Archive for the ‘social search’ Tag

A Tale of 2 Marketing Programs: Social Media Versus Search Engines

Social media is going to take budget dollars away from search engine marketing. Already is in many major brands. Simple economics are driving this transition.

If a major ecommerce player is spending 50% of their budget on search engine marketing, website optimization, and link optimization programs, but is losing the war to bloggers in organic search. Why would the ecommerce player continue to spend massive amounts of money on advertising when they can focus on blogger outreach (ethical, not paid) for far less money. Better yet, fix their customer experience and get customers to evangelize on their behalf.  this slide says it all….

Additionally, as we analyze the various social media monitoring and metrics tools, the challenge is pretty evident. Search engines work off of structured data. I can run an advanced search and build filters for my search results. The challenge with social search is that the taxonomy isn’t defined. How you talk about a problem can be completely different than I talk about it. Potential buyers may not even recognize that the problem they are discussing on social media is even in the market. How do you build an automated tracking of taxonomy around unstructured data?

Effective lead generation program within social marketing require human knowledge of your solutions and also the ability to follow discussion threads to identify contextual relavence. Over time, you should be able to fine tune the algorithms for your social monitoring programs to become 80% accurate, but the most successful programs are leveraging human knowledge to make social marketing engagement programs to become discoverable, impactful, and actionable.

Otherwise, you get the the large number of costly “unqualified” leads that flood into websites similar to the search engine marketing programs. These programs either make it up in volume or work the “long tail” of key words to reach better qualified buyers. Social marketing can get you to the “long tail” faster as most buyers start with questions in the long tail when they do not know what they are looking for and leverage the expertise of others to become more specific as they learn what they don’t know.

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

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.

Wanted: Passionate Advocacy in Response to Cynical World

Ever seen a really creative ad that has no connection to the product brand. Chances are that the real reason is that the creative director had no connection to the product that they were selling and decided to showcase their creativity instead of communicating passionate advocacy of the product. Welcome to the marketing equivalent of “the paycheck player.”

We are seeing it show up everwhere in marketing… earnest promotion of products and services intent on connecting with potential buyers replaced with snarky, cynical, disconnected, shock marketing. I am not saying that humor doesn’t have a strong place in marketing; it is critical. But, humor without the central components of marketing is cynical: passion, authenticity, empathy, & connection.

Passion –you need to believe in your product or service. We all struggle with tasks that we need to do, but don’t feel passionate about. Changing diapers was definitely that for me… but, when you string together a series of client or projects that you cannot emotionally connect long enough; you can wake up one morning and no longer be passionate about anything that you do in work. You are a mercenary with no loyalty or connection, but doing it for the money. Hence, the creative director scenario above. The movie Jerry Maquire was about that… “Show me the money” and “We live in a cynical, cynical world”.

I have been “lucky” in my career to have chosen the path sometimes less travelled focusing on being passionate about the product, sometimes to the detriment of security or financial success. But, I can’t see just going through the motions of marketing and then saying “Let’s throw a clown into the ad, people like clowns…” I think this is why people are gravitating to social networking and away from advertising. They are looking for authenticity.

Authenticity– As a father of a young child (with one on the way), I am constantly reminded of the wonder of the world through a child’s eye. I also feel the constant tug for delivering a really great experience, but cognizant of how commercial children’s marketing has gotten. There are some shows that I have seen with him that look like one big product placement. I have begun to appreciate the trade-off between polished production and authentic experience. As an adult, I get tired of the canned ads, fake testimonials, and the clearly manipulative “buying process”.

Empathy – I think sometimes that the science of buyer behavior forgets that the buyers are actual people. I am for automation and buyer behavior modelling, but I reject the win-lose value proposition behind some of the science. I think that there is a difference between optimizing the shopping cart process to make it easier for buyers to check-out versus pop-ups to “convince” them that they really wanted to buy.  My fundamental belief is that if you have done a good job of understanding your target audience, understood their motivations and circumstances, clearly articulated a value proposition that they understand, and developed your offering to meet that buyer’s needs; you will close more business than if you had missed the mark, but follow all of the “buyer behavior” techniques. Connection is the art that I still believe trumps the science.

Connectivity – Part of the rise of the social networking sites is that search engines are logic based and people are emotional based. Search is algorithmic; eventually everything has to get back to 1’s and 0’s. We, as humans, don’t think like that. We are messy, inexact, curious, and irrational at times. “Social search” allows for the emotional side to take over. When you ask a friend for a recommendation on a product, you are weighing that person’s opinion over all of the experts that you can find out on the web. Rational, not really. Authentic, trusted, connected, and passionate; definitely. Search engines can be very efficient, but the force ranking of items does not take into account the different motivations or the intelligence of the individual.

In my opinion Social “Search” fills a hole in search that search engines cannot fill. It works for a basic reason; finding a passionate evangelist who has already done the unbiased research for you is priceless when it comes to buyer support.