When was the last time you asked a complete stranger to have a business meeting and they instantly agreed? No referral or introduction at play, you approached a complete stranger and they eagerly wanted to do business with you. Can you recall such an instance? It’s rare. Sure, once in a blue moon the stars align and you meet the perfect person, at the perfect time, with the perfect need, and they instantly trust you. But this is highly atypical.
If you are implementing colder prospecting tactics (especially through social networks like LinkedIn) it’s imperative that you have a clearly defined strategy for developing awareness. According to a study by Google, over half of the decision to work with any service provider has been made before they meet them face-to-face.
Prospects in today’s digital world need to become familiar with you and your services. Their familiarity with you comes from due diligence they conduct online and the actions you take to increase their awareness of you. You can create this awareness, and help them feel comfortable with you by generating online “brand impressions.” Our social media coach Charlie Van Derven teaches this concept, and while this might sound abstract, it’s actually quite simple and powerful.
Brand impressions are actions that increase a prospect’s awareness about your product or service.
A simple analogy can help further clarify the concept of brand impressions. Flash back to your high-school days. You want to ask Jennifer on a date, but unfortunately, Jennifer doesn’t even know you exist. If you asked her on a date without her knowing who you are, you could come across as creepy. You might even scare her a little. Yikes! Instead, you would take actions to build up to your request. You might do things like:
- Make eye contact and smile at her in the hallways
- Initiate small talk
- Join the same student clubs and organizations
- Tell her that you know her best friend Jill
- Help her in the parking lot when you notice her car won’t start
You get the idea. All of these actions put you on her radar and create a cumulative effect. These actions build up to your request for a date. Think of your business brand impressions the same way.
Here’s a real life business example. Let’s say you source a prospect through LinkedIn. Rather than ask them outright to talk business, you could generate a series of brand impressions to increase the prospect’s awareness of you. Things such as:
- View your prospect’s profile a few times and let the prospect know you viewed their profile. (i.e. Don’t be in anonymous mode)
- Send them a highly personalized invitation to connect
- Send them a “thank you” message for connecting
- Send them helpful articles or white papers
- Comment on a LinkedIn group discussion they started
- Follow them on Twitter
- Retweet one of their Twitter posts
- Post a LinkedIn status update they read
But remember, these actions need to create a gradual impression that builds over time. You should spread these actions out over at least a thirty day period. Also, it’s not necessary to do all of the actions listed above (they are just examples). As these impressions build, the probability of the prospect agreeing to a business meeting increases. Too often, we source a prospect and ask for the business. This strategy requires you to invest a little more time but the receptivity to business requests will improve dramatically. Creating positive brand impressions is not going to happen in a week, it could take several weeks or even months.
Generating awareness about your services is done one prospect at a time, over time. So, who’s your Jennifer? Does she know you exist?
Kevin Nichols (@KevinANichols) is a thought-leader with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry.www.oechsli.com.