Use Social Media To Reach Beyond Your Base

November 2017

Smart Selling: Distributor Sales Strategies From HIDA

By Elizabeth Hilla
Senior Vice President, HIDA

In a previous column, I noted that many of us in the business world use LinkedIn every day to find information about the people at companies with which we work. I pointed out that your customers do this too, so maintaining a professional, customer-focused profile can enhance your sales success.

I stand by that advice, but it’s purely passive – you’re just ensuring that your profile makes you attractive to the customers who look you up.

Now, I’m advising you to take the next step and actively use social media to bring in new business and new customers.

If you know me, you’re probably laughing. I’m the last person to endorse social media – the photos on my Facebook page haven’t changed since maybe 2008. But lately, I’ve seen the power of social media, particularly LinkedIn, for reaching prospects, and I think sales reps can embrace this opportunity in a big way.

But wait, you say, my company’s marketing department has a great social media presence. If that’s true, fantastic! You can build on it, and make it more personal and therefore more effective.

Or maybe you say: no way, my company doesn’t do much social media marketing. That’s okay too – it’s easier than you think to build business by doing your own posts.

I’m a newbie to this, but I’ve been experimenting lately, and also reading lots of social media articles and posts from other people. Here are some ideas based on my personal preferences and experiences, but I encourage you to investigate for yourself as well. I’ll start with what’s simple and progress from there.

Sharing and liking content from others
The easiest first step in social media is to selectively “like” posts from others. Be sincere – “like” things that genuinely appeal to you, but also consider what would be of interest to your target audiences. Look for appropriate opportunities to “like” your customers’ and vendors’ posts.

Even more selectively, “share” posts from others. Adding your own short message will explain to others why you’re sharing the article or post. At a minimum, share items posted by your own company’s marketing department, and from your key vendors. By sharing these, you’ll give them a wider audience, and you’ll also connect yourself personally to the message. You also may want to share such items as:

  • Items on topics of interest to your customers and prospects, such as new research on infections or data on readmissions
  • An occasional fun or motivational post (I recommend choosing carefully and doing this sparingly).

Creating original content
Creating your own posts is also easy, and it can be very effective. What you post depends on what you want to achieve, and on your own personality. If you’re outgoing with a big persona, posting the occasional enthusiastic, let’s-make-it-a-great-day kind of posts may fit for you. If you’re very social, you may enjoy posting photos of yourself with business associates or customers. And if you’re an all-business kind of person, you may stick to factual updates. Any of these can potentially advance your business.

Here are some ideas I’ve seen that you might want to try, separately or in combination, along with some examples I took straight from some of my contacts’ LinkedIn posts:

  • Share an idea, statistic, or news item that customers can act on. “What are the steps for accurate BP measurement? Check your methods with these quick reminders…” (Kurt Forsthoefel, Midmark)
  • Share a personal experience or comment: “I love the who, the what and the how about my job. Having the opportunity to work with healthcare manufacturers, distributors and providers to improve their supply chain processes is incredibly rewarding to me.” (Denise Odenkirk, GHX)
  • Tie your message to a key customer issue or need: “Every hospital is seeking new ways to improve the patient experience. As a commercial laundry, you can help your hospitals protect patient modesty through safe and comfortable patient apparel solutions…” (Joe Przepiorka, Encompass)

Try to include some kind of visual with your post. I personally like real-life photos (Repertoire publisher Scott Adams does this very well so check him out on LinkedIn for good examples). You can also use a stock photo or graphic: scroll through your news feed and you’ll see hundreds of ideas. Include a hyperlink for readers to get more details, if that’s appropriate.

Use social media to multiply the effectiveness of other channels
Social media posts can expand visibility for other marketing efforts, such as webinars, trade shows, and blog posts.

For example, many people invest thousands in trade shows, only to be disappointed with their booth traffic. LinkedIn posts are a great way to build traffic beforehand, and to extend your message during and after the shows you attend. You can post an invitation to visit your booth well before the event date, and again with an update during the event. A photo of your smiling booth personnel makes it personal.

Try it
If you’re thinking to yourself: “no kidding, I’ve used social media for years and these tips are obvious” – congratulations! Keep up the good work. If on the other hand, you’re thinking “I’m too old (too busy, whatever) to spend time on social media,” I encourage you to put your toe in the water and give it a try:

  • An interesting message can get shared far beyond your “first degree” network, exposing you to many new prospects.
  • Adding a personal touch can help you make personal connections
  • Posting or sharing relevant content can show customers and prospects your areas of expertise and enhance your position as a trusted advisor.

Good luck and smart selling!


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