2010: The Perfect Social Marketing Storm

So, if you believe 2010 is the year of the return, forget the “u” shaped recovery, etc. We are talking the “V” shaped RETURN.” The tsunami of pent of demand, the rise of social marketing as a recognized marketing channel, and the competitive pressures to outperform the market to validate your company’s supreme dominance will be firece. No problem, finding budget for marketing will be the least of your problems. Having to justify social marketing doesn’t seem as daunting when you have budget and sales are coming in… “Cool, where do I sign-up?” If not sure about 2010 being the roaring recovery, read further….

We know that social marketing is becoming mainstream. I think in 2o1o it will become table stakes. If you don’t have a facebook page, twitter account, and linkedin profiles; you are so 2009…. In reality, we are seeing major brands begin to increase their budgets for social marketing by a factor of 20% – 30% of budgets. One major CPC brand is dictating that a percentage of product innovation come from ideas from their community. Increasingly, we are not having conversations about “Why should I do it?”, but “How do I use it for competitive advantage?”

We know that most companies have stabilized the bleeding even though they had a mediocre year. Sales are off from their height, profitability is down, budgets are constrained, probably a layoffs/backfill hires not made/new positions not budgeted. Entering into another year of a multi-year recession means most organizations now expect that you will figure out how to do more with less and will not accept “the economy” as justification for underperforming results. The expectation is that you will figure out how to outperform the market.

However,  the real question is not whether the economy will recover with pent up demand in 2010, but what if it doesn’t? What if the recovery is a real dud?  Will the corporate boards be simpathetic to another year of mediocre performance? Will CEOs be calm with back-to-back mediocre years? The average tenure of CEOs. CMOs, and other senior executives is what? Will anyone accept the excuse that it “the economy”? Will the pressure ratchet up even more?

What if the market fundamentally is shifting towards social media and away from advertising and even search engine marketing?,What if I don’t shift our sales, markmarketing and customer management to reflect the market? What if the market slightly improves but we don’t improve with it? What if our competitors find a way to add a lot of new customers and revenue and we don’t?

 The best estimate is that it takes 3 to 6 months to establish a baseline measurement program for social marketing. That means that I need to build a program and execute within the first half of  2010 to give me time to see if it will work. That means 2010 is ALREADY HALF OVER in terms of impact.

We are not talking about setting up a twitter account and adding followers. I am talking about getting legitimate lead generation, customer retention, brand reputation, product development feedback, and team productivity using these tools. Someone tells you that you need a branded twitter account, ask “Why?” If you don’t hear a crisp answer related to a strategic initiative, then you should realize your return is probably equated to the time and cost you invested to set it up… Free Twitter Account Does Not Equal  to a Gazillian Free Leads…

Here are the Major Questions that you need to ask to determine if you need to invest in a social Marketing Strategy…

We can’t hit the marketing performance numbers? Not Necessarily. Your competitors may be slower to adopt than you.

 Can we get predictable and measurable results out of just doing tactical social media participation like having a twitter account and a facebook page? I don’t know, can you? How is it working for you now? Getting the results that you want? Seeing the strategic impact on revenues or customers?

 Can we build a social marketing strategy on our own? Sure, always a factor of core competencies, time, resources, and money. Give anyone enough time and money and resources and they usually build a plan.

Can my team execute a social marketing program effectively? Are they doing it now? We find with a little coaching, a clear plan, and training that organizations are able to drive execution to meet their business objectives.

 Can you tell me if you can tell me the 2010 social media forecast for my market? No, we would have to do a Social Market Audit to get a better idea. We can tell you …

  • If the market is adopting social media
  • How big your company’s footprint
  • How effective is your marketing messaging
  • How well are you doing against your competitors
  • How you can compete over social marketing better
  • Provide you with strategic marketing plan for executing and integrating social marketing

We find that our best partners in this are the folks who are already toe-dipping into social media. They have seen what works and what doesn’t. They recognize a sophisticated program will lead to better, more predictable results.

Self-serving? You betcha…. but also true.

The Blatantly Obvious Three Gets of Social Media

As we meet and greet in the world as evangelists for a strategic management approach to incorporating social media into business, you readily identify other folks who “get it”. They describe themselves as “get it” people and they describe others as part of the club. The other two camps can be described as the “I think I get it” folks and the “I don’t get it” translated into the I don’t get it and really don’t care.

