E-commerce Link: Would You 'Like' to Buy?
It wasn't terribly obvious to the folks at SteelMaster Buildings that Facebook was a good place to be prospecting. As it turns out, the company is one of the best Facebook B-to-B examples I've found to-date. Here's how the business gets U.S. and international leads and sales—right on its Facebook page.
SteelMaster is a 30-year-old company selling prefabricated steel buildings and roofing mainly for industrial, agricultural and military use. Let's face it, Facebook doesn't exactly pop to mind when you think "corrugated steel buildings."
Yet SteelMaster is generating and converting leads to new customers—all across the globe—by applying three success principles in very interesting ways. They company is:
1. Solving problems: SteelMaster is solving unique problems for customers that, when witnessed by new prospects, fosters "can-do" confidence in them.
2. Designing to sell: The company is giving customers incentives to tell stories that spread quickly and provoke new customer prospects to contact the company.
3. Creating curiosity in prospects: This B-to-B and B-to-C seller is exploiting what customers already love doing on Facebook (sharing photos) in ways that create curiosity and action.
Exposing Customers' Successes to Win Leads
Here's the rub: SteelMaster successfully exploits one of Facebook's top activities, photo sharing. Through photos and videos (telling stories) of current customers' projects, the company plants seeds in the minds of latent (long-term) prospects and creates "tip-ins" for customers on the edge of a purchase.
SteelMaster's products often solve unique problems for niche customers. That's why the company exposes potential new customers to this fact through photos and videos of existing customers on Facebook.
SteelMaster's buildings and roofs are literally some of the strongest structures on the planet. Plus, they're amazingly good in extreme applications. For example, they're exceptionally functional when protection from earthquakes, hurricanes and other violent acts of nature is needed.
Yet it's SteelMaster customers' ability to apply these products in creative ways that makes it possible for Facebook to create leads. SteelMaster's customers have always been good at finding insanely creative ways to apply their products—nifty steel buildings. Facebook simply offers the ability for others to witness the remarkable, meaningful ways customers are applying products.
Here's how the success of current customers is resulting in leads on Facebook. When prospects witness an existing customer's success firsthand, it:
• plants a seed in their minds ("Hey, maybe I could use this kind of product to solve my problem"); and
• gives "can-do" confidence to prospects ("Hey, that looks simple, affordable and actually doable, without much risk or hassle").
Designing to Sell: Incentivizing Storytelling
SteelMaster is giving customers incentives to tell stories that spread quickly and provoke new customer prospects to contact the company.
You might want to read that last half again, because that's the part most of us miss.
SteelMaster's customers run the gamut, from everyday people to farmers to movie set designers to small businesses and global nonprofits who need reliable housing solutions in extreme conditions.
The uses for SteelMaster's products are visually intriguing. They tell many kinds of unique stories, spanning dozens of countries and languages. Sure, the company specializes in serving specific industrial markets. But there is no limit to the creative applications by the company's customers.
This is how the business discovered Facebook was a hotbed of lead generation activity just waiting to happen.
People love to tell their success stories. Think about the last time you assembled something that you weren't actually sure you could put together. We humans tend to be interested in showing off our finished creations. And this is especially the case with SteelMaster, considering how so many of its customers are do-it-yourselfers.
How to Get Leads From Photo Sharing
In the world of Facebook, there are few activities more popular than showing off photos. All of this photo-sharing activity spreads across the Facebook networks of friends, family and colleagues. That's why SteelMaster constantly encourages the showing-off and sharing of construction projects—both under way and completed. (Ask yourself, could your company encourage customers to show off photos that involve your products/services?)
This is why SteelMaster runs contests giving away $500 Home Depot gift cards to a lucky customer demonstrating the most creative application of its pre-fab steel materials.
The more photo-sharing activity, the more success stories get told. And the more success stories that get told, the more seeds get planted in the minds of those who see the stories.
All of that activity translates to more people beginning to imagine how a pre-fab steel building could serve a specific purpose in their business or personal life. And that translates to customers asking questions—right on SteelMaster's Facebook page.
And, of course, those questions become leads for SteelMaster's sales team to nurture.
SteelMaster is giving customers and prospects incentives to share their stories in ways that create leads for their business. Yet there's one more piece to the success puzzle that's important to remember.
Creating Curiosity in Prospects
None of this works without curiosity. SteelMaster's products themselves are visually interesting. They're simple, elegant and functional, yet the buildings beg to be photographed and videotaped, both in completion and during the build-out. But SteelMaster's strategy is all about creating curiosity.
SteelMaster is leveraging its customers' success stories to subtlety suggest "you can have this success, too" to future customers. The "visual spreading" of customers' success stories are literally worth paying for, because they create reactions—action.
And that's precisely why SteelMaster gives customers incentive to boast. Customer success stories create confidence among people who read them. "Could I do that? Would that suit my need?"
Curious onlookers often find themselves asking that—right there on SteelMaster's Facebook page.
So remember, it wasn't terribly obvious to the folks at SteelMaster that Facebook was a good place to be prospecting. What about your selling environment? Setting aside photo sharing and Facebook for a moment, are there ways for you to create this kind of intense, irresistible curiosity in your market?
Jeff Molander is the author of "Off the Hook Marketing" and adjunct faculty of digital marketing at Loyola University. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read his blogs at www.jeffmolander.com/blog and www.makesocialsell.com/blog.