In a recent discussion within the LinkedIn Franchise Executives group a question was asked about how best to present products and services to group members.
The question stemmed from a revision in group rules put in place to keep the group focused on its objectives of exchanging ideas, sharing information, and promoting best practices within franchising.
By attempting to eliminate the clutter of self-promotion, MLM opportunities, and even franchise opportunities, revising the rules was seen as the most practical way to retain group members and increase participation.
Here's the question and my response regarding value-added discussions.
Question: "Outlining some guidelines is an excellent way to embark and start bringing a format or platform to enhance value to the group, congratulations on your initiative.
Please tell us at what point information and value added discussions should be introduced to the group in your mind. I think anyone here is interested in gaining value and as well, sharing value, but it all sooner or later leads to developing new business, directly or indirectly, that is mutually beneficial.
There is a fine line between "advertorials" and "value exchanges".
Are you able to define further what format, discussion or response you think would serve the reader and the writer (group members) best? "
Answer: "I believe value-added discussions can be introduced at anytime. However, I do believe it's a social networking best practice to "earn the right" to do so by getting to know group members, participate in group discussions, and contribute to the same.
Then, based upon a perceived group or industry need, I suggest initiating a discussion about that need (or challenge / issue).
Certainly, one can lead into presenting within the discussion details of their product and how it could satsify the need, address the challenge or resolve the issue.
The key is not to immediately shove the product or service down members' throats.
I believe what is often overlooked or ignored, is that group members, especially ones being sold to, have knowledge about franchising, are aware of the needs, challenges and issues the industry is facing, and may actually be aware of the companies providing services and products in the area of concern.
What they may not be aware of is the person presenting a company's products and services. And, people buy from people, right?
So, I recommend anyone with the objective of selling products and services be a person first, by developing relationships with group members. Then, be perceived as an expert in your field by sharing knowledge and experience through participation. I believe sales should follow.
As an added note, I believe the same process works within other social media including Facebook and Twitter, with platform appropriate modifications to plan."