2015 is almost upon us and if you’re using social platforms to grow your business or sales there’s plenty of good news. For example, social audiences continue to grow worldwide and modern business development methods, such as social media marketing and social selling are becoming more widely accepted as ways to deliver exponential growth when implemented correctly.
So, let’s look at the six top business development trends to watch out for in 2015 and how you can leverage them in an ever-evolving social business ecosystem.
#1. Personal Branding
In 2014 it became crystal clear that strong personal branding was an essential foundation for a healthy sales pipeline. Thanks to the Internet and social media we’re living in a digital first and reality second economy. In other words we investigate and research one another online before engaging.
This works for both those selling and buying. As buyers, we’ve completed 50-70% of the sale before any interaction. If we like what we see then we’ll move forward. If we don’t then we’ll move on.
What this means to you: In 2015, having a professional online presence is a fundamental business requirement for you and your teams. As perception is everything and reality is nothing, if you’re not presenting yourself effectively online then you’re falling at the first hurdle and loosing opportunities. You’re then falling at the second hurdle and failing to leverage.
What to do: Start off by doing some analysis. Do a Google search to check where you’re showing up online. If you’ve social media profiles assess your headshots, bios and summaries, and in this order. Make sure your headshots have been taken by a professional photographer as this differentiates you immediately. Ensure they’re all the same across your platforms as these act like brand logos. Craft your bios and headlines, and include optimal keywords and hastags where appropriate. Finally, write your summaries with your buyer and the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) rule in mind.
#2. Influencer Marketing
Malcolm Gladwell is probably the person most responsible for the massive interest in influencer marketing. In his blockbuster book, The Tipping Point, he laid out the ‘law of the few’ and its been a hot topic ever since.
Influencer marketing can be defined as a form of marketing that identifies and targets individuals with influence over potential buyers. Historically, it’s focused on popular bloggers and celebrities. However, in 2014 we’ve seen more everyday consumers that have impact.
How do we know this? Well, aside from performing our own analysis there’s been copious amounts of reporting:
- Nielsen told us that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, while only 33% trust ads.
- ODG Group told us that 74% of consumers rely on social media to inform their purchasing decisions.
- Adobe and eConsultancy told us that 90% of marketers have said earned media will have a significant impact on their strategy by 2014.
- McKinsey told us that marketing-inspired word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising, and these customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
What this means to you: Friends, followers, journalists, bloggers or anyone you’re connected to with Klout score of over 60 are going to be more important than ever in 2015. Associating yourself with influencers who are relevant to your brand will give you a unique opportunity to connect with social audiences that already know who you are but who may not have engaged directly with you.
What to do: Identify the right influencers. Depending on your budget you can either outsource this to an agency, or perform your own research via the social platforms and other free tools. Should you choose to do it yourself, you might want to use digital analyst and author, Brian Solis’, 3R rule:
When looking for influencers think about:
- Reach (the influencer’s popularity, Klout score, and social audience size),
- Relevance (how well the influencer’s expertise aligns with your goals and brand identity), and
- Resonance (whether the influencer is having meaningful, long, interactive conversations).
Once you’ve done this you can then reach out to those who share your target audience and have a good relationship with them.
Finally, work on developing a high Klout score of your own! I’ll be writing a post on this shortly to explain how I’ve achieved this.
#3. Social Selling
These days if you’re going to perform in B2B sales or manage a performing team, you need a strategic approach. Success now depends on responding earlier in the buying cycle. It means reaching out to buyers at the right times, while knowing more about them and their needs than they know about you and your product. It requires you to be savvy, astute and forward thinking and that’s where social selling comes in.
Social selling is about directly engaging with your buyers on their terms. It requires you to learn their marketing, buying, and communicating preferences so you can then position yourself as someone of value.
In 2014 the effectiveness of cold calling declined further and more organisations took up social selling methods. Those who trained their sales teams to use social selling as a layer in the sales processes saw them hitting their quotas, achieving shorter sales cycles, and retaining more customers.
What this means to you: In 2015 if you’re not equipping your sales teams with social selling skills then you’re missing opportunities, reducing your profits and lagging.
What to do: It’s time to train your sales and marketing professionals in social selling techniques. Seek out an experienced social selling trainer, not just a social media coach. You’ll want someone who understands both sales and marketing, and who uses the methodology daily. Furthermore, you’ll need someone who can implement a programme that involves implementation and management, not just a day or two’s training.
#4. Video Marketing
YouTube has been a favourite social media platform of mine for a while now. Over the years I’ve used it as a fast way to share information, increase engagement, build a following and close sales. It’s served me well and it can do the same for you. After Google, YouTube is the number two search engine in the world; a third of all online activity is spent watching videos; and according to Digital Sherpa, videos increase the understanding of your offering by 74%.
