Eliminating Obstacles—Connecting with Potential Customers

Latasha Crenshaw, owner of AC Sweepers, and NAPSA member, is planning on incorporating social media into her marketing mix as she begins the second year of her sweeping business. Crenshaw grew up around her parents’ sweeping business and feels that social media is going to have a big impact on the industry.

“I started my business in January 2012 and am in the process of professionally updating my website to appeal to customers,” says Crenshaw. “Once that is complete, I’ll utilize Facebook and LinkedIn to connect to my customers.

“I see more communication between customers with social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. It’s a great way to communicate with customers, peers, and employees. I think it will be a great tool for manufacturers to announce new equipment or a new type of technology.

“Personally, I’m interested in recycling and the environment. So, if I find an article or some type of trend that is going on within the industry, or anything that has to do with alternative fuels, I’d like to post it or send it out to the people that have connected with me through LinkedIn or Facebook. I hope that some discussions will come out of it.”

Crenshaw isn’t new to social media sites. “At my last job in sales, I used Facebook for about six years and LinkedIn for three. I pushed information to my customers through those sites when I was in the health care industry. I also communicated with other sales peers about other companies’ best practices.”

Crenshaw has used LinkedIn to get in touch with property managers when she was having trouble getting beyond the gatekeeper. “It’s happened three or four times,” says Crenshaw. “We exchanged emails and I got a chance to meet with them face-to-face. A lot of times, I find that we have mutual associations or connections. Sometimes they are connected to competitors. If you have a mutual connection, then they feel that it is okay to connect to you as well.”

Crenshaw sees social media as one more tool in the box that will allow her to connect to potential customers. “It could take up to seven different ways to connect to a customer. It’s helped me obtain customers and information that I would have otherwise not gotten. When I connect to a person, it’s more reliable information than a website. It’s kind of like a huge yellow pages and you can connect to the people you need to connect to. They may know someone in another area. It’s also an easier way to get introduced to new products. I purchased a truck in June and connected with someone that had a similar truck and we talk about our trucks through Facebook.”

In fact, Crenshaw sees networking with peers as the biggest benefit. “I’m looking forward to networking with others and sharing best practices and other information.”

Some people already have a personal Facebook page, but Crenshaw suggests creating another page for business use. “You should have a professional company site that is up and running and connected to customers,” says Crenshaw. “At the same time, I connected to a Target district manager through my personal account. So, it just depends on the person. He saw that I’m a family-oriented person and he is too, so we got to know each other through Facebook. It also allows them to see how you are as a business person. If you don’t have a crazy personal site, then you are more likely to get connected. If you are into sports, and they are too, then that may be something that brings you together.

“I’ve also used LinkedIn for my research. I was trying to find a Walmart store manager, and used the search engine for the Atlanta area. A number of things popped up. LinkedIn is a way to find out who that person is that is sitting on the other end of that bid, like a property manager in a specific company. I utilize and connect to different associations as well to get industry-wide information. I look to see what others are doing in their industry; what their trends are and other news and information that is out there. It’s also a good way to find out what they are worried about in certain areas.”

While there are different versions of LinkedIn, Crenshaw utilizes the free one, but plans to upgrade to the paid version when her site is finished. She also suggests uploading a good picture of yourself so that people can match a face with your name when they are talking to you. “People want to connect with a person, not a name,” says Crenshaw.

Having these social media sites can also help your business rank higher on organic search engine returns, also known as search engine optimization (SEO) when people click on your website through these avenues.

“It helped me substantially, because I was able to first connect to that customer, and it was no longer a cold call situation,” says Crenshaw. “They may delete an email, however, if a potential customer receives a request to link with a mutual connection, it adds to that personal touch. It helps eliminate the initial hurdle.”

Story by Jennifer Taylor