Long and Short of It: Online Conversations and the Sales Cycle

daniel hindin
daniel hindin
Guest post by Daniel Hindin, Community Manager of Spin Sucks at Arment Dietrich.

Over the last couple of weeks, Jon and I have engaged in some friendly debate about conversation versus SEO as it applies to business blogging. After a couple of go-rounds on Spin Sucks and here at Jontus Media, Jon had really gotten me thinking. So when he asked me to guest post, I jumped at the opportunity to dig deeper.

I work as a community manager for a blog, so I’m naturally drawn to the conversational possibilities of online content. It’s clear from his writing on this blog, as well as his frequency of interaction on other industry blogs, that Jon appreciates conversation, too. But we both blog for business purposes, so while conversation is nice, both of our livelihoods ultimately depend on the generation of new business.

So, can conversation generate new business? Of course it can. Why do we attend networking events? To generate new business. What do we do at networking events? Engage in conversation.

That said, conversational selling is usually subject to a long sales cycle. At a networking event, you’re likely to meet people who might be interested in hiring you or buying your product, but it’s not likely that their need is immediate. They’re not in buying mode; they’re in networking mode. And maybe they’re really just there for the chatty company and free food!

The quickest sales cycle is going to happen when you come across people in buying mode. These days, when people start preparing to make a significant purchase, they’re likely to spend some quality time with their good friend Google.

And that’s where, as a business, you’re going to benefit from putting some serious effort into SEO. I’m certainly not an SEO expert, but I’ve been lucky enough to learn from some of the best, like Brent Payne. According to Brent, the three key elements to SEO are relevance, authority and popularity.

Keywords, proper tagging practices, use of links with meaningful anchor text – these all improve your relevance in Google’s eyes. Authority results from the quality of links to your site; this will come from earning the respect of other authoritative sites. Popularity results from the quantity of links to your site; quantity is best achieved through social media, given the rapid pass-along nature of the medium.
While you can address relevance on the back end – either internally or by contracting with an SEO expert – authority and popularity are more likely to come from outside sources who appreciate your content and want to share it with others.

In my experience, the best way to grow appreciation for your content – whether from experts who have already established authority within their own sites or from the general public who will share content quickly and frequently – is to engage in high-quality conversation.
So while conversation for conversation’s sake might lead to networking and a slow sales cycle – which I still believe has tremendous long-term value – it is also extremely valuable for SEO and reaching people in buyer mode, which will lead to a much quicker sales cycle.
So, Jon, and Jon’s readers, we community guys might be a bit more touchy-feely than your average salesman, but I still think our conversation-first mentality provides tremendous benefits for sales in both the short- and long-term.

But I already know what I think. What I’d really like to know is what all of you think. So please don’t hold back with your opinions in the comment section below.

And lastly, thanks very much to Jon for the wonderful opportunity to extend this valuable conversation!

Daniel Hindin is Community Manager of Spin Sucks at Arment Dietrich, a digital marketing agency in Chicago. He’s also a student in the Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University’s Medill School, where he participates in a crossover Media Management program in the Kellogg School of Management and serves as Managing Director of the student-run blog Vitamin IMC.