Archive for the ‘Web Marketing’ Tag

Social (Marketing) Must Evolve to Survive

A friend of mine recommended yesterday that I rewrite my BIO to reflect my expertise in social marketing. I appreciated the feedback, but it also highlighted an identity crisis that I have been struggling with since before I started this blog.  

I am looking for a strategic marketing role that leverages my experience over the last few years in product managing, evangelizing, and consulting around social media platforms for marketing. I have also been consulting in social marketing and I am getting considerable recognitition for my thought leadership in the space, but I never saw my future as an independent social marketing consultant. I haven’t figured out the consultant’s dilemna; balancing sales with delivery.

Here is my real dilemna… although I am consulting on social marketing, I really see that social marketing as an independent discipline will eventually go away. If it is succssful, I believe that ALL marketing disciplines will be socially enabled thus social marketing as a term will become redundant. I suspect that it will take a while. So for my social marketing colleagues, you can rest easy that you will have jobs for a while.

I see that Social Marketing will be elevated in the marketing portfolios to become a strategic discipline reporting to the CMO akin to Product Marketing, Product Management, Marketing Communications, Marketing Operations, and even Web Marketing. But, I also see that each of these discpilines will need to become proficient in social marketing and understand how the changing dynamics on the web will impact their individual disciplines. I think that social marketing represents a fundamental shift in buyer behavior which will require a rethinking of the marketing function at large. Social media is a catalyst, but it isn’t the actual change. Buyer expectations around information, relationships, and the very nature of transactions are evolving. I see this as another phase (in a long line) of the changes driven by deeper internet integration and evolution.

Product Marketing & Brand Management – Today, the product value proposition is designed for multi-channel, but how do you design for user generated content where you cannot control the location, context, or delivery? Social media and marketing represent a shift in the direct communications of marketing messaging to the indirect. Product Marketing will have to package product messaging to become more compact (sound bites), reusable, and repurposable to ensure sufficient distribution through social media channels; ie. blogs, social networks, digg, delicious, Youtube, etc. 

Product Management – We are already seeing the trend in Web 2.0 product management to build “lite”, component applications that are driven more by adoption that overwhelming features. These applications are built to be a point solutions, but can be scaled easily and as modules. The reasoning is that for many potential users, more is less… attractive. We are so overwhelmed with information that taking time out to learn a complicated application  is not attractive. Building just-in-time functionality to meet specific pain with the ability to add more functionality later is attractive. In reality, you are seeing agile manufacturing of web applications. We are also seeing that happen in manufacturing, services, and distribution across society. This puts more pressure on Product Management to understand the customers, identify the segments, build targeted functionality prioritized to their needs, and delivery the right experience. A much more complicated and fluid environment made more difficult when the potential markets can self identify and congregate virtually. You can miss the mark and it will be much more readily visible.

Marketing Communications – Advertising is in full retreat from the recession, but also from the fact that more messages do not translate to more sales. Actually, the inverse. SPAM has overwhelmed our email infrastructures. The key to marketing communications now is multi-channel, targeted, and coordinated messaging that catches attention, engages, and provides a specific call to action. Social media empowers the audience to tune in or tune out the message as they see fit. Marketing communications needs to adjust to the power shift in this relationship. Marketing Communicatiosn firms are even more vunerable as many of them are transaction oriented (campaigns) where the newer channels are relationship oriented (long-term, one-to-one mass customization of relationships). Marketing communications needs to evolve to more of a pull strategy versus a push strategy.

Marketing Operations – CRM, Multi-Channel Marketing, Enterprise Content Management, Measurement and Reporting, etc. all get impacted. When does a lead start? How do you measure a fluid environment? How do you manage corporate information assets that aren’t in your posession which are designed for reusablility and redistribution (blog posts are an example)? How do you measure all of the activity to develop an ROI? (This one I can answer: you should build the ROI based upon your traditional metrics. Force social marketing to justify why these activities will lead to more effective marketing, not create justification as to why you should do social marketing)

Web Marketing – Where does Corporate Online Communities come into the equation? SEO and SEM? How do you balance the shift from search to social media? How do you manage the transition from social networks to your own onlne community? Engagement, Interaction, Adoption, Momentun?

Ironic that a social marketing evangelist is advocating the end of social marketing as a discipline. However, as a marketing executive first, I believe that social marketing is really about applying the fundamentals of marketing to a new environment.

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Search Engines vs Social Media for Marketing Awareness

Most companies’ websites are not on the first page of an organic search in the category. Probably half don’t even show up in the first couple of hits on their company name. This is the fundamental reason that social media is becoming more important to those companies. It is about distribution.

In the brick-and-mortar world, manufacturing and distribution were two well defined roles in business. Manufacturers created the products and then went to distributors (VARs, wholesalers, or even retailers) who distributed. The reason was economics; cost of sales and cost of distribution. Distributors broke up pallets, combined products into solutions, provided consulting, marketed, and managed the relationship with the customer. Manufacturers made the product and managed the relationship with the distributors.

