Money may make the world go round, but online business seems to revolve around creating potential and nurturing future sales. Absolutely, the goal is always towards ‘real’ money. But there are other currencies that business can trade on to build leads, create demand and increase brand engagement. Looking more closely at the driving principles, and users, behind these new so called ‘sales currencies’ can reveal much about how to maximize sales opportunities that ultimately lead to the cold hard currency of cash.
Take Facebook ‘Likes’, for example. From humble beginnings in 2009 to a brand campaign tool, ‘likes’ have become a sales currency to be reckoned with. On a literal level, we have Pepsi’s ‘The Like Machine’, a vending machine that dispenses Pepsi samples in return for Facebook Likes instead of money.
It may seem gimmicky on the surface, but there were distinct and measurable benefits. Engagement with the Pepsi brand soared – and was quantifiable (new number of likes, increased activity with the Facebook page thereafter). The media loved it – the ‘gimmick’ appeared in over 300 publications. How is that for raising brand awareness? And if that wasn’t enough, the cost of designing and managing this campaign is likely to have been significantly cheaper than the promo stand/attract FB likes organically combination.
Now here is something else to think about. When you are surfing the web, shopping online or researching something you need or want to know about, what do you get asked for more often than anything else, time and time again? Almost every site asks you. Often it is the very first interaction with you. Money? Your thoughts? Your email address?
That’s right. Savvy online businesses are not asking for cash..not right away. They want your email address and they often give you something for free to get it. Except that the freebie isn’t free, because you pay for it with your personal details. Email addresses are sales currency. They have value and are traded for products and services. They are coveted by businesses because they are promissory notes of unknown value, occasionally worth nothing, often worth many times the value of one hard sale.
As a sales professional or business owner, you need to think about capturing those leads. There are reams of blogs and psychology books about parting prospects with their personal details, but trading a freebie is by far and away the most effective form of persuasion.
At the more abstract end of the scale, we have social currency. This is the belief that there is intrinsic value in participation in social media interaction. There have been literally millions upon millions invested in social media marketing strategies in the belief that it will reap big rewards. Despite that level of investment, there is no real evidence that there is a significant, sustainable ROI (Return on Investment). It is hard to measure ROI on social media spend. Sure, you can measure engagement in various ways, but actual profit? That’s a little more difficult.
A similar problem is apparent with ‘clicks as currency’. The PPC (pay-per-click) model has persisted, despite being fundamental meaningless. Yes, the more clicks you get, the higher your chances of making a sale (all else being equal!), but the new currency of pay-per-close is closer to the idea of a sales currency and is taking hold fast amongst online marketers and sales professionals.
Sales currencies are not to be confused with intangible assets, like goodwill and trademarks. But they do have an intrinsic value and do bring tangible benefits to the business. Tracking, monitoring and measuring are fundamental to their value – after all, if you can’t account for it, you can’t consider it revenue.