When I talk about what I call Social Retail Marketing™️ (SRM) and emphasize that the first step in a sale is building trust through social media channels rather than pushing a sale, people often look incredulous. They ask, “I want to sell something, but I shouldn’t focus on selling it? Are you crazy?”
No, I’m not.
Even in an economy as impatient as ours, one process cannot be rushed: creating a relationship, which is a foundation of building trust.
Imagine you meet a stranger at a party, and the first thing she says is, “Hey do you want to go to Rome with me tomorrow?” If you had established a relationship, the answer might be, “Yes!” But when someone opens with this proposal, you’ll quickly edge away from her. Warning lights go off. You’ll never give it another chance to discover whether you might have been compatible.
Unfortunately, marketers all too often try to skip the relationship and engagement steps, with the result that the consumer simply moves on to something else. Why? Because modern consumers resist and resent the hard-sell strategies that worked in the past. That’s especially true inside the social media channels that are the key to an SRM approach, and the cornerstone to sales success in today’s impatience economy.
Crucial to SRM is the concept of “priming” as defined by Nobel-Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Particularly important for our purposes is his well-established notion that purchasing decisions are shaped by our experiences prior to a purchase.
Imagine two people of comparable incomes, equally interested in baseball. You might expect both would be equally eager to buy tickets to an upcoming game. But you would be wrong. If, just before the sales pitch, person x had been watching a video about baseball and person y had been watching a video about anything else, person x is far more likely to buy the ticket. He is “primed” to make a purchase in a way his fellow fan was not.
How is this relevant to SRM?
If you hope to make a sale, your chances of doing so increase dramatically if you involve consumers in a story — before you make your pitch.
That’s precisely what SRM seeks to accomplish: first you establish a trusting two-way relationship by creating and sharing stories and experiences — and only then do you propose your trip to Rome.
Traditional marketing cuts straight to the sale; in SRM, the relationship and building trust always comes first. And while the latter approach begins more slowly, the final result is more profitable because you are laying the foundation for a long-term series of purchases rather than swooping in for a quick win.
Moreover, the SRM approach gets more productive over time because with every encounter, the seller knows the individual consumer better and better. So your offerings are progressively tailored to the consumer’s desires and preferences. Particularly with social media, you can use real-time data and consumer behavior to drive results.
Consider two companies that are doing this well.
By forming a partnership with Vivid Seats, ESPN demonstrates that it understands the priming model. Their sports highlights get fans in the ticket-buying mood, and then they provide a frictionless link to Vivid Seats — and walk away with a piece of every purchase.
Simple and brilliant. Everyone benefits: consumers, ESPN, and Vivid Seats.
Second, consider Cisco’s Twitter campaign called, “There’s never been a better time to…” Each one-minute video completes the sentence in a different way (e.g., “… connect those in need”, “… save the rhinos”, “… change the world”). Instead of focusing on its products, the videos focused on their impacts.
The video starts: “Let’s talk about now. Right now. We’ve got clouds protecting rhinos [there’s an image of drones above rhinos] and mobile technology finding clean water [there’s an image of a girl drinking beside a well in India]. Right now. Not tomorrow. Not five years in the future. Now. And right now, this child [there’s an image of a boy in Africa] can be treated by a doctor … six-thousand miles away. This is science. Not fiction… And there’s never been a better time to change the world”.
Storytelling is in the foreground and Cisco is in the background. Cisco focused on technology as a force for good, a more nuanced message than a self-serving assertion that the company has great technology. To be sure, each video ends with a quick image of the company’s logo. But by then you’ve already had 55 seconds of breathtaking video and don’t resent the closing reference.
And by using the same opening line and style in each video, the company established a template viewers would instantly connect with other videos in the series. By resisting the urge to promote themselves, Cisco did a better job of … promoting itself. And they built a trusting relationship with consumers, one that will eventually pay bigger dividends than the traditional hard sell.
How do you build trust before the sale? Tell a story, share an experience, create a relationship using Social Retail Marketing!