Category Archives: Relationship Marketing

The Unsung Heroes of Social Media

The business side of social media is evolving on a daily basis. People in roles all across businesses are scrambling to keep up with what customers are doing and how their behaviors and attitudes are evolving.  In any industry, those who build experience as practitioners early on have a great opportunity to distinguish themselves among industry peers.  Aside from the typical legions of snake oil salesmen (awesome and still relevant post from Jason Falls rebuking the social media guru attacks), there are a plethora of smart, proven, eloquent thought leaders out there who make it a part of their daily business to advance the industry and do great work for their clients.  Jay Baer, David Armano and Aaron Strout are some of the first that come to mind for me.  Others like Jim Storer and Rachel Happe are building tremendous signal-to-noise ratio services, like the Community Roundtable, that companies would be remiss to ignore.  These folks are all doing brilliant work.  But what about the folks who didn’t build up a personal presence on the speaking circuit, or the dozens of other folks behind the scenes at companies who are really living how social media is changing their businesses?

To adapt a classic line from Rick Pitino before his departure as head coach of the Boston Celtics:
Chris Brogan isn’t walking through that door.  Valeria Maltoni isn’t walking through that door.  Beth Kanter isn’t walking through that door.  Brian Solis isn’t walking through that door and Seth Godin isn’t walking through that door.” (well, unless you go hire them).

The point here is that companies have talented staff who are learning about social media (it can be taught, you know).  No one knows the business better, the brand better, or the customers better than people who work at the company.  Hiring thought leadership, creative and execution help may be the right path for many companies (hey, I’d be hypocritical not to recommend it).  Agencies who are truly business partners can accelerate, execute and innovate, but in the end it’s the folks within the four walls of the company who need to own customer relationships and do the work that social business entails.

So here’s to celebrating those people behind the scenes. They aren’t on the speaking circuit (yet), and in many cases they may not even be allowed to share their stories.  But they are there helping customers, collaborating with colleagues and pushing businesses into new territory with emerging technology. Know some folks who should be recognized?  Send them this post along with a note of thanks for the hard work.

Photo credit: Screen capture from YouTube

Micromarketing: Relationship Marketing Through Advocacy

When I got the email asking me to contribute a review (for Chapter 7) of Greg Verdino‘s new book, at first I didn’t think it would be a fit.  I haven’t done book reviews here before, let alone since elementary school.  The first notion that came to mind frankly was breaking out a shoebox, some construction paper and scissors so I could start building my diorama. Yep, here comes that feeling of dread before a big book report is due – late nights, criticism from parents who would do it differently, sizing up my project to those built by friends.  And then I started reading MicroMarketing.  Quickly it became clear that Greg’s outreach team had lined up the right chapter with something I’m passionate about.

First, Some Key Takeaways

When I read a business book I have two simple criteria to decide if it was worth it: 1) Did I learn something new and 2) Is it a book I would want my colleagues to read.  In short, MicroMarketing passed both criteria, with a very heavy emphasis on the latter. Since I have been a social media enthusiast for some time, I have heard about many examples, but I would imagine the typical marketer would learn about a lot of new success stories.   Some key thoughts that struck me while reading the book:

- Greg is very adept at taking social media examples and talking about them in terms that “traditional” marketers will understand.

- The book builds on examples from chapter to chapter, while breaking down what worked well and why it worked… not just spewing example scenarios and statistics.

- The business of social media by its nature has allowed me to meet, virtually at first and in person over time, lots of talented minds.  What also appealed about Greg’s book is that it read just like my Tweetdeck group of smart minds in the biz: Shel Israel, Scott Monty, Steve Garfield, Susan Reynolds, David Armano, Chris Brogan, Stacy Debroff, Katja Presnal, and Shiv Singh all come up in various forms, to name just a few respected folks that caught my eye.

- Throughout, Greg uses many allusions or outright callouts to interactive marketing techniques – SEO, PPC, display advertising, web analytics and measurement concepts, and more.  Marketers need to keep those concepts in mind, since micromarketing doesn’t exists in a bubble.

Chapter 7: From Reach to Relationships

Chapter 7 flips the concepts that traditional marketers are used to; “reach” is no longer the means to drive business results, it’s an outcome.  Developing relationships with a core group of influential customers (or people that fit the profile of customers) is a way to activate “many by resonating with the right few.”  The advocates themselves become what a corporate marketers could never be: willing, authentic, genuine and trusted.