“Get it” – Already have prior experience in social media, probably understand digital marketing, it, software, etc. They have seen the power of social networking; may or may not play with twitter, but understand that social media must mature to satisfy the other camps. They are usually early adopters or visionaries, but definitely social media evangelists. They don’t need a business case to see how this applies to their jobs and their companies. Not a generational characteristic. We see more mature senior executives who are already there with their subordinates playing catch up. The younger generation gets the social media interaction thing much easier because they have entered the business world with these tools. Their challenge is that they do not have the business experience to craft corporate strategy so they tend to be focused on the tools and tactics. ROI gets mapped at the business functional and strategy level which is hard for them to develop the business case to sell the rest of their organizations.

“Think I Get It” – Generally more mature (not necessarily older) business executives who probably would “get it” if they had the time to research and play with it. We find this to be the case with mid to senior level executives who were laid off. They gravitate to it and are becoming proficient out of necessity and the luxury of free time. The employed people in this group are savvy business people, but are buried under with management and business responsibility. Probably have personal responsibilities so playing online if they are not naturally inclined to do so is pretty difficult with their schedules. Amazing how this group activates with a really tangible business case that applies to their company and market. They already have the business acumen and the web disruption experience so it becomes a translation exercise for them to “get it.” 

“Don’t Get It” – this group has probably thought briefly about it and then moved on as they haven’t seen the relavence of social media to them; either personally or professionally. We many times see the pride in this statement. We see the “my kids are on it” or “I played with it” or “I am on Linkedin, but don’t really use it.” In truth, it is generally due to indifference versus ability to get it. However, when we present the business case for a strategic approach to social media, they intuitively see the value. The skepticism turns to intuition as they map this back to their mid-90’s web experience. They then figure out that they need a proactive plan and delegate to someone in their organization or realize that they have no one and figure they will get to it when it reaches a level of criticality that forces them to react.

As you have surmised, I am describing any new technology adoption. Social media is not some exotic, weird “kid” thing. Social media will be a business disruption due to the simple fact that it is a reflection in the change of buyer behavior. Buyers are doing research by reaching out to other buyers and market influencers because they do not want to wade through the pages and pages of junk search engine results. Much easier to find an expert and see what they say. Simple, but extremely disruptive to traditional business; marketing, sales, customer support, service delivery, billing, employee relations. All of these functional areas are being impacted with this level of transparancy.

Whether you “get it”, “think you get it”, or “Don’t get it”; you had better believe that some portion of your market and customer base already does…

Note to Social Media Platform Vendors: Consodidation is Coming

As we have been ramping up the platform selection process for several clients, it has become obvious that some of the vendors are struggling. I can’t speak to their financial situation, but I can speak to the frustration that we have with many of them who still think the platform war is about features and functionality. As a consultant, you have to know that I see a lot of platforms. I think the last count was that there were over 100 platforms. If I can’t see anything special about your particular platform, how will the market?

That doesn’t mean that there are not good platforms out there. There is a group of the top platforms that do “get it” and are building the functionality to support the customers in the right way. See, web 2.0 is about empowering the customer, goving them that unique experience that gets them to come back over and over. Adoption trumps functionality. Customers don’t care about widgets, all they care about is the experience. By the way, I am talking about the platform customers’ customers…

Vendors who are building platforms to provide the flexibility to provide that “mass customized” experience are going to be the winners.  The ability to provide unique functionality to the users in a seamless, non-intrusive way will win. That means, as I heard lately, that the “platform” will have to disapear. Both in terms of becoming components AND in the unique quirks of design that enables you to figure out a particular community is actually run on XYZ platform.

My customers, who buy platforms, do not want their customers to think about the community platform, rather they want the experience to fade into the background and the focus to be on the content and the interactions with their company. The platform vendors who can do that effectively the fastest will grow the fastest. Believe it or not, it isn’t really about software development and how you can connect to ~500 enterprise applications. That is now becoming table stakes for the social media platform market.

The next bar will then be how do I fuse the public social network experience with my corporate community to enable potential buyers to easily transition to my platform without a cumbersome registration process (that still gives me their information) and a seamless ability for my current customers to share their customer experience with the world (better ways of optimizing the syndicaton process for search optimization and supporting the influencer marketing process).

Platform vendors who are marketing how easy they are to do business (easy to assemble widgets, flexible architecture, designable workflow, flexible data modellng, just in time report development) with AND have a standardized model for mass producing custom experiences will win (the experience based upon who I am, what I want to do, and when I want to do it can be built iu real-time).

