Business Development 2.0

In The Three Keys to Social Media Marketing, Hugh MacLeod talks about developing his business based on the concept of gift-giving. Every business day he sends out a new cartoon to the people on his email list. He does this to provide value, or gifts, before the sale.

Hugh writes:

If enough people like the gift, it’ll build up goodwill, they’ll tell their friends, and the list will grow. The more the list grows, the more people discover the trail of breadcrumbs that leads back to the work I actually get paid for.

Bob Pearson uses the term Pre-Commerce to describe the need for businesses to build business relationships in new ways before the actual sale in Why Pre-Commerce is the Next Frontier. As Bob points out, it’s a huge opportunity for businesses to transform their business models from waiting for customers to come to you into actively interacting with consumers prior to the sale and integrating it into your traditional ecommerce website.

To mix these ideas, I think big businesses, and not just independent entrepreneurs, need to consider gift giving as part of their business development plans. However, as Hugh points out, when you do it, it really needs to come across as a gift.

Here are 4 business development 2.0 gifts that companies should consider:

1. informational/educational products — Many entrepreneurs these days are offering informational products in the form of free ebooks. One of the popular informational products on Allstate.com is Bumper-to-Bumper Basics. The tool has interactive video guides that can help people learn more about insurance. It’s two years old now, and while it’s still effective and I’d say enjoyable to use, maybe a new iteration of the tool could combine it with Chat, or the ability for users to add comments to make it more “social” and truly interactive media.

2. casual games — On Vehicle Vibes (Allstate automotive blog) we have four different games that people can play. Within each one is a small call to action to get a quote when users are done playing. The games are fun to play. I’m addicted to Spider Solitare right now.

3. entertaining videos — With YouTube being the second most popular search engine, I think companies need to consider doing more fun and entertaining videos. This past summer I did some fun quiz show type casual videos, called Car Smarts. However, I think the Coca-Cola Happiness Machine is fantastic if you’ve got some budget dollars to play with.

4. Twitter posts — Even if you don’t have budget dollars to work with, all is not lost. One easy way to start small is to use Twitter as a community building tool. Even if you don’t have a blog or content to share, you can still provide small little gifts in the form of links to content that your followers would find useful. In that way, you’re providing value far in advance of when you might ask for something in return.

What do you think? What are additional cost-effective ways that businesses can provide gifts to consumers in advance of the traditional sale?

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