What this means to you: 2015 is the year for video and you’ll see a lot more communication via this medium. Expect to see more video emails, video blogging, thought leadership and reporting.
What to do: To get the most from this important communications vehicle, it’s time to allocate some money to developing video content. However, do so with care. Most people will tell you to start using video. I’d advise you to do the same but only if you’re able to present yourself or your brand well via this medium. I’ve watched a lot of terrible videos that have turned me off a brand and they’ve lost sales.
If you’re not sure whether video is for you, firstly get some independent advice from someone you trust.
Secondly, invest in some training. Presenting to the camera is totally different to presenting on stage or in a meeting. However, it’s a skill that can be taught.
Thirdly be aware that 45% of viewers stop watching a video after one minute and 60% of viewers have tuned out by the second minute. If your video is a filmed presentation of you at an event or a webinar then you have a little longer.
Fourthly, think about all the different ways you can use video. Often I advise my clients to use it for training their employees and suppliers. I also recommend it for client communication as an introductory email with video has an average click-through rate increase of 96%.
In 2014 the BBC reported that Britons spend more time using technology devices than they do sleeping. The annual Ofcom study indicated that those aged 16-24 are likely to do more than one task at a time, squeezing 14 hours and 7 minutes of media activity into each day, in just over 9 hours.
Apparently it’s no different in the USA. According to a 2013 report by the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Southern California, Americans are set to consume 15 hours and 30 minutes of media activity per day in 2015.
With this in mind it’s little wonder why podcasts have regained interest. More and more people are short on time yet eager to consume information. And, with the adoption of smart phones and iTunes the easiest way to get this to them is via podcasts so they can keep on multi-tasking. Podcasts can be listened to when training at the gym, commuting, on the school run, or doing mundane jobs around the house and so on.
What this means to you: Whilst podcasting has been around for years and has been a tolerant communication channel in terms of its many different styles of “broadcasts” in 2015 it’s at a point where marketers are taking it more seriously.
According to Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2014, only 6% of marketers were podcasting in 2014 but more than 28% want to learn more about it. With subscribe buttons making it easy to be informed of the latest episodes, advertising potential, and the death of radio imminent, who could blame them. 2015 is the year to clarify your concept so you can participate.
What to do: If you’re clear on your offering, expertise and who you’re marketing to, then seriously think about podcasting as it’s a great way to extend your reach, add value and increase your revenues. You can communicate your ideas and messaging in a cost effective way and to audiences who are looking for your take on things. You’ll need to invest in training and a podcasting kit but this is cheap in comparison to hiring a studio for filming video. My favourite sources for this are Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income and Cliff Ravenscraft from Podcast Answer Man.
#6. Need for Speed
Thanks to the rapid advancements of technology the way we work is changing. In 2014 we’ve seen everyone busier than ever and increasingly short on time. In 2015, I’ll wager a bet that the new paradigm shift will be quick fixes. Businesses want faster, easier and leaner ways to consume information and solve problems. As a result they’ll make more use of mobile applications and social technologies.
What this means to you: Expect to see more applications and resources to help you create and integrate visual content into your communications, and start to think about creating your own. You have an opportunity to get ahead of the pack here.
What you to do: When you’re planning your content marketing campaigns make sure to use more images, infographics and videos. If you can get your message across with these types of content do so as it’s far more engaging and it’s faster to consume. Remember a picture paints a thousand words. Furthermore, facts tell and stories sell.
Continue to monitor the social platforms. Find out which ones work for your business. As you know I’m a huge fan of Twitter and one of the reasons why is on account of the fact that it’s so fast for networking, information consumption and dissemination.
Finally, as was mentioned earlier consider podcasts as a means to communicate your message and position your brand.
Your business is constantly evolving and as an owner-manager, it’s your job to keep on top of it. Technology is moving at speed so you have to pay attention if you’re going to grow it. Having given you my five business development trends for 2015 it’s now up to you to put a fresh face on your business strategy and ring in the New Year.
Now I want to hear from you…
Tell me in the comments below or in a private email:
- What trends do you see unfolding in the New Year?
- What business development strategies do you feel challenged on?
Please share your stories and experience here, and if you’ve got a question, just pop it down here. If you want to contact me for a strategy call click here.
Thanks for being a sport and participating!
Finally, if you know someone who’d LOVE the insight from this social selling post, please send them a link. You’ll find solo entrepreneurs, consultants and yes, even sales and marketing managers who manage people who’ll be interested to hear about this.
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