Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why "Sell" Isn't a Four Letter Word

Public relations professionals live in a professional box. Our work and contributions are certainly valuable as the awareness and third-party credibility we deliver creates an environment in which a company can more successfully execute its growth strategy. Yet, the return on investment of a PR spend is inherently difficult to measure.

This is why in difficult economic times there is an across the board cut in public relations budgets, as well as other hard-to-measure marketing tactics such as advertising and brand promotion.

A number of respected communications consultants have argued companies that invest in marketing promotion during a downturn will increase brand awareness at a lower cost, while typically realizing an uptick in sales when the market begins to grow. Yet, this contention falls flat because corporate leadership is evaluated on measurable benchmarks today (i.e. sales and profitability), not some fuzzy hope for the future.

Into this environment arrives social media as a channel to reach prospects, partners, investors, employees and market influencers in a more measurable, targeted fashion. The business case for a company to fund an investment in social media is clear and compelling:

-produces leads from prospects who have self-identified
-supports sales cycle and cross-sell activities
-enhances search engine optimization (SEO)
-increases the success of co-marketing and partner programs
-improves customer relationships
-delivers awareness and market positioning

Public relations execs are the most qualified to deliver on the promise of social media for an organization because we excel at developing content that engages, educates and entertains. You’d think PR folks would enthusiastically wave the social media flag pointing to its comprehensive and measurable ROI.

That’s not the case though. In fact, there are a number of social media consultants who fall back to a murky, difficult to measure value proposition. No…no…social media is not for sales activities, they argue. It’s strictly designed for community and conversation, and any company that employs social media for promotional purposes simply doesn’t get “it.”

Great, I’ll see you on the unemployment line. What I really want to know is when did “sell” become a four-letter word?

We view things differently at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic). We understand that commerce occurs when a person makes a buy decision. It’s a customer signing a contract. An investor acquiring stock. Or an employee agreeing to come aboard. And our role as PR/social media consultants is to help our clients move their business forward more quickly and in a measurable way.

So, the next time you plan a social media initiative don’t shy from tying the campaign to measurable lead generation and sales goals. You’ll get funding for your program and deliver an ROI that helps your company grow its business while enhancing your own value to the organization.

1 comment:

Mel said...

'Sell' became a four letter word a long time ago, reguardless of how you justify it now. No one likes to be sold to.

The sales process of any company is about identifying the customers REAL need and being able to offer a solution. When a company takes that approach, they no longer need to sell and 'selling' is taken out of the equation.

Because consumers are bombarded with conflicting messages and pitches, is all the more reason that a company NEEDS to fully and honestly know who their market is. To many companies guess or simply just do not have a clue because in their view "everyone needs what I offer." That is never true and there is always plenty of business to go around.