WASHINGTON, April 20, 2012 — This is the first of a three-part series about doing business on and off-line. Part two will address how to get your slice of the social media feeding frenzy under control.
Part three will share ideas on how to talk to people when you want to sell them something in real-life, so that the digital handshake becomes less about technology and more about touch—keeping in mind we need both, in balance.
Here’s part one:
There’s a general craziness going on with social media these days. Even if you restrain yourself to using jus the Big Three—Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—getting the most mileage out of social media for business is an impossible dream for many. How do you bridge the distance between messing around online with your friends and figuring out how to run a sustainable business?
When is it social, and when is it business?
There’s nothing wrong with messing around, of course, except for the fact social media merges both business and personal agendas. You use the same tools for both, sort of. Yeah, okay, Facebook is “mostly” personal, and LinkedIn is supposed to be “just about all business,” and Twitter is sort of “anything goes.”
These distinctions, at least in terms of Facebook, are rapidly diminishing if they haven’t already vanished, however. In recent months, for example, perky Facebook personnel have been making the rounds of Chambers of Commerce offering free lunches, free seminars, and free swag about the joys and how-to’s of using Facebook for business.
It’s interesting to note that while these Facebook whiz kids may know everything about social media, they’re often, like, not terribly good at public speaking. That may not matter for Facebook, but it does matter for you.
Finding clients: That personal “touch”
Aside from Facebook and similar monolithic social networking companies and formats, the truth is that not as many people are making the big bucks on the Internet as they claim they are. If you aim to build and or run an online presence or business that has real sustainability, you still and always will need to employ that all-important personal touch to everything that you do. At the same time, you can’t ignore the Internet, if only for serious reach.
You just can’t talk to that many people one-by-one, yet the more specialized your product or service is, the more you need to scan huge numbers of people to find the ones who need you. Hence, the Internet, which can be excellent tool if you do it right. Why? Because people will qualify themselves—or disqualify themselves, which can be equally useful.
Newbies in business—or on-the-cusp old timers for that matter—now have two general categories of “touches” they must master:
- the personal connection that will bring the sale, and
- the Internet connection that can encourage it.
Nurturing existing clients can be done up close and personal or from afar. No hard and fast rule there.
But for beginners, acquiring clients is usually the larger concern. Because ultimately, you have to face that fearsome beast: sales.
If you don’t sell current or potential customers on your new or improved product, your business is going nowhere except maybe Chapter 11. Yet sales is a big problem for many prospective new business people who are just beginning. Often—and we’ve seen it—they hang a real or metaphorical shingle out and wait for customers to beat a path to their door. But it won’t happen. You have to market and sell your product or business and that requires considerable effort.
Selling person-to-person is not easy for a population that has been schooled to deride sales occupations (which is a whole other column). But ironically, this same population has also grown up inhaling the Internet and its own never-ending sales pitches, whether they appear in banners, headers, or via rollovers or those irritating and seemingly random pop-ups. Maybe that’s because it’s a heck of a lot easier to get online for countless hours every day then to actually talk to real people.
The challenge is this when you’re starting out, particularly if your business and your prospective clients or consumers are local: less Internet social media, and more interpersonal social contact.
Unless, of course, you happen to be hawking yet another online Internet how-to product.
In a way, you need to get off the page and onto the stage. We’ll show you how.
Frances Ponick’s book, Only Angels Can Wing It: How to Prepare a Eulogy Quickly and Present It Compassionately, is available in paperback from the author and is now available atAmazon.com. She coaches written and verbal communications and is the writer’s block expert atAllExperts. Feel free to ask questions there, or connect with Frances at Twitter,Facebook, and/orLinkedIn.
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