As a business owner with three decades of experience in the custom electronics industry, I have been blessed enough to be consulted as an influencer among CE and CI professionals. I also know what it’s like to play many roles. If you’re anything like me, you make the effort to get ahead even after your work is done by reading industry news, participating in training, maintaining certifications, and beyond. Between that and the time dedicated to meeting potential new clients, most business professionals will unfortunately miss the chance to properly market themselves on social media. In doing so, they will lose out on the most critical (and simple) way to build that influence, tell their story and engage with the market: social media.
According to the CE Pro 2016 State of the Industry report, in the past decade the influence of the integrator has diminished. And that’s a shame, because we all know what we’re capable of when we do our best work and have a chance to share our subject matter expertise with a customer. Integrators have now become the primary product advisor on fewer than 40% of projects. If you’re considering what to do about that, then take a close look at social media for its low overhead, minimal time investment, and powerful reach.
For better or worse, the opportunity to influence a client’s buying decision is a popularity contest that is often won or lost before you have sized up the competition. Vendors with the most productive marketing messages are consistently leading the pack of trusted influencers, especially in the case of electronics such as smart home systems. Brick & mortar electronics retailers, security companies and broadband service providers have that influence because they are simply more visible to the consumer.
Residential integrators might be shocked to consider the recently reported research from Parks Associates showing that consumers in broadband-enabled households rank service contractors as their sixth choice to recommend and purchase smart home systems, just between utility providers and HVAC contractors. Integrators taking on light commercial projects have even more reason to get involved on social media. Most savvy business owners use social media for networking and buying decisions. Not to mention the fact that industries such as hospitality, education, and retail rely so heavily on social media in all manners of their business operations.
While it might be impossible to take on the major influencers at their own marketing game, the pound-for-pound battle can be won with social media. By telling the story of your expertise on Facebook, for example, you can level the playing field while also giving your potential clients a forum to ask questions, request a quote, and see a look-book of your completed projects. Custom integrators can win back that influence in the marketplace with this blend of ten offensive and defensive social media tactics to promote their business.
Tactics for a great social media offense:
1) Generate positive content
Ensure there is positive content by posting your own information and keeping in mind what might be a future road block to an opportunity. A good metric is to think when you’re posting “will this create trust?” or “will this differentiate me?” Focus on social media posts that addresses and overcomes common objections that the average customer has.
2) Strategize for searches
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of tagging your name along with specific information that you want to be associated with to ensure you appear more often to those individuals with focused interest. For example, “Licensed and insured contractor” might put you in a category of 10 million businesses, whereas “Portland’s most trusted home theater installer” narrows you down right to the focus point where your customers may be looking.
3) Actively manage your reputation
When investing time into social media content, highlight your best traits. A picture is worth a thousand words, so showing a happy customer or a completed custom job adds to the positive inferences your future customers may make when they’re ready to give someone a call. Make frequent references to areas where you hold subject matter expertise.
4) Edit yourself
Don’t be afraid to ask others to remove your name from a post or delete a photo of you if it’s not something you would like your clients to see. Thinking strategically about your digital reputation makes sure that you are already aware of what others will find out about you.
5) Stay current
Develop positive content about yourself and your expertise. A blog is an amazing outlet for short, targeted stories as long as you can commit to posting at regular intervals. If not, start with an illustrated online portfolio that includes any pictures you might have of completed work.
Tactics for a great social media defense:
6) Monitor your online reputation
Searching for your name is an easy way to pay attention to any content associated with you. Past reviews, client feedback, old websites, and other places that your name might appear are things you should at least be aware of, if not control.
7) Keep an eye on notifications
Once you’re on social media, there are built-in tools to notify you about updates to your photos, shares, tags, follows and comments. Your ability to communicate in a reasonable turnaround time has a big impact on your success, the same as it would for returning phone calls or visiting clients.
8) Review your privacy settings
While an open and honest forum is wonderful, you may need to monitor what is posted and who has access to comment on your posts or rate your service. Take a moment to review the basics of where your privacy stands on any social media network you join.
9) Protect yourself
Account security is very important, particularly with the prevalence of hacking and password theft in the digital age. Keep your personal identifying information private and change passwords periodically to stay safe.
10) Know the terms
While it is often forgotten or overlooked, every social network has their own fine print. The terms of service for the websites and social networks you choose to use may affect who owns or has access to share content that is posted, so take extra care with copyrighted content.
Now that you know the basics, consider why such a substantial percentage of the CE Pro 100 rely so heavily on social media? It’s safe to say that they have realized through experience the benefit of engaging with their customers on a media network that they own and control. Your Facebook profile or LinkedIn account is both a wholly-customizable publishing forum and a launchpad to connect with your customer base.
Social media is a form of expression that could be more important than networking to your growing business. Be an influencer in the CE market by evolving to incorporate new marketing tactics into your business repertoire.