I see the same model evolving with content on the web in marketing. Content manufacturers create the content (on websites, blogs, tweets, social networking posts, Youtube videos, and pictures) that is then redistributed (linkedin, referenced, clipped, forwarded, emailed, etc) to others on the web. Two critical roles are emerging; content manufacturers and content distributors. There is a whole class of  bloggers and twitterers who don’t create anything, but play an incredibly important role of cataloging, annotating, and redistributing content for the particular interest of their networks. You need both.

I think you are seeing a fundamental shift in the way that people distribute information via the web from a traditional direct distribution model (My website is cataloged, I invite people I know, or emailed to a list) to an indirect distribution model where you need a distribution network to reach and influence the right audience. These distributors ( really influencers) are critical to getting the “word out”, but you better have something compelling, interesting, and relevant if you want distribution. They “pay” for the privilege of distributing your content with a real currency… “their attention”.

At the end of the day, SEO is still extremely important for all companies. If only for optimizing your site for secondary and tertiary key words, you still can pick up traffic. Pay-per-click also helps. Search engines are still the leading way to find information on the web.

The “but” in that sentence is that social media is increasingly becoming a strong distribution channel for generating marketing awareness. As in the real world, those manufacturers (marketers) who have the stronger distribution network…. win.

Social Marketing Changes Everything Part 1 – Introduction

If I asked the question “Who wants better leads, increased revenues?” I would see every hand up in the room.

” Through social media?”  I would still see pretty much every hand in the room raised. 

If I told them that they would have to changes their approach to marketing, lead generation, customer satisfaction, and their view of their market, how many hands would stay up? If I told them that they would have to take some risks, expose themselves (metaphorically), do something unconventionally, challenge their team, etc. would you find any takers? a few…

Now, if I told them that every one of their competitors is planning on doing this and that they could choose to do it early to get “competitive advantaged” or they could wait and be a “me-too”. I would find the room in two camps, split between the optomists in the face of a economy poised to recover and the business convervatives who are trying to maintain what the have in the face of a recessed economy.

I read a lot online from social media “experts”, but other than they advocate the use of  social networks like Linkedin, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Youtube, etc. for business (Screaming ad-like tweets “You too can make money”…) I struggle to break through the noise to connect with the real innovators who have a strategic approach to integrating social media into their full marketing programs.

Here is my two cents worth – Social Media is fundamentally changing Marketing. In my mind, it is not about how you add the social networks to your marketing channels of communication (they should be thought of as channels), but rather how you rethink marketing and brand management. The initial wave of website in the mid-90’s started to a fundamental shift in marketing. I talk to a lot of companies about social media, Web 2.0, social CRM, social networking, etc. Some think it is a FAD, most think it is fun and interesting, some are trying to use it for business, but some are taking advantage of the rest to drive growth. This shift in marketing is happening again.

I am not talking about occasionally sending something out to the 132 people on Linkedin, 675 college buddies on Facebook, and the 3750 followers that you have built on twitter (these aren’t my numbers). I am not talking about building online forums into your website. Not talking about use meebo to chat occasionally with an ex-colleague. I can go on, but the point is that social-optimized, Web 2.0 interactions  are creeping into the way that we all do business. You can use them or you can rethink your approach to leverage them to “change the rules”.

If you are a “changes the rules” type, you will need to subscribe to the RSS feed and have to come back to read the rest of the series on Social Marketing Changes Everything Part 2 – 5. I can’t fit all of the explanation into the a single post. This multi-part series will provide information on social marketing and answer the following questions:

  • What is Social Marketing? (I can already hear, not another buzz word…. but think about my Web Marketing reference above)
  • Why is a new definition required beyond Social Media, Social Networking, Social CRM, or Web 2.0 Marketing? (gotcha there)
  • So what? Why should I  worry about this? Hint: Revenue Generation and Customer Referrals (I assumed this would be important to you)
  • What does a Social Marketing strategy look like?
  • What does a Social Marketing Roadmap look like for this?
  • How do I leverage what I am already doing?
  • How do I build a Social Marketing Business Case?
  • How do I measure Social Marketing?

Now that I got the major questions out of the way, let move next into the definitions;

Social Marketing – The re-orientation of traditional marketing to reflect the new post-digital,  network relationship oriented, and influencer-driven social interactions. Social Marketing leverages a multi-channel, multi-directional approach towards building relationships with a transition away from the structured marketing roles like; product management, marketing communications, PR, Channel Mktg, & sales support. Instead, marketing is reoriented around enabling the key interactions that support the awareness, influence, interest, buying, and referral processes. ( it is a mouthful, but I am working on getting it down to one simple sentence. Give me your thoughts and I will incorporate in my next post)

Social Media – Basically, you have the social networks that you participate and the online communities that you own which are built into your corporate website. See my post on Social Media is Like Fishing for more details.

Online Communities – communities of interest built upon a foundation of Web 2.0 social networking tools; profile, blog, wiki, social bookmarking, calendaring, media sharing, etc that enable the user to interact with other users and content through the website. See my post on Online Community Blueprint for more details.