If you are still trying to sell a standardized SaaS software package to  the world, you may want to rethink what the market leaders are doing. They are not selling features and functionality, they are selling solutions. And by the way, the solutions are focused on satisfying their customers’ customers…

Why Social Media Really Matters to Business

Now that my email is finally working, I can continue a theme that started as my big “rant” about customer service and apply it more globally to why social media matters to business. Lost at the bottom of that long post was a case example of why my hosting company did not get the impact social media was having on it market. They are the market leader in domain registration, but they were losing the war on market perception. They are opening the door for competitors.

It doesn’t really matter how many people will join a “I hate XYZ brand” facebook group. Nor does it matter that one exists. It is almost a badge of honor to have a “I hate” group. The larger point was that they did not have a group of their own. They had more employees on linkedin than their facebook group. What does that say for a leading internet company?

Additionally, I put a major “rant” post out there that was pretty brutal in the describing the poor experience. I heard nothing back. You would expect that even a counter post, or a message back on Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin, or something, but the silence was deafening. That is the major point. If you realize that for all of the money that your company spends on “branding” can be balanced by the broadcast messaging from your disgruntled customers, what does that mean for marketing? It is becoming more telling that customer testimonials, good or bad, are displacing and discrediting marketing. All of that advertising dollars now go to getting back to a nuetral position, forget about creating a positive. That I think is the underlying issues with social media for business.

Additionally, couple customer messages with the employee or ex-employee messages out there. The most damaging Anti-brand sites are run by disgruntled employees or ex-employees. Not only are they pissed off, they have insider knowledge about your organization’s warts. The ex-employees have an axe to grind and they are using it.

So, what does that look like. You spend a lot of money on advertising, your website, direct marketing, search engine marketing, etc. At the same time, your prospects do a search and see all of the negative opinion of your service. Doesn’t matter if it is actually true or not, perception is reality…. if you don’t counter it, enough of it will be taken as a sign of larger problems. If you are a public company, it is even harder to counter that because of the communication restrictions. You have seen instances of short sellers creating rumors to drive stock prices down, right?

Well, how do you counter the negative noise? First, assume transparancy in your customer experience. What happens will get out. I would be looking at ways to strengthen my processes, bring my employees closer to the customer experience, and making sure that we are using the web 2.0/social media collaboration tools internally.

Second, I would make sure that I am systematic in my social marketing participation. For those companies that ban social media sites from corporate networks, you are running a race with one leg tied behind your back and are even farther behind.

The point of social media is engagement. The good companies are empowering employees to become ambassadors for the brand out on the web. They are anyway… everytime you tell someone who you work for socially or professionally, it represents the company. If the guy is a schmuck or arrogant, it reflects on the company. It is hard for business leaders to realize that it isn’t about them… companies are made up of people, cultures, and relationships.

The best companies are trying to tap into that internally and externally. What if you could take your internal employee engagement and extend that to ex-employees. There are tons of corporate alumni networks. Many of them are proud of their experience and would love to advocate on your behalf. Probably for self-interest reasons in that if the company has a good brand, it translates into better marketability to be associated with a strong brand.

Also, the best way to prevent disgruntled employees and ex-employees is to improve engagement and communication. If you lay someone off via email and cut off their system access overnight before they know themselves, then you are probably going to get the same level of respect that you give out. If they don’t have a forum for communicating their emotions regarding a layoff, they will create their own.

Additionally, a layoff or a firing is a reflection of poor management. As business leaders, we have to realize that separating an employee from a company is on us. We made a poor decision that led to this situation. It may be the right decision to separate them now, but we made a bad one before. Same with business decisions. Giving a voice to that and receiving the feedback will actually difuse the situation. Hiding behind the corporate veil only compounds that situation.

As we do research into social marketing, we are seeing a pattern emerge. Companies that engage employees and treat them with respect are the ones who are winning the war in social perception. Companies that assumes that employees will behave badly or who ignore customer complaints as annoying distractions, are getting hammered online.

If you are a large player, you have a lot more to lose. Public companies get nailed for missing forecasts when they are growing market share, they get hammered when they lose it. The average tenure of a CMO is something like 2 years. Part of it is the pressure to perform, but a lot of it is the speed of market conditions are accelerating.

