Why Don’t We Sell Stuff on Social?

Is it right or wrong to try to sell things on Facebook? Well, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, it all depends on the business, the product, and the way customers reach out to your company.

Consider the Buying Process

Right now, I work for a company that sells cars.  Now, if you sell flowers, or birthday presents or little things that people buy on impulse, then it’s perfectly appropriate to sell stuff on Facebook.

As compared to buying a car, the purchasing process is way shorter for someone buying earrings for Great Aunt Sally whose birthday they just got the reminder for on their Facebook wall.  The recognition of need occurs on Facebook. With the trends changing in social search, the research and evaluation of options could very well occur on Facebook. So could selection and purchase of those goods.

A car, on the other hand, is a serious purchase. It’s big and it will impact a person’s life going forward.  The cargo space and number of seats determines whether their car is just right for a camping trip, or if it’s too small for another car seat in the back.  The fuel economy will impact spending decisions and commuting options from day one. Not to mention the fact that most drivers must finance their car purchases, adding to their monthly bills.

For a car purchase, the process is much slower. An automotive customer can take weeks or months to determine what make and model of car is right for them.   They can hold onto an older car long after the “recognition of need” phase of the buying cycle.

And even though statistics show that some people are using Facebook instead of search more often, it’s likely that an automotive customer will use a variety of resources to research their next car purchase, from soliciting reviews from Twitter followers to Kelly Blue Book and Google.

Where Does Social Meet YOUR Customers?

image of marketing funnel and customer buying process
copyright Alicia King 2010

For the graphic shown, we’re talking about where social media meets the average automotive customer.   They see social media pre-purchase in brand awareness campaigns, and they might stumble across the automotive social media sites while they are in the research phase.

But a typical automotive customer is not going to go to a dealer’s Facebook page for inventory. They might go to get news about fresh models or information about current deals or offers, they might even try to gauge how ethical a dealership is, but they aren’t going there to buy.

When they are thinking about buying, they will go to the actual company website; they will walk in for a test drive. At that point, they are further down in the sales funnel than social media can really reach.

However, that same customer might very well come back to the social media outlet after their successful purchase! If they had an amazing experience, they might become a brand evangelist. If they know there are service coupons available for their new car, they might fan the page to get special discounts.

You see in the graphic, that social media appears again after the sale, and at the top of the funnel for ongoing service and maintenance!

What does this mean?

By understanding your customer’s buying process, their timeline, and the customer lifecycle, you can determine the exact kinds of messages you should be adding to your social media mix!

For the example here – a car dealership – they have no business talking about sales, unless it’s a high level mention of incredible deals.  They should focus on model news, dealership news that give a feeling of the culture of the company, happy customer reviews, and service specials and service tips.

Where do your customers meet you on social media? At what point are they coming to you? This will give you the best guidance for what you should be saying in that venue.

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