Social media can be used to flip the sales and marketing funnel and prompt customers to do much of the marketing and sales for your brand.
Giffgaff, a British pay-as-you-go mobile network, takes a unique approach to managing customer service, marketing, and sales. Rather than hire scores of employees, the company leverages its customer base to do the lion's share of the work.
An online customer community handles most service-related questions. As for sales, the company rewards customers for referrals by providing discounts on monthly service plans and other perks.
Not only does this "flip-the-funnel" approach create an army of enthusiastic brand advocates, it relieves the company of expenses associated with full-time employees and improves profit margins in the offing.
Start with Your Current Customers
In his best-selling book, Flip the Funnel, author Joseph Jaffe encourages marketers to rethink the traditional AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action) sales model and, instead, start with the customers you already have.
Jaffe even introduces a new version of the acronym, with a slight reordering of the letters:
• A: Acknowledge your customers
• D: Engage them in Dialogue
• I: Incentivize further action
• A: Activate recommendations and additional purchases
Ask yourself: What proportion of your business comes from existing customers versus new customers? What percentage of your marketing budget is spent on existing customers versus new customers? Is there a mismatch? Ask new customers how many came to you via marketing messages, and how many came via word of mouth. A mismatch may exist there, too, between what you spend on advocacy activation versus old-school AIDA selling,
The message is simple but smart: flip the funnel and make customer retention your new acquisition strategy. Focus your sales and marketing investment on delivering remarkable experiences that are worth recommending.
Use Social Media to Flip the Funnel
Flipping the funnel has implications where social media is concerned. What bigger megaphone exists today than social networks, and what better way to turn customers into a sales force than by leveraging social technologies?
In his e-book, Flipping the Funnel, author and well-known marketing expert Seth Godin outlines a slightly different path than Jaffe. He recommends that brands "turn strangers into friends, friends into customers, and customers into salespeople." Anything you can do to incite social sharing and get people talking about you is worth the effort.
The social focus of your flip-the-funnel strategy should be to activate advocacy and facilitate sharing. Here are some ideas to inspire your thinking:
By empowering customers to become brand advocates, companies can build loyalty, increase lifetime value, and leverage word-of-mouth referrals. The key lies in flipping the funnel and turning retention into a primary customer acquisition strategy.
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Paul Chaney is principal of Chaney Marketing Group, a boutique agency that provides integrated online marketing solutions built on the concept that quality, optimized content framed within the proper context drives sales conversions.
He is a freelance writer, popular speaker, and author of four books on the topics of business blogging, social media, and social commerce. His latest is "The Social Commerce Handbook: 20 Secrets for Turning Social Media into Social Sales," published by McGraw-Hill.
Paul sits on the board of advisors for the Women's Wisdom Network, the Social Media Marketing Institute, SmartBrief on Social Media, and MyVenturePad.com.
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