You see the same in College Football Coaching. You don’t get time to have a “rebuilding” year in either case. If you are doing the traditional market development and branding model, it takes a long time to turn negative brand perception around. You don’t have it. You have to figure out how to first address the fundamentals, then perceptions, and then focus on growth.

Not spend more money on flashy marketing campaigns and larger budgets to drive more customers. Not that you will get bigger budgets in this economy. You are fighting inertia in that the more you spend against negative perception, the more desperate that you look. People are intuitively discounting marketing messaging.

There is a great deal of cynacism in the market when it comes to corporate messaging. It is perceived as self serving. That is why buyers are craving social media; it is perceived as authentic. A complaint from a customer is perceived as a natural response to a poor customer experience. It isn’t seen as self-servicing, but rather a natural response to an impotent customer service interaction. Other customers can relate to that more than they can relate to a canned advertising message…

This isn’t going away.

GoDaddy Killed My Email Mailbox: Customer Experience & Social Media Case Study

Reposted from www.socialgastronomy.com

I have used www.godaddy.com for my web hosting for probably close to 5 years or so. I would say that I am a loyal customer as I have half a dozen domains with Social Gastronomy’s website and email hosting being there, as well.

So, if I am UPSET enough to write a blog post to describe the poor customer experience as a case study of what NOT to do, you can understand the magnitude. Comparably, my wife call the president’s office of a our national bank office when they charged us unnecessary fees from the way that they do their deposit accounting practices.

If you are reading this as of thursday morning, I have been without my social gastronomy email for 22 hours. I don’t mean that I can’t access it, I mean that if you email me, you get a bounce back. The rest of the team can get email so feel free to email them, but I can’t get GoDaddy to fix the problem.

It started with our desire to upgrade our email from GoDaddy’s standard POP email account to the hosted exchange service. We were trying to coordinate calendars virtually which was killing our productivity. Ironic…

We signed up for the product and found out that it woudl take 2 hours to port the MX record over from one product to another. Called customer service and they did it manually. Score one for GoDaddy. Very polite person. Score two.

However, I had a problem with how I set up my particular account, you had to use a weird naming convention till you could port the domain record over. Ok, did it. Didn’t work so she suggested that we delete the particular mailbox. Ever have that “I don’t think this sounds right moment”. It got stuck. She did some checking and found out that we had to delete our mailboxes on the old plan before starting the new one. Ok, that was inconvenient, but was quick. She does email me the instructions for getting outlook to work. Good job.

All of them worked, but mine. She tells me that it takes time for some accounts to populate with the new MX record. Now, having been involved with the web for 15 years as a product manager, marketer, etc.; this doesn’t sound right if all but the one account that was different now doesn’t work. Well, then I do some testing and find out that my particular mailbox is now bouncing emails. She tells me to call back in a couple of hours after the record populates. Then sends me a customer service “how did we do” survey.

Ok, so now I have no email, no plan to fix email, and a nagging feeling of panicked “My email is boucing”. So, I call back in to find someone else. Explain the situation. She tells me that if one works then the others work. So the first person was wrong in telling me to delete AND doesn’t understand how they manage MX records.Cool. However, she can’t access my email address and since I am in a car, I have to call back in after my next meeting.

I get home from my meetings and call again. I explain the situation to the 3rd customer service person that I have now talked with about my lack of email. He agrees with me that this is a problem. He then does some checking and confirms that the reason that I can’t re-add my email account is that it is hung up in the deletion process on the server. He needs to open an escalation ticket to get it resolved. Great! We are making progress….

It will take 24 to 72 hours to resolve. In the meantime, “why don’t you create another email address with a variation of your name…” I explain in a panicked voice that I have all of my business cards and contacts who use this email address and need this escalated faster. “Can’t do it, Sir.” He does very politely send me trouble ticket email.

Trouble Ticket

So 15 hours later…. I call back in to find out how I get email back. I get another customer service rep. No help. I ask to escalate to the group as he doesn’t have access to their work queue. Tells me that it is 24-72 hours. I ask for his supervisor, who he grudgingly connects. Now at Customer Service Rep #5. Who proceeds to tell me can’t help, can’t escalate, can’t provide information, can’t see the queue, and since it is in Arizona, no one is in the office to work on it (implied), but he can’t tell me that information for security reasons.

Beyond Being Angry, What do I Know about What is Going on?

