July 24, 2013

Hunting the big game of long-term clients

Photo by Jennifer Feuchter (Creative Commons)

Forging deep-seated business relationships requires a different level of engagement

This is the third of a three-part series. Also see:
• Part oneWith social media, you need to do more than forage
Part two: Are you a social media marketing trapper?

Target audience: Marketing professionals, social media strategists, SEO specialists, business professionals, nonprofits.

Chris AbrahamWith risk comes reward. While social media foraging (sharing content and links) will feed a family and social marketing trapping (content marketing) can feed your tribe, you’ll need to hunt if you want to feed a village. If your company is large enough to have a burn rate, a marketing budget, and a staff — if you have quite a big nut to crack every month — you’ll need to not rely solely on word of mouth.

Likewise, if you’re a nonprofit or a church and don’t have the benefit of a wealthy benefactor or flush endowment (lots and lots of meat salted away), then you, too, will have to step it up well past referrals, the Yellow Pages, solid SEO, a pretty website, or even writing a book, doing webinars, writing blog posts, or being interviewed on podcasts or even on TV and radio — all of these things are about laying traps and looking under rocks.

Can you use social media as a way to convert a weak tie on a social network into a key contact that you can convert into your trusted inner circle?

Hunting requires finding types of people, organizations, companies, and brands who probably would need the sort of products and services you offer (identifying what you’re hunting for) and then doing everything possible to track them down, identify their point of pain, prove to them that you can relieve their pain, and then land them as a client, donor, partner, benefactor, or champion.

Hunting demands that you either have the patience to sit quietly behind a blind until you get a shot or the stamina to go out there and beat the brush and flush the grouse.

Practically speaking, this means that you find where they live. What’s their natural habitat? Where do they live? Are they bloggers? Are they on social media?

Are they on Facebook for real or are they really on LinkedIn? Or, do they actually spend their time on a message board? Are they actually on Twitter — or maybe just monitoring Twitter? Or maybe while they might not be actually blogging or tweeting or on message boards, perhaps they’re just vanity searching on Google or keeping track of things said about them on Google Alerts.

And to be even more practical, can you use social media as a way to convert a weak tie online via a social network into a key contact that you then are able to make in person into a friendship and finally into the trusted inner circle?

Hunting requires a much more intimate relationship with your target

While foraging and trapping may well be possible “in the cloud” using mostly nameless and faceless brand proxies (not ideal but entirely possible – it happens every day), hunting requires a much more intimate relationship with the game, with your target – and the best advice I have is to try to get as close to your prey as possible. Try to avoid taking a long shot and get up and personal. If you engage on Twitter, convert to LinkedIn or Facebook; if you’re on Facebook, take it to Messenger or email; if you’re on email, schedule a call or Skype, and if you’re already talking on the phone, meet in person.

People hire/donate/contract/retain based on personal relationships; and, more specifically, people they “fall in love” with. While your brand, capabilities, references, word of mouth, and reputation may get you the meeting, it’s up to personal chemistry and rapport that seals the deal — and that sort of thing is really hard to build over text unless the business is purely transactional. If you will be building a long-term relationship, be it contractually or not, you’re de facto married — you had better be pretty compatible.

Send a card, bring a gift, make a grand gesture

That said, it’s very rare that these relationships fall into your lap. While your foraging skills may very well build your reputation, and while your trapping skills may similarly build your sales and marketing channels, it will be your hunting skills that will allow you to bring home long-term clients.

The target is clients who will be able to smooth out your cash flow (salted meat and loads of venison stored in your chest freezer), lend their reputation and prestige to you by association, and an ally who will surely well be more than willing to hunt on your behalf (sales multiplier!).

But, like hunting, relationships like this can be expensive.

They can require wining and dining. They can demand travel at a moment’s notice. Indeed, they are a lot like dating, a lot liking having a romance, a polygamous one at that — because, having just one kill under your belt can be dangerous indeed. Putting all your eggs in one basket is quite dangerous.

So, be sure not to become the Great White Hunter before you’re ready, be it emotionally, energetically, organizationally, and financially.

Remember, also, that you don’t need to hunt alone. Actually, not everyone needs to hunt at all. For many, social media foraging and social media trapping is more than enough, as I’ve discussed the last two weeks.

But if you need to feed a village, at some point you will realize that you are forced to join the social media hunt.Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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