Make ‘friends’ and expand your sphere of influence

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60_powersIn the November 2009 issue of Soundings Trade Only, Don Cooper wrote an excellent column about how social media can lead to more boat sales. His advice that the social media revolution is under way couldn’t be more on target.

Today more than ever, a critical component to marketing is giving prospective customers a compelling reason to want to do business with you. Expanding your sphere of influence using social media sites in combination with conventional Internet marketing strategies is a winning combination. Keep in mind that these are marketing tools, and like any other tool, their power is directly proportionate to how well you use them in your overall marketing strategy.

Establishing an Internet presence that is of an informational nature, as opposed to promotional, will help develop a following that will enhance your sphere of influence with prospective boat buyers. Incorporating your business Web site and press releases adds powerful clout to the effectiveness of social media marketing. Also, understanding the basics of search-engine optimization (SEO) and applying these techniques will give you an added advantage.

Relationship building

Public relations does more to attract new business and build customer loyalty than any ad campaign. The Internet not only creates a virtual showroom for your boats and other products, it helps build that personal relationship with your prospective and existing customers that can give buyers a compelling reason to want to do business with you.

As we all know, especially in this crazy economy, there are still people out there who want to buy boats, but they worry now is not the time. What makes boaters somewhat unique is their passion: They are either on the water or dreaming about being on the water. Here is your chance to make them dream about being on a boat that you will sell them either now or in the future.

Consider these ideas:

  • Add a blog to your business Web site. It’s not as difficult as you may think. Rather than feeling compelled to write something on a regular schedule, write about ideas you may have or new developments that boaters might be interested in. The blog does not necessarily need to be about your products; it could be – and should include – things that are personal, that create a bond with your followers. Be sure your business press releases are linked to your site and mentioned in your blog if you think it might be of interest to your network.
  • Let’s assume you choose Facebook as your primary social media tool. Your profile should be about you the boater, not you the salesperson. In your comments and Facebook blog, write about your passion – being on the water. Share with your network the information that interests them, so when they see a notification that you’ve commented, they want to see what you have to say.
  • Facebook comments should not be long. They should just give a heads-up to your “friends” of what’s on your mind. When appropriate, add a link to your comment that leads to your Web site or blog. Those who are interested won’t be able to get enough information; those who are not interested in the details at the moment will remember that when they are ready for more information they know where to look.
  • Understand the power of SEO. When you write something in your blog or a press release or on your Web site, understand how headings and keywords and phrases are “eaten up” by search engines. Ask yourself what words or phrases you would use if you were searching for specific information and strategically utilize those words and phrases in your Web page, blog, press releases and even sections of your Facebook profile and comments. This will help people who are looking for specific information find you. The strategy takes some time and effort, but the benefits are clear.

A friend indeed

Once you write up your Facebook or other social media profile, it is time to find “friends.” Think of groups of people with a common bond. There are many Facebook groups that have fans or members with common interests. You can join as many groups as you like and, once a member, you get an inside track on their interests. This gives you food for thought as far as creating a buzz (as in buzz marketing). You can sometimes click on profiles of group members and invite them to be your friends.

Another good tool is to participate in a variety of discussion groups. If you enjoy fishing and your boat has the qualities of a good fishing boat, you definitely want to be a member of this group and have many of these members as your friends. The type of boat that you sell should lead you to the groups that will have the greatest potential for creating a bond with prospective customers who learn to know you as a friend they can trust.

Of paramount importance is that you want to be seen as someone with a common passion, not as a salesperson. But as more and more of these members and fans become your friends and are included in your sphere of influence, they will be interested in what you have to say as you write comments on your personal profile page.

Besides formal groups, keep in mind that most people share common interests, especially boaters and fishermen. Personally, as a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Navy League of the United States and former member of the National Safe Boating Council, I am “friends” on Facebook with hundreds of other members of these organizations and people with common interests. Most people are not obsessed with their passions and may comment about their families, friends or other issues, which is why it is so important to keep your relationship friendly and informal. But when an issue of mutual concern arises, it often appears on my Facebook page with frequent comments. You can often track who is reading your comments and profile updates by seeing how many people click that they like it or post a comment in response.

Finally, another benefit of most     social media sites is that they track the integrated network of friends and will often suggest you send a friend request to someone who is a mutual friend of yours.

Social media, if used properly as an integral component of your overall Internet marketing strategy, will maximize your public relations efforts. I believe we have only seen the beginning of its potential. It will take considerable planning, work and time to establish, but if done properly should yield results within a reasonable time.

Andrew Powers of Powers & Company specializes in international tax, business development and public relations and has successfully used the Internet, including social media, to expand his “sphere of influence” and attract new business from clients around the globe. He can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn and has numerous informative and opinion articles found on the Tax Power Web site at www.tax-power.com.

This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue.

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