1. Unfortunately, this is pretty common for customer experience across many industries and size companies

2. It is fixable. AND they need to fix it as it a real indicator of potential business issues. If I didn’t think it was fixable, this would be a twitter post on why this company SUX and why I am never using them again… etc. I don’t think that they are bad, just that they have mediocre customer service and antequated support systems. There is a better way.

3. When a loyal customer starts to consider moving their accounts because of poor customer support, ineffective systems, and slow response times; you have a problem. It takes 2 hours to move a MX record (switch providers), but it takes 72 hours to fix a problems. You have a problem…..

4. If your call center systems and processes are designed to shield your employees and not allow access to people who can actually address customer problems, you have a bigger problem….

5. This is why customers are taking to social media, blogs, etc. to vent and to CIRCUMVENT your antequated customer service infrastructure. Either I get help from someone who actually knows what they are doing OR I am venting because I get the standard call-center “I understand, but don’t really care” response.

6. This is a major concern for a lot of organizations; Customer Service who gets managed against customer ratings, Sales which loses opportunities, Marketing which loses ability to influence the narrative on the company, and the CEO who gets hammered on the web everytime a pissed off customer vents about their poor service.

How does this relate to Social Media?

1. I am actually using this to see if they are monitoring social media and twitter to see if they will respond to a public complaint as I am stymied within their call center.

2. I found 523 GoDaddy current employees near their corporate headquarters on Linkedin; including their CTO…

Linkedin

  3. 56,400 hits for “I hate godaddy” on Google

4. GoDaddy Sucks has 64 members on Facebook, GoDaddy had 65 members.

5. Do a search on Twitter for GoDaddy, this is what you find…

Twitter

6.The first 2 pages of search on godaddy is standard corporate messaging from GoDaddy. If I were a new customers, I would discount this messaging and look for the real scoop. Hence a search on twitter, facebook, and linkedin. If I was really interested, I would go to the more technical social media platforms for technical discussions, etc.

7. I am annoyed more than angry, but I want my email account fixed AND I want to see that I can get better attention due to my urgency. Going into the blackhole of customer service is not going to be acceptable as consumers become more adept at researching providers on social media sites to understand the real scoop. Providers will have to become more responsive and understand that a pissed off customer doesn’t just tell 10 people anymore, they tell EVERYONE….

8. I am posting this at 10AM, now down almost 24 hours. Let’s see if they are paying attention. I will update when I hear back and what form they communicate.

One last point, this blog post is hosted on GoDaddy…

Matthew Rosenhaft

Principal

Social Gastronomy

mrosenhaft@socialgastronomy.com (when it works)

In the meantime, you can reach me on twitter: www.twitter.com/mmrosenhaft

4:30PM Update: I got a canned email that my problem is fixed. Obviously, GoDaddy is not monitoring social media otherwise they would have responded to my blog post, tweet, linkedin or facebook status updates.

Enterprise Social Media and Online Community Have a Long Way to Go

I get a lot of industry articles and reports emailed to me… a lot… I think it is a reflection of the interest that is being generated around the discussions that we have on how to apply social media to business. Some of this has been documented in this blog, but much has happened so fast and furious over the last few weeks that we haven’t been able to catch up. A couple of reports that are worthy of your review as stand-alone pieces of research, but taken together validate the conversations that we are having…

1. Deloitte’s Tribalization of Business Study on Online Communities – Really good metrics on community usage. Worth noting that many of their communities are smaller which also reflects their sampling business size. Additionally, very skewed to business-to-business which also is reflective of the state of the market. An analysis of the report finds that” 60% of communities are less than 1 year old & greater than 2/3’s of the communities have less than 1,000 members.”

2. 8 ways the American information worker remains a Luddite in ComputerWorld – October 10, Eric Lai – Quotes a Forrester Research Study around corporate technology usage. “Less than 20% of information workers said they visit social networking sites for work”

Take that into context around the amount of education that we have been doing with all size organizations on how to build effective social marketing programs, you can see that the market is just really beginning. We have been doing Social Marketing Assessments for companies to give a snapshot of how they are doing comparative to the market in terms of their social media presence. Really easy to play “gotcha” with most companies as they haven’t developed formalized blogger outreach and social media participation programs. As more companies realize that this will be a critical requirement for either maintaining market share and/or finding opportunities to reach potential buyers in a low cost way, you will see more companies do outreach on social media.

From there, the next logical step will be to build their own communities into their website to continue the conversation and begin the sales process within the confines of their websites. This gives more analytics, better influence over the conversation, and the ability to drive search engine optimization. Dynamic social media content is optimized better than static content pages.

