Imagine if someone proposed to you on a first date. Or even worse, the first time you chat on Tinder. It’s safe to say you’d run for the hills.
Why, then, do we think it’s okay to sell to people totally cold? If you and your business have an online presence - and in 2020, who doesn’t? - you’ve probably received a message via Instagram or LinkedIn along the lines of “hi! We think you’d love our software/ recruitment service/ outsourced DevOps team. Let us know”. It would be fascinating to know the exact conversion rate of these types of messages, but I’ll assume it’s near 0%.
Instead of proposing on the first date, treat relationships with potential customers like a courtship. You might start out chatting online, getting to know each other on a casual basis. If there’s a click, you’ll meet for a drink somewhere. With any luck, you’ll start seeing each other once a week, having dinners and starting to meet each other’s friends. After a while, you move in together. You know each other’s families, and you’re pretty embedded in each other’s lives. Then, and only then, you (or they) pop the question. Congratulations!
Of course, real romantic relationships follow different timelines, and some people love a whirlwind romance. Even then, you’re likely to have been on at least a few dates before heading down the aisle.
The immediacy of social media can sometimes lull us into a false sense of intimacy with potential clients. We think that because we’ve had a few friendly chats in the DMs, they’re warmed up and ready to buy when we present them with our latest offer. The reality is a little more complex. From initial introduction to making the sale (or marriage proposal - whatever floats your boat), there are a number of hoops you need to jump through to woo your ideal client.
Let’s take a look at the phases of client courtship, and how you can best nurture your customers through social media.
You wouldn’t use a grainy, unflattering photo for your dating profile, would you? You’d pick a nice holiday snap, and you’d write a witty, warm bio that makes people want to swipe right. So are you putting your best foot forward when it comes to your online presence?
Conduct an audit of your social media accounts and your website. Is everything up to date? Are you consistent? If you’ve got a tagline you always use, is it the same across Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and your website?
It’s said you’ve only got 7 seconds before people decide if they want to stay on your site or profile, or if they want to hit the little x in the corner of their screen and disappear forever. So first impressions count more than ever - you’ve only got one shot to tell people what you do, how you can help them, and why they should buy from you instead of your competitors.
The 7 Second Test is a super easy way to see if your messaging is doing its job.
Ask them to write down:
Before people want to buy from you, they have to pass through the know, like, and trust phases. Spending money isn’t exactly enjoyable, so in order to get people to part with their hard-earned cash, you need to build rapport with your audience. Kick things off by getting to know each other.
Focus on strong evergreen content for your social media, based around the ins and outs of your business. What are the key features and quirks that people need to know about what you offer? What’s your secret sauce? Why should they buy from you, not your competitor?
Consider creating a promo video explaining what your business does and who you help. Mix up your content, so that you’re sharing the same message via social posts, emails, Stories, Instagram Lives, blog posts, and podcast episodes. Don’t worry that people will get bored. We tend to assume that others are thinking about our business far more than they actually are. The reality is that there’s a lot of noise online, and each person follows hundreds - if not thousands - of accounts. Unless you’ve built a brand as strong as Nike, Airbnb or Uber, don’t assume that everyone knows what you do. Work these sorts of posts into your content on a weekly basis, so that over time, you’ll remain at the forefront of your followers’ minds.
Next, make sure that people like you. The best way to do this is by having a strong and authentic personality online. The goal is to attract your ideal customers, so there’s no point showing up as someone or something you’re not. If your online personality is informal and jokey, but in your workshops you’re cold and corporate, you’ll wind up with unhappy customers. Be clear on who your company is, and what it stands for. Make sure your brand personality is reflected in your content output, whether that’s using fun animated videos to push your products, expletive-filled blog posts, or simply a friendly tone in your captions.
It’s also important to make sure your audience is clear on your brand values. When dating, it’s important to couple up with someone who has similar views on the important things. Similarly, your audience wants to align themselves with brands who think the same way that they do. That’s not to say you can’t have your differences, but by and large we tend to buy from brands whose values align with ours. Make sure you’re attracting the right people by taking a stand and speaking up on the topics that matter to you.
The final part of the recipe is winning your ideal customer’s trust. Pull this off, and they’ll practically be throwing their wallet at you, ready to buy anything you’re offering. The best way of winning trust through your online content is to let other people do the talking. Share testimonials on a regular basis - and you get bonus points if it’s a video testimonial. There’s something about someone being willing to record a video chatting about how much they love a coach/ software/ beauty salon that just makes you believe them. We’re careful about what we put our name to, so testimonials carry a lot of weight.
