Using Twitter to Build Your Business

Using Twitter to Build Your Business

This week, I had the privilege of speaking at the Microsoft Accelerator. “Ten Startups; Three Months; and Unlimited Innovation” is their motto. The Microsoft Accelerator is “powered by TechStars” and uses the same mentor-driven methodology that has been proven in Boston, Boulder, New York and Seattle. Mentors include entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, as well as Microsoft executives. While the title of my presentation was, “Using Twitter to Build Your Business,” the core of the discussion focused on the shift in sales and marketing from outbound to inbound.

After the founders introduced themselves and provided a 30-second overview of their companies, we reviewed five key statistics. They included: 1) 200M Americans (2/3 of the U.S.) are on the “do not call” list; 2) 86% of people fast-forward or skip advertisements; 3) 84% of people have left a favorite website due to intrusive or irrelevant advertisements; 4) 44% of direct mail is never opened; and 5) Average buyer is 70% through the decision-making process before ever engaging with a sales person. What is causing these changes in the market? The Internet.

The Internet has empowered buyers. Buyers can now do a Google search; pick the top three vendors; go to their websites; read about their products; determine how much they cost; and decide if they are a good fit. Buyers can also try most products for free and network with existing customers. How then can startups be successful? They must earn customers by: 1) Increasing their profile and stature online as functional/industry experts; 2) Sharing high-value content and knowledge; and 3) Targeting buying signals and engaging in conversations early.

We then reviewed the ongoing shift from outbound to inbound. The core message was that buyers can now control the information they receive and how they receive it. Traditionally, companies reached buyers through advertising and cold calling (disruptive marketing). The communication was a one-way monologue versus a two-way dialogue. Today, companies need to influence buyers early in their decision-making process by educating and adding value to them. It is about pulling buyers to you through SEO, social, etc., not pushing products to them.

Back to the title of my presentation, “Using Twitter to Build Your Business.” What is Twitter? Twitter is an information network that brings people closer to what is important to them. “What is important to them” is the key phrase. People use Twitter to 1) connect to their interests, 2) find out what is happening and 3) share information. How can startups use Twitter to help build their businesses? There are three primary ways. First, by engaging in ongoing conversations. Second, by helping buyers find them. Third, by turning leads into customers.

Engaging in Ongoing Conversations
How do you engage in ongoing conversations? First, use hashtags (#) to target specific topics (e.g., #IaaS). Participate in conversations by sharing high-value content and knowledge. Second, reply to relevant tweets from people you follow; especially people with influence (e.g., Jonathan Becher, CMO, SAP). Third, remember, it is not the number of followers that is important, it is the quality of the conversations you have with them. Note both TweetAdder for targeted location/subject/title searches and TwitHawk for targeted keyword/location triggers are useful tools.

Being retweeted also increases your exposure and helps you earn new followers. A retweet is a re-posting of your tweet by another member of Twitter. How can you increase your odds of being retweeted? First, focus on sharing great content and knowledge. Second, ask for a retweet. If you say, “Please Retweet” at the start of your message you are four times more likely to be retweeted than having no call-to-action. If you say, “Please RT,” you are three times more likely to be retweeted. Third, 80% of all RTs contain a link. Use these statistics to your advantage.

Helping Buyers Find You
How do you help prospects find you? 1) Blog. Create great content by making it both educational and solution-focused. 2) Share. Proactively engage in ongoing conversations by sharing high-value content and knowledge. 3) Syndicate. Distribute content to other websites for greater reach and visibility (e.g., CustomerThink). Note HubSpot’s Marketing Grader (marketing.grader.com) is a free online tool. It provides an evaluation of your blog, SEO and social presence online and makes recommendations for strengthening them.

Helping customers find you is the core of inbound marketing. It is about creating great content and sharing it in the right context. Context means subject and tone in the right forum. It is about using social to share information and knowledge. The goal is to get found by buyers with a business problem that your product can solve. It is also about optimizing content for search to increase visibility. Buyers click on 80% earned results (content) and 20% on paid results (advertising). Inbound is about converting traffic into leads and leads into customers.

Turning Leads into Customers
How do you turn leads into customers? 1) Capture. Collect the buyer’s contact information when they visit your website and request a product demonstration, whitepaper, etc. 2) Follow Up. Call the buyer to understand their business problem and help them solve it with your product or service. 3) Nurture. Continue to deliver great content to buyers that have given permission to receive it until they are ready to buy. Remember, the sales funnel exists to covert leads into customers. Track the closure rate of lead types and assign them scores to ensure the right prioritization.

Questions: One, who is your target audience? What decision-makers do you need to influence? Two, where is your target audience on the web? What forums are they actively engaged? Three, what type of content do they need or want? What type of content is working? Four, how will you get buyers into the sales funnel? For example, product trial, webinar, etc.? Five, how will you measure and test your efforts? How will you listen to customers and make adjustments based on their feedback? Create a continuous feedback loop of building, measuring and learning.

All contents copyright © 2012, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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One Response to Using Twitter to Build Your Business

  1. John Lehm says:

    This post was very useful to me. Can you please take a look at our blog also?

    Like

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