Rachel Klaver is a marketing strategist, specializing in lead generation and content marketing.
OPINION: I won’t recommend a particular marketing strategy or tactic to a small business owner for one main reason.
Once I’ve heard about their goals and plans, I’ll know it may not be the best fit for their business, even if they want to give it a go.
Instead, I’ll offer them an alternative option that fits their goals better.
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Sometimes I’ll suggest something that I personally would never do. I know I have a particular bias towards low effort, big reward activity, and really practical and easy-to-do tasks.
I’ve built up quite a long list of actions and ways of working that fit into the rest of a busy business life.
For instance, I’ll tend to propose and teach a simple lead generation technique over a high-energy, complicated one.
But sometimes I know that a more complex option is a better fit for the business owner, and they have both the ability and the capacity to do it, even though I personally would not want to do it myself.
All marketers will naturally have a bias towards certain ways of working. I might tell you that emailing your list can be as often as you like, as long as it’s good and focused on adding value, while another marketer may tell you that more than once a fortnight is too much.
I might not agree with that advice, but it doesn’t necessarily make it terrible advice.
However, there are some marketing tactics that do need to stop. They are almost universally disliked by the people on the receiving end, often breaking rules, and can do your brand more damage than good.
Most of the time I prefer to just focus on what we all should do, instead of what we should not do.
But the idea for this column, and this week’s MAP IT Marketing podcast, came from a very persistent stranger who kept messaging my personal profile on Facebook to sell me a business system.
She was totally oblivious to why it was not OK to do so, and judging by the sheer volume of similar messages I get every day on LinkedIn, Instagram and via email, I know she’s not the only one.
Cold messages (ones that are unsolicited) are against the terms of service on Facebook and other Meta platforms. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen, but it does mean you can report one if you get it.
It’s also illegal to send them via email, and they are considered spam. LinkedIn is a little more complicated, as you are able to pay to send promotional messages. However, just because you can, does not mean you should.
The woman on Messenger initially said she’d got my contact details from a Facebook group, which is often also against the rules of a group. This sort of behavior can get you banned from many groups.
After I checked the group name and found no group existed, she admitted she was using a software that was helping her find leads on Facebook. And yes, once again, this was also breaking Facebook’s terms of service.
It’s a reminder that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
Using other people’s Facebook groups to grow your audience is something I teach and encourage. However, I don’t suggest you send a direct message to anyone without getting their approval to do so first.
If someone has written a post asking for help, and your business can deliver on it, reply to the post, add value and some insight, and then ask permission to send them more information via a direct message. Allow them to choose to receive it.
The adding value part is an important step. Often you’re one of many offering your services. If everyone else is just popping a link to their business page, or sending that unsolicited message, you’ll stand out as someone who’s already invested in their success. The trust relationship we need to build has begun.
I’m fairly Teres with anyone pitching me on a first message. It’s even worse if the message starts off innocuously, then moves to a full-blown sales pitch in message two or three.
I’m reminded of the time I was trying to get a project off the ground and was pitching it while on a dance floor. My dance partner leaned in and told me to “just dance and enjoy the moment”. (He may have said it with a few swears popped in.) It was a real reminder that there’s a time to build relationships, and a time to sell.
My whole ethos around marketing is we need to always respect our audience and let them come to us in their time. I call this creating a sticky web of content, where we’re the kind spider waiting for them to come to us.
If our marketing approach is just cold messaging and pitching cut-and-paste messages to everyone we can find, it’s both intrusive and generic, both of which aren’t words we want when it comes to marketing.
The only way this scattergun approach works is to see it as a numbers game. Years ago I worked with a businessperson who said: “A new customer is one we haven’t annoyed yet.”
New Zealand is far too small for this approach, and we want to reduce any potential levels of irritation. You might get a few hits, but is it worth the collateral damage to your brand as you do so?
To change, the goal needs to change. Even if we’re desperate for work, we need to build for the long term. Write, talk and market like you’re here to serve, rather than here to sell.
If you do write a promotional message, make it one that goes out to either your social media audience or your email list. If you’re wanting to pitch to one person, make sure you’ve already got a relationship with them.
The place to sell if you need to generate sales quickly should only ever be in your existing network, where you already have rapport, trust and the relationship to be able to ask.
If Facebook groups are a place you go to find potential clients, instead of laying in wait ready to pounce at anyone who looks like they might need you, focus on adding value into that group instead.
Once or twice a week, take a tip or some useful advice and post it into the group. You don’t need to add “and so buy from me” at the bottom. People will see it and notice it
I still get quite a bit of work from members of a Facebook group I haven’t been a member of for over five years. The regular tips and value I added in that group so long ago still brings me regular warm leads and great customers. This method has long-lasting benefits.
One of the pieces of advice I roll out to all those people pitching me in the first message on LinkedIn is to take time to interact with me on my posts first. Show me you’ve read my profile, or my posts in that message. And don’t be in a rush to then sell to me.
If that feels strange, perhaps consider LinkedIn like an online version of a networking party. No-one wants to be that person going from person to person, passing out a business card and getting their 60-second elevator pitch out before moving on.
One of the best things about social media is you get to show your values, what you do and why you do it to an audience instead of one person at a time. So use the platforms as they were designed, with your posts creating opportunity for people to connect with you and your message
When you’ve interacted and connected with someone who you’ve interacted with in the comments, those people will often go take a look at your profile, and could request to connect with you.
They’ll see what you do, and they will give interested signals such as making comments like “excellent post, I needed this” or similar – and then you can send them a message and ask them if they’d like to have some more information from you.
The key is to move slower, take time to build some rapport, and always ask permission before jumping in with your offer. Then it’s time to relax and trust that if the person is open to it and ready, they’ll want what you’ve got.