Good news/bad news is that we have a long way to go & it may be a shorter process than many people expect….

Flashback to Web’s Impact on American Business

As part of the preparation for a recent presentation, I pulled together research on the Web’s impact to the Fortune 100. Our belief is that social media will be as disruptive as the web for a number of reasons; which will each have their own posts over the next several weeks;

  • Addresses some of the challenges with search engines
  • Represents a shift from intellectual driven purchase management to a more emotional model
  • Provides contextualization for  people to organize information based upon personal lenses
  • Represents the transition from static information management to a more dynamic model (only going to accelerate)
  • Evolving to enable people to address the challenges of information overload; ie. inbox, search, communications, etc. Social media will enable people to begin to sort through the morass of information. (Yes, it is contributing to the challenges today, but the tools are emerging to assist in attacking these problems in unique ways.)

So, as part of our research, we looked at the Fortune 100 lists from each decade going back 40 years. Amazing statistics… you can see the impact the personal computer had on business and then astoundingly, how much impact the web had… Over 60% of the largest companies in the US were eclipsed in one decade… some came back to the list, but I don’t think you could minimize the disruption to American business. And yes, if you had asked the business leaders of those businesses, who had just seen the PC revolution, on how the web would impact their business, most scoffed…. “fad, not useful, don’t get it, waste of time, etc…” sound familar?

Comparison of the Fortune 100 lists from 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2009

§1969 to 1979 – 15 new companies entered the Fortune 100 list
§1979 to 1989 – 29 new companies
§1989 to 1999 – 62 new companies
§1999 to 2009 – 29 new companies

What Keeps You Up At Night

Probably not the same 7lb. mini-me like I have, but I suspect that how to make more money is probably on the minds of a good number of people. With the economy still down, even those who are doing well are insecure. For some, the challenges of how to compete in the future may weigh on their minds. If you have a lot of mouths to feed, employees and dependents of employees, you don’t take your responsibilities lightly.

To that end, you may have had to do lay-offs, surely cut costs, and constrained the world-domination plans (well, at least market domination). With the glimmer of hope that the recession will end, you and your team are starting to do planning for jumping on the recovery.

You are starting to look at product releases, eyeing markets that don’t seem as competitive, possible acquisitions, and even possibly, someday… large scale hiring. As the world recovers, what is different? Sounds like the last recovery….

Yes and no. Yes, the business factors are the same, no in that social media is going to fundamentally shift your business. Much like the web did in the last decade, this will be disruptive. Not a fad, not a maybe… I am here to tell you that it is coming.

Don’t see it? Well, pull up a copy of the Fortune 50 list from the late 80’s and compare the list to the late 90’s… a lot of seat changes… Social media represents social search which is really tapping into the emotional side of buying. Don’t think emotions play into your markets? Words like TRUST, VALUE, DECISION are emotional words… the market is discounting advertising messaging and weighing referential opinions and reviews much higher that the all of the marketing messaging. They are fact checking you, asking your customers, doing their own buyer reports…

Social media is disruptive. For those who can socially-enable their business, markets, communities, products, and organizations; change will allow you to grow much faster than the competitors, for the rest if will be an uphill battle….

Traditional Sales and Marketing Roles are Blurring

Reposted in full version from www.salesjournal.com blog as guest columnist

I can hear the collective groan from the Sales Journal readership, but social media is blurring the traditional lines. Sales now needs to be concerned with participating in linked-in groups, answering linked questions, participating in community forums, reading blogs, sharing tweets on twitter, sharing photos, Facebook, etc. along with their traditional lead generation activities. Sales organizations now have to worry about broadcast messaging to communicate the product value proposition and greater educations across a wide audience.

Marketing now has to focus on the 1:1 relationship whether out on the social networks or in the corporate community/website. Marketing now gets measured on lead productivity, the value of discussion versus broadcasting, and the effectiveness of their ability to assist the sales pipeline. This is far more intimate and front-line than many marketers have been traditionally involved. Additionally, the marketing organization has to worry about the specific prospect’s motivation and the customer experience.

Social media changes the rules as the relationship dynamics are more fluid because the buyer behavior is changing. The 1:1 conversation can now happen in a public forum or be forwarded (re-tweeted) to a broad audience. Customers are also doing buying research on social networks and blogs.