Post-Digital – If everything is becoming digital, why does digital matter? The buyer doesn’t really care if the interaction is on the web, they just want to get what they need. A lot of marketing still segments online and offline which creates an artificial barrier to developing a seamless customer experience. Social Media is changing buyer behavior, coming more fluid, and marketing must adjust the model to to support the reflected changes. See my post on the Changing Role of the CMO for further explanation.

The next part of the series will explore a new model for thinking about reorienting marketing towards interactions.

Part 2 – Theory

Part 3 – Business Case

Web Marketing: Leveraging First Mover Advantage on the Web

Since I did a MBA research project on First Mover Advantage on the Web in 1996 for a hybrid Micro Economics & Marketing class, I have approached marketing on the web with an eye to the economic impact that the low (near zero) cost for distribution on the web would have on competition.

We have seen it in multiple online vehicles; first it was email, then application distribution, ecommerce, blogs, online communities, and now social media tools like Twitter. My research was about the challenges first movers have in creating sustainable barriers to entry for subsequent market entrants. The ability to create entry barriers for competitors directly impacts their ability to maintain profit levels (reflection, in part, of customer acquisition costs) as subsequent companies enter the market.

We are seeing in the IPhone market with applications. Someone creates a popular application and then there are four similar applications. The challenge is that there is very little in terms of barriers to entry for the competitors. The first mover can get a very limited runway to market themselves with a unique offering before the market is established. The subsequent buyers cannot really differentiate in quality. The only barrier to entry for later entrants is the number of users of an application (popularity) which provides a small advantage for the first mover.

Now, a first mover can take advantage of the web to solidify a lead if they can combine entry barriers with exit barriers. If I can get into the market before others, create a differentiation that is hard to duplicate, and find a way to make it even harder to switch (for cost or niches), then you can build upon the lead.

First mover advantage, even in that situation, is not absolute as there are large numbers of examples where later entrants, with deep pockets and brand equity, were able to catch up to the first mover. The reasoning is pretty simple. you are the market leader with a large percentage of the market, but only sell to 5% of the available market. The competitor buys 80% of the next 10% of the available market that actually buys & they all of a sudden they can catch you and become the market leader.

Here is the lesson for early stage technology companies & the tie back to the title.

  • Because the internet allows you to communicate cost effectively to large number of people, this means you have a relatively low barrier to entry into a market.
  • At this point, a potential buyer will not be able to differentiate the quality of your offering or the credibility of your firm.
  • If you pioneer a market and prove successful, you have validated the market for potential entrants.
  • If those entrants have an existing customer base & available dollars for marketing to the market, you do not have a very sustainable barrier to entry.
  • Hence, you will have to spend more of your dollars as you grow to obtain customers because the market will be more competitive & the economics of scaling communications on the internet. It is exponentially harder to get 1000 people to listen to you versus 100, and exponentially harder to get 100,000 versus 1000. Economies of scale work against you on the internet due to the messaging noise.

Ok, so if you are introducing a new product, how do you protect your advantage?

  1. Word-of-Mouth Marketing = Lower Customer Acquisition Costs – You have to drive an effective referral program over the web. Social media allows you to do that if you can get a core set of evangelists. This is fundamental to lowering your AVERAGE customer acquisition costs. Free referrals balance your costly marketing and sales costs. Don’t count on word-of-mouth marketing, though, very few companies get homeruns. Hope for the homeruns, but be prepared to manufacture runs to stay in the game until you see the right pitch.
  2. Offering Value = Adoption – you have to meet & exceed the customers expectations around the value of the offering with something they cannot get anywhere else easily. That means you cannot satisfy everyone, so target an audience who will appreciate your offering. Make sure you get them to be raving fans. This gives you a core group of evangelists. Provide features and functionality that are must-haves, not nice-to-haves. This will involve a great deal of market research to understand the difference. This means investment in technology, automation of processes, unique approaches, patents, etc. Differentiation is not absolute, but it the starting place….
  3. Pricing & Packaging = Competitve Positioning – Assume that you will have competition and that they will be strong. You need to plan on an aggressive pricing and packaging strategy that creates both barriers to entry for competitors and barriers to exit for your customers.
  4. Partnerships = Distribution – the right “big brother” partner can enable you to leverage their customer base and brand marketing power to lower your average customer acquisition costs. Partnerships are difficult to build and are time consuming to manage. If done right, you will seed the market for the partner, provide them with sufficient channel support, and assume that you will have to do most of the heavy lifting in terms of closing sales until they see success.
  5. Creating Long Term Relationships = Barriers to Exit – This is the tricky one as there is a fine line between providing customer value & building in barriers to exit; ie. contracts, location, ability to export data, feature breadth, etc. Barriers to Exit can be perceived by customers as barriers to entry with a vendor. My belief is that companies should strive to be “easy to do business with” and they should focus less on building artifical barriers to exit, but rather more on the true barrier to exit for a customer which are value-based pricing, planned commoditization, continual innovation & service. At the end of the day, if a company can provide competitive pricing for the basics, unique differentiated functionality, and provides world-class service; why would anyone switch?

My next post on this topic will be for companies who are entering an established market with a new, differentiated offering. How do you leverage the web to displace entrenched, but less capable competitors.