must-have customer. This means knowing his demographic, BANT and behaviour patterns. Did he come up through marketing or sales, or maybe it was through operations or finance? If he is from a sales and marketing background, talk to him about how research from HubSpot finds that companies that blog welcome an average of 55% more visitors to their sites than companies that don’t. And they may generate 97% more external website links and 434% more indexed pages, both of which influence a company’s search rank. On the other hand, if your CEO comes from a finance background, show him how a recent global survey by McKinsey of about 1,700 corporate executives finds that 69% of respondents claim measurable advantages from social media, including a lower cost of doing business, better access to knowledge, increased marketing effectiveness, insight for developing more innovative products and services, and higher revenues.
  2. Discover what your CEO Cares About
    After getting a good understanding about what motives your CEO, you need to match your presentation to what his organizational goals are, whether it’s cost reduction, sales growth, a new product launch or something else. Match his language to your message, whether the context is a new blog or maybe a well-conceived Facebook strategy.

    Maybe your CEO is someone who likes to keep up with the Joneses.  Your boss doesn't want to get left behind and it's more and more likely that he has seen some of this fancy social media stuff at work. Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes and Eric Mattson report that familiarity with and usage of social media within the business world (the Inc. 500 in this particular study) has nearly doubled in the past 12 months.  This means that your boss is likely primed for a conversation about using social media in your business. Your boss might just be looking for someone to lead the charge.
  3. Remember the 80:20 Rule
    In sales, there is the golden rule: you should only talk 20% of the time and have your prospect (your CEO) talk 80% of the time. How do you do this? Walk your CEO through the whole process.  Ask questions about current challenges, goals, and how he wants to bring about change. By doing this you will not only discover more about what is important to him, but also you increase his engagement and buy-in.
  4. Sell on Benefits, not Features
    Sales 101 teaches you that you don't sell features, you explain the benefits. That means don't explain how you can track a lead and nurture it from start to finish. Rather, explain how you can pass well qualified leads to sales so they will waste less time chasing unqualified prospects resulting in greater efficiency for the organization. Remember to be as specific as possible and match it to his personal and organizational goals.

    Another way to demonstrate the success of social media marketing to your CEO is to reference a competitor’s success. Keeping with the angle of industry proof, one effective method to sell digital marketing includes showing competitor success. If a competitor is successfully utilizing specific digital channel then add this to your presentation to executives.  For example, proof that competitors are actively engaged in Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn is often very compelling. However, before showing this to the executive team, dig into each channel and make sure it’s not an employee-centric destination.  Not many executives will turn a blind eye to even the most non-traditional methods if competitors appear to have an upper hand.
  5. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
    At it's depth, social media marketing can be very complex, and it goes deep into every behaviour prospects/clients make. Your CEO doesn't need to be the social media marketing expert. If he was, why would he need you? Filter what's important into a message simple enough that your CEO can not only make an appropriate decision but also repeat the message. You want to make him your advocate; if cannot explain it himself, how is he going to champion it into your/the organization?
  6. Be Prepared to Draw
    Dan Roam's book "The Back of the Napkin" showed that thinking with pictures can help anyone develop new ideas, solve problems in unexpected ways, and share insights more powerfully. The quickest way to help your CEO understand is to draw a diagram - on paper or a white board. Diagram existing communications channels like e-newsletters, word of mouth, and emails, alongside social media platforms and blog posts, and then use that diagram to talk through when to use what and why.
  7. Ask for the Business
    I see it all the time with people who are new to sales, they are afraid to ask the most important question of all: "what's the next step?" If you are not comfortable asking for a 100% commitment, ask about preferences. If you feel that your CEO will not green light a new initiative based on a single meeting, keep momentum building by clarifying the next step. Ask your CEO to choose between action and further study. For example, you might say, "We could study this more, maybe involve more people in the discussion, or I could test a few ideas and keep you posted on results before we spend lots of company resources. What's your preference?"
Remember, when looking to implement social media marketing in your company, you need to sell it to your organization and especially your CEO.  These 7 steps can set you up for success, and help your organization achieve a greater number of lower cost leads. And isn't that what your job as a marketer is to do?

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