Social Media week was full of fantastic events with different experts in various sectors. The networking was great because each venue had different people to meet and multiple points-of-view.
There were two global takeaways I had from the events I attended.
· The first is that there’s still no magic bullet to get customers, even in social media. SEO, blogs, websites, linked in, pinterest, etc. must all work in as part of a strategically organized system in order to be successful. And that requires a fair degree of participation on your, the entrepreneur’s, part
· The second takeaway I observed and heard from techies who were self-proclaimed “not” marketing people (that’s how obvious the problem is) is that the paradigm of giving the customer what the company and ad agency wants hasn’t changed at all. The only change is how it’s delivered –- using new, sexy technology. This is troubling. For example, at the “Marketing without words” event, there was a discussion of social engagement through images. Tools to follow each visitor from first look to sale, re-tweet or re-pin, etc. is now available. It’s called Curalate. Great. But what does it measure AFTER a customer’s visual trail? How does that affect a company’s bottom line? Imagine how much more impactful a brand would be if they asked their customers what THEY wanted to see before they posted anything. I predict that audience participation would skyrocket. And Curalate would confirm that. There is some progress in that, but where’s the ROI?
Here are some thoughts by Joe Bergmann, who has many years of online marketing experience. His approach is simpler and more effective than anything I’ve heard in a long time.
“Just By Asking”
Why do ad/brand companies try so hard to quantify people? Why do they try to dictate what they want people to think? Why do they think they have the power to brand themselves in people’s minds?
Most ad/technology companies of late adopters (advertisers), try to be hip, thinking they are on top of the latest technology and social networks so that they can exploit early adopters (customers, who don’t want their social media invaded by yellow creamy cheese and canned soup). Advertisers talk about controlling “authentic” relationships directly with customers, as if that was possible. Actually, it’s self-delusional. And then they take that delusion in-house (what next — outsourcing that authenticity to India?). Unbelievable.
This is top-down, invasive thinking. Most companies believe that what is important to them is important to their audience. It’s eyeball gathering that gets dirty looks from the consumer, because it is perceived as interrupting customer conversations and trampling on their privacy. What it is, is bad manners. Many companies seem to have forgotten that serving the customer also serves their stockholders. Until companies stop imposing meaningless marketing messaging on people, they will be stuck in a morass of the latest technological gimmick and the old-fashioned broadcast mentality. The Internet is a graveyard of technologies and metrics that have been the next, best thing.
So what’s a company to do? Remember, your brand is what the customer experiences of you — not what you want them to think (no matter how much and where you advertise). To make that work for your company, you should consider asking your customers what’s important to them. All you have to do is ask. So few companies do that, because they fear the of loss of control. But loss of control is not a bad thing. Being too much in control will make you less effective in the sales process. It turns your marketing message into a monologue. And most monologues don’t produce sales. After all, that’s what marketing boils down to — sales. Giving in to your customers and listening to what matters to them is liberating. It helps you think clearly about how you should approach your audience — without trying to interpret what they mean. In our experience, your customers are more than willing to help. They are the most important asset your company has.
So why do so many marketing companies and ad agencies still operate in broadcast mode? Again, loss of control. So they offer focus groups to pick the “best” of their controlled ideas. So what if the best idea isn’t in the 3-5 boards presented. Just keep developing more controlled ideas. Wouldn’t it be simpler to ask the customer what’s important to them and then build your marketing around their needs? But that takes a willingness to lose control and let people speak freely.
But that takes an approach to market research that requires a sense of humility, listening skills and a commitment to giving people what they want from your company (and a good product or service that meets a need doesn’t hurt). The problem with most companies is that they rationalize or assume they know what the customer wants without having ever asked. They think their product or service should be interesting without being interested in their customers. Or worse, to be able to manipulate their perception. It doesn’t work.
That’s why I developed the OpenMind session and methodology. There is no better way to discover what your audience wants — and helps you give it to them. It’s the simplest, most time and cost effective way to make your marketing work. One OpenMind session will open your eyes to a whole new way to brand your company and then turn that brand into an experience to your audience. In OpenMind sessions customers are the ones who inform you how they want to be “told and sold.” Then and only then can technology become a tool that enables you speak to their needs.
Just by asking.
To learn more about OpenMind visit: http://www.holtzmancom.com/teamwork_openmind.php
Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.