In the last few years, this research has gone from search engines towards social search where they value the recommendations from participants over the traditional advertising messages from marketing. Also, they buyers are doing their research prior to engagement with vendors. If you are not in their research, you are not on their short list. This means that you have to do education prior to engagement; which is the definition of evangelism.

This is causing a considerable amount of disruption in the market and within companies. You can see the whole emotional spectrum played out; fear, skepticism, frustration, doubt, distain, and even elation. Marketing is being held more accountable for results and Sales is being held to a higher standard for managing communications.

I see this as the natural evolution. Customers don’t want to be “sold”, they want “to buy”. That means they want education earlier in the sales process; which means you need to adjust the way you support their buying process. Hence, the shift in roles between sales and marketing to align more along stages of evangelism versus functional silos. Sales and marketing should be held accountable to the same results if they are working on the same objectives. The roles will be more fluid, but the expertise is still there and can be very synergistic if leveraged correctly.

Three Areas for Thought

On the People front, you need to assess how your sales and marketing organizations are aligned. Are they designed to optimize the business or the customer experience?

On the Process front, you need to rethink your approach to branding and content development to empower Sales to have the 1:Many conversations. Can you create component messages that can be tracked and measured?

On the Technology front, do you have the right tools to support the 1:1 and 1:Many conversations across social media, manage the library of corporate IP & marketing content, and manage the lead conversion from the social environments?

Institutionalizing Social Media for Large Organizations

My friend, Jeff, made the observation that social media has the ability to change the rules for the little guy. Kind of like boxing, a good small man can be a larger man, but a good man can beat a good small man. Size still matters, but skill can also still be a game changer.

Same in social media, first mover advantage does allows small players to get traction, but that does not preclude secondary major entrants from catching up. It may cost them more, but unless the new entrant creates barriers to entry that are sufficiently difficult to overcome by entrants buying their way into a market, they better have a niche or market integration strategy to adjust.

Couple this with my recent conversations about the mix between developing intuition and validating assumptions in new product development. Same set of assumptions and market dynamics, but the mix that an entrepreneurial company will balance approach to the market versus a mature player is far different. The 80:20 rules still apply, but the entrepreneurial company will focus the 80% on intuition and the mature player will focus 80% on validating assumptions.

Hence the time to market and the difference in approach between small and large players in social media. Small companies can jump on participating online. See a unfulfilled opportunity, jump on it. Mature organizations have to weigh the impact on existing operations, customers, plans, budgets, etc. May see the same opportunity, but when you are moving a small army, it isn’t as easy as “picking up the tent”.

So how does this map to social media? Mature corporations have mature planning processes. Some are good, others bad, but the reality is that large organizations weigh risk management equally as important (and some cases more) as innovation. Small company fails, you lose a few bucks and you move on. Large company fails;  they can lose a lot of customers, money, jobs, and investor’s money. Stakes are higher, you gotta make sure that you cover the bases.

Social media represents more of the innovation side of the 80:20 rule analogy above – innovation. It has the ability to be disruptive. Social search taps into the emotional side while search engines & standard search tap into the intellectual side. If I trust person A’s opinion on a topic and follow their links to find a product, that is actually an emotional decision. Yes, I intellectualized the decision, but emotionalized the “trust”.

Social marketing, evangelism, social networking, social CRM, collaboration, and all of the related terminology are really about systematizing the human interactions that have been lacking on the web. Websites were about content. Now they are about content, relationships, sharing, collaborating, and communicating. It is what we do every day offline, just moving more online. Great opportunity to fix a lot of poor customer relationships from over-automation. Think every bad call center experience that you have had; voice prompt hell, untrained customer service reps, crappy scripts, and frustration.

Now, think about that one shining example of the customer service rep who actually could figure it out and saved the day. They were bright, articulate, knowledgeable, and had a real conversation about you. In a sea of bad interactions, the human element shines through. That is the beacon on the hill for social marketing. Think agile manufacturing for “customer relationships”. My mantra these days is that you cannot have a relationship with a system and transactions don’t make relationships. Relationships are built on interactions; good ones and bad ones, but your relationship is the sum of your interactions (online and off).

Put this together and you will see that large organizations need to build the business case and the strategy for “how to move the army”. They need to institutionalize planning around social media to incorporate the impact on the organization and to validate the planning assumptions. Many already understand the innovation, but getting consensus on the direction requires some assistance in translating the social media innovative vision into call-center, product management, operations, finance, sales, and senior management strategic planning.