Bad Advice Time: Don’t Try to Sell Online

By Margie Clayman

Bad Advice Time: Don't Try to Sell Online image 46257591 774bc159e2 m

Tom says as a business, you have to stop thinking about how you sell because you don’t really sell anymore. Instead you help buyers make a buying decision. When they make their decision, hopefully it will be in your favor. Although it won’t always be the case.

Thus wrote Michael Stelzner of the popular social media site Social Media Examiner in September 2013 while summarizing his podcast interview with Tom Martin, a self-proclaimed veteran of the ad business.

You see this kind of statement quite often in online marketing circles these days. Consider also these statements, both of which are from a post that Ted Rubin, author of “Return on Relationship,” wrote back in December of 2012:

“Short and simple: if you are only focused on the money, you risk completely overlooking the people. ”

“People hate to be sold—especially on social channels, where their main objective is to talk, get opinions, relax and have fun, or find answers to pressing problems.”

What’s missing from these kinds of statements is nuance. Nobody is going to enjoy being blasted with sales messages all day long. That is certainly true. Problems arise, though, if your company focuses exclusively on “building relationships.” Here is how that becomes an obstacle.

Social Media Serendipity

Especially when Social Media was new, there was a lot of talk about what could be summarized as social media serendipity. The idea was that you spend time connecting with as many people as possible. One day someone posts to Twitter or Facebook that they need better wheels for their bike. You happen to own a bike shop, so you say, “Oh, I sell those.” Because you have connected online, so the logic goes, that person will be inclined to purchase from you because people are more likely to buy from people whom they know.

Needless to say, this sounds fantastic. There is a problem with this scenario, however, and this is where a lot of the “relationship” and “human-to-human” people miss the mark. If you do not establish from the beginning of your time online that you are promoting a company, a product, or a service, your sudden pouncing on a person’s post may seem just as creepy as if you hadn’t known them at all. In this case, you are suddenly and without warning turning what seemed to be a genuine friendship into a potential customer/business relationship.

The Balanced Dance

So how can you sell without being one of those over-promotional companies that people use to exemplify why selling doesn’t work online? There are a few subtle steps you can take. For example, make sure that your “about” on Facebook and your bio on Twitter mention some facet of your professional life if that is why you are online. Don’t be afraid to occasionally mention your company’s goings-on or your company Facebook page, but make sure you interact with people, share other people’s content, and work on building relationships in tandem with reminding people that you offer a certain kind of product or service.

The Bottom Line

If you are a company using social media to try to grow your company, your efforts will not work if you avoid selling at all costs. Your efforts will not work if you spend all of your time and effort simply on relationship-building. Relationships in business have ALWAYS been important, but they were always developed in a context of, “we are coming together to talk about business.” While it’s true that people do not want to be sold to ALL of the time, if you want social media marketing to work for you, you are going to have to find a way to balance your approach so that you can accomplish your personal and financial objectives.

Have any questions? Feel free to drop us a comment below!

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