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Posted on 03.08.2011

Engage Before You Sell: Social Media Book Based on the Old Rules of Good PR

I just finished reading Scott Stratten’s UnMarketing, wherein he stresses that businesses need to stop pitching their products and start engaging their target audiences. What struck me about his pithy cornucopia of sound advice on how to drive sales in an online world is how much it reminded me of two things:  old-fashioned grassroots/guerilla marketing (think Jay Levinson) and one of the greatest business books of all time, Service America!, by Karl Albrecht and Ron Zemke in 1985.  These guys’ books still sit on my bookcase and inspire me from time to time, and Stratten’s book offers the same fundamentals through a fresh and relevant perspective. Levinson coined “guerilla marketing” in 1984 and taught us to roll up our sleeves and physically go where our customers are, be it by stuffing windshields with flyers in mall parking lots (I’m not sure you can still do this in some places) or dropping buckets of business cards out of a helicopter (I know this is off-limits these days.) Service America! preached that every single contact with a customer is a “moment of truth” that defines your brand and makes you either a hero or a goat…so training and inspiring your employees to “be” your brand promise is the difference between those businesses that truly deliver the promise and those who just talk about it. Stratten’s new book is essentially about public relations - building relationships with your customers and publics.  He explains how to take something as impersonal as technology and make it an authentic and valuable medium by which to build and nurture relationships. There are hundreds of tidbits in this valuable (and sometimes irreverent) guidebook on how to better market (I mean un-market) your business via social media.  Just one of my favorite pieces of advice is: Give it away.  If you’re a thought leader and an expert in your field, give away a little free advice.  Use your website, white papers, blogs and newsletters to share your expertise, not to pitch your product.  Don’t be concerned that you won’t make a sale if you give away a free nugget.  If indeed you are an expert, there’s plenty more where that came from, right?  Give your potential customer a reward for spending time on your site or blog and they’ll come back for more.

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