Social proof and case studies are also key components in your trust-winning mission. Let’s say you’re trying to sell your new software designed to help people plan their Instagram posts seamlessly. It’s great that you’ve got lots of clients, but are you remembering to actually share that publicly? Ask your users to send in examples of them benefiting from your software. If you offer workshops or consultancy sessions, share a brief update from your latest meeting (but always remember to get permission from current clients before sharing anything online). Just knowing that you’ve already got paying clients helps build up our trust in you.
The best way of thinking of this is Amy Vandeputte’s example of two restaurants in a town square. One restaurant is full of groups of friends chatting away happily, and the other is totally dead, with just one bored looking couple sitting in the corner. Which restaurant are you going to pick? It’s the same for your business: we want to go where everyone else is.
Case studies are particularly great for demonstrating the transformative power of your product or service. “Look! Sammy had £5 in his bank account before he hired me as his business coach. Now, he’s making £100k a month. You can do this too - all you have to do is hire me for 6 sessions!” While the Advertising Standard Authority might have something to say about this made-up claim, you get the picture. We see the transformation that your past client has undergone, and we want a piece of it, too.
If you’ve made it this far in the process, well done: you’re ready to seal the deal. It’s time to pitch your offer. As with most things in business - and indeed life - authenticity is key. If you’ve built up a solid interpersonal relationship with your lead, consider a phone call pitch. If you’re allergic to picking up the phone and feel more at home with the written word, craft a convincing sales email. If you’ve been faithful during your courtship with your ideal client, the sale won’t actually be the difficult part.
By this point, your ideal client knows exactly how you can help them, and the services that you offer. They’ve got to know your personality, and they’re drawn to you. Most important of all, they’ve seen the proof of the pudding, so they trust you. If someone offering the exact same product or service were to pop into their inbox today, chances are they wouldn’t have the same personal connection you’ve built up.
And it doesn’t necessarily have to be an intimate, 1:1 relationship: if your business operates on a larger scale, this methodology still works. What’s important is that your potential client feels some sort of connection with your company. Remember: if someone doesn’t want to buy from you (or date you, for that matter), they won’t. Selling needs a PR makeover - it’s not the slimy business so many people assume it is. Instead, you’ve laid the groundwork through your strategic content, and all your ideal customer has had to do is jump across the stepping stones. If you’re a good fit, it’ll be happily ever after.
About the Author
Phoebe Dodds is the founder of content strategy consultancy Buro155, featured in Forbes and Grazia. She has a Masters in Entrepreneurship from Amsterdam Business School. Through her work, Phoebe combines her love of writing with her love of Silicon Valley-style methodology. She’s also a fan of the Kardashians (sorry).
Find Buro155 here or keep in the know on social using @buro155
Charles Darwin took long walks around London. Kurt Vonnegut made listening to jazz a daily priority. Fiona Apple disappeared for 6 years after the release of her third album.
I ask because I can often be found agonising over the "more". If only I posted on Instagram more, I'll think in the bath. I'd have more followers if I pitched to more publications. I need to post 2 more times a week, minimum. I could go on...
Between you and me, I've got frustrated with myself for browsing Facebook or watching too much TV more times than I can remember.
And I'm not alone. So many of us are terrified of taking a break, creatively speaking. We won't let a moment pass without listening to a podcast, consuming an article or sharing something.
The cognitive load is real, y'all.
But like Vitamin D, sleep and good food, it's not only ok to take a break, it's essential.
Living a successful life is also about knowing when not to work. For your best output, you need to focus on your input, too.
The world won't end if you disappear from the internet for a week or so. Your creativity won't suddenly stop. Your time is now, but your time was also then and it will be again.
Many of us confuse being "busy" with being constructive. But you can only do your best work by taking breaks.
And science backs it up, too. The brain requires substantial downtime to do its most innovative thinking. The ideas you have while driving or in the shower aren't coincidental. They're a result of you taking a step back, whether you're aware of it or not.
Let yourself take a wonderful and indulgent break. Several breaks. Hell, get downright bored.
Wallow in it. Don't be afraid of it. Push it as far as you can.
When you leave your laptop behind, something always happens. A new idea or a fresh perspective appears.
Take proper breaks, often. Completely clear your mind. Your next best idea depends on it.