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6 Social Media Changes That Will Rattle Business

LikeSocial media has already had a huge impact on businesses both large and small. But according to the latest projections from the research firm International Data Corp. (IDC), there’s a lot more change coming. IDC analysts expect the coming year to be pivotal for social media in business with (among other things) a new emphasis on using social to grow profits, not just gather followers.

New social-friendly devices and computer operating systems will spur growth of so-called “social business” – business conducted via social media. New types of “discovery” shopping will evolve from a combination of tablet usage and an emphasis on visual, rather than text-based messages.

Drawing from the latest IDC research and internal brainstorming sessions among IDC’s analysts, here are six key social business and social media changes that could have a major impact on how you do business in the year ahead (follow us @140Main or check BizBest’s Social Media section for future updates):

1. Social platforms become the new shop fronts

Until now, most businesses have used social media as an extension of their public relations or marketing efforts, focusing attention on such things as news and updates. But as more and more small companies expand sales and customer service efforts to multiple channels, social media will become a true social business platform. In essence, social media will spawn digital storefronts for everything from local businesses to multinational corporations.

2. Sales supersede “likes” and followers

As business owners and marketers in general continue gaining experience with Facebook and other social platforms, they will become more demanding about the return they get on their social media investments. With businesses questioning the actual value of “likes”, fans and followers, attention will shift to real results and outcomes of social media efforts. It will become increasingly important to measure and track results from social media, and apply the information to your own definition of success.

3. Visual social takes off

Online marketing efforts that include a visual component (images, video, info graphics, etc.) get better results than text-only. As this sinks in, social platforms (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn) will add new features and focus on visual networking.  The success of the image-sharing site Pinterest is just one example of how popular and effective visuals have become in the digital world. The increasing popularity of tablets such as iPads – which are great for visuals – help drive this change. The newspaper industry currently has a major joint effort underway to reinvent the standard circular into a whole new digital discovery experience for tablet (visit Wanderful.com for info).

4. Groupon’s last gasp

As Groupon continues to struggle and face competition from countless similar services, the Groupon approach will give way to new types of group purchasing conducted via social media communities and what’s being called “Social Local Mobile.” In SoLoMo, local businesses make offers directly to customers on their mobile devices.

5. Social business gets a boost from new devices and operating systems

Apple and Microsoft are both integrating social into the newest versions of their mobile and desktop operating systems. As a result, social media will become an easier experience for the user and more effective for businesses that understand and leverage the new social business environment. With the release of each new device and system, the social media experience becomes a more integral part of everyday life for customers and prospects.

6. Gap between “haves” and “have-nots” widens

Despite the massive growth of social media, business owners and executives remain polarized on the role social media should play in running a business. The pro-social camp will continue to explore social not just as something new and shiny, but also as the very foundation of their businesses. They will expand their efforts on multiple fronts. The social doubters, on the other hand, see Facebook’s 2012 stock offering debacle as confirmation that the value of social media remains in question. This will give the social media adopters a continued advantage, just as businesses that embraced the Internet early on gained an edge.

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Six Lead Ranking Tactics that Really Pay Off

Ranking your leads – also called “lead scoring” – is an exercise most small business owners don’t bother with. At least not in a formal sense. But that may be passing up an opportunity to make follow-up efforts more effective by targeting and nurturing them in different ways based on their score.

Lead scoring is basically a way of objectively ranking your sales leads according to a variety of factors such as expected time to purchase, level of interest, “fit” and others. It’s about trying to determine the quality of your leads and allocate your immediate efforts toward the ones that have the best chance of converting, while others go into the nurture track.

More Important Now than Ever

Lead scoring is becoming increasingly important today for small businesses that are strapped for resources and need to do more, with less. In that environment, it’s a perfect fit. Different types of leads call for different types of follow-up. For example, some may fall into the long-term bucket, while others are just plain hot.

According to a study by Aberdeen Group, a major business research firm, companies that do lead scoring right are able to qualify leads at a 192 percent higher rate than other companies. Not only does lead scoring help you hone in on the most promising prospects, it also gives you an objective way to calculate and schedule the right types of follow-up for each ranking level.

Online Behavior is Key

The old “BANT” approach to lead scoring (does the lead have: Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline) doesn’t work well anymore. Today’s buyers – both consumers and businesses – start their information gathering process much earlier than in the past and rely on the web – and social media in particular – more than ever before. While most businesses have little visibility into this web-based behavior, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems are still trying to figure this out, new “Social CRM” services such as Nimble (www.nimble.com) are revolutionizing how this is done, especially for smaller businesses and work groups.

Here are six lead-ranking tactics that can really pay off for any size business:

1)    Start by clearly defining what constitutes a “priority lead” for your business. Once you communicate this to your sales people it gives you a handy way to measure how good they are at engaging these prospects and closing sales.

2)    Create a system to capture information on leads, score it and measure it. Key information you will want to understand is whether the lead is the right person to purchase your product or service, and whether they have the right level of interest.

3)    Consider information from the digital and social “graph.”  While you still want traditional demographic or business information on prospects such as age, income level and job title, the real key to discerning true purchasing intent is found in “behavioral” type information. In other words, it’s not who they are that defines them, it’s what they actually do. And since this can be found online, today’s term for this is “digital body language.” Tracking what prospects do online, in social media, to consume information about your business and interact with you in some way is far more powerful ammunition than information you might get, say, by telephone.

4)    Pick your proof points. There’s no single way to define a lead score, as it differs business to business. But generally you’ll want to assign a number (1-5 for example) and/or weighting (such as 10-30%) for each factor. In a B2B setting, for example, factors might include the level of pain (that is, how badly they need a solution to a problem), the prospect’s job role, business or industry and the source of the lead.

5)    Map your prospects’ variations. Spell out the type of lead that each score represents, and the follow-up action that’s called for. For example, the right person at the right time with the right amount of interest is top priority and gets immediate attention. Likewise, the right prospect at the wrong time is flagged with nurturing and follow-up. A lead that’s ranked as a wrong fit with no interest can be eliminated.

6)    Keep it simple to start. Don’t try to use too many scoring criteria or create complex follow-up plans. Start with a simple approach and carefully measure your results. You can always expand from there.

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