Greg outlines the contrast between mass and interruption-based marketing with several examples of companies that have engaged in deep relationships with a select few.  The letter from a family participating in Panasonic’s “Living in HD” program is liquid gold – it shows a value exchange that went beyong the transaction of enrolling the family in the program.  The letter is an example of the “zen” of advocacy: an evangelist that clearly is introducing new customers to the brand.  I’m guessing that if Panasonic has quantified the lifetime value of a customer, developing evangelists introduced enough new customers to justify the program and then some.

Two other key examples are examined – Walmart’s Elevenmoms program and McDonald’s Moms program.  Each are highly compelling – the former an example of picking highly engaged representatives to forge relationships with, the latter an example of creating a transparent communication channel with “everyday” moms.  These companies are building relationships founded not just on the strengths of ties to people who care, but with an emphasis on continuing to build relationships with people just like them.  The core groups represent meaningful constituencies that ultimately drive brand purchase decisions.

This was the first chapter that started to go deeper on helping marketers start to hone in “how” to do micromarketing.  “Making the shift” to developing communal relationships needs to become a business and marketing objective, achieved through control mutuality, trust, satisfaction and commitment.  How many brands actually have that in their core values?  How many don’t just talk about it, but live it?  This chapter starts to get more at how brands live it.

Some Criticisms

I’d like to see more “how” here – take some of the examples and plot out how the company: developed the concept, devised the plan, achieved C-suite buy-in, developed a program roadmap, recruited the right people, identified internal resources to orchestrate the plan, and measured the crap out of it.

I wouldn’t mind some internal strife along the way – an advocate who said something negative in a Youtube post and how the company responded or failed.  Frankly that’s probably asking Greg and the smart folks at Powered to give away the farm, but as a marketing consultant I found myself looking for more.

Regarding mass interruption vs. deep relationships, I don’t believe it’s an either/or scenario.  There is a middle ground that can compel companies to combine them and ultimately build deeper relationships with many.  As Greg clearly outlines, these corporate examples still have huge media and mass marketing budgets that would make even the largest agencies swoon.

Some examples may have been 100% earned media, but I believe most successful case studies have a combination of paid and earned.  The earned media gives the authenticity and relevant connections, among other things, and the paid media lets more of the right people know about it.  Many are already pointing to Old Spice as a prime example – but the campaign was a Super Bowl ad (does it get any more “paid media” than that?) before it was successful social media content.  If paid and earned media are combined it can be very compelling – companies need to adapt to learn this but don’t throw the paid media baby out with the anti-mass marketing bath water.  Would the Truvia example Greg mentions earlier in the book have been as successful without a $20 million mass campaign that ran first?  I’m not so sure.

Greg discusses a great concept called “microcontent.”  Throughout the book examples are given where content at a small scale had big impact.  I’d add to his commentary on each example that the content was successful because it was awesome (said in both the New England connotation of “brilliant” and any other dictionary definition you like).  Paranormal Activity didn’t succeed solely because it started small – it is legitimately scary and over-delivers on the promise of a horror film.  Susan Boyle over-delivered on talent.  Brands can’t just think small, they need to think awesome – good quality and a customer experience that exceeds expectations are at the root of a winning formula; micromarketing can enable it to resonate with the right people.

My Diorama

Thanks to the Powered team for including me in the review for the book, and thanks to Greg for sharing snippets on Facebook and Twitter throughout the process.  This was quite the opposite of those book reports – the book is worth the read.  Greg gave friends and followers glimpses to the challenging process of writing the book – I have to say, I think that played a role in wanting to read it.  By Jove, I think he just micromarketed to me.  How can I show that in a shoebox?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the evolution of relationship marketing, Greg’s book, his approach to solicit microcontent chapter reviews in the comments, and thanks for reading.

More Chapter By Chapter microMarketing Reviews

Chapter 1/9-20: Aaron Strout

Chapter 2/ 9-21: Lucretia Pruitt, Mitch Joel

Chapter 3/ 9-22: Jason Falls, Toby Bloomberg

Chapter 4/ 9-23: Kayta Andresen, Murray Newlands

Chapter 5/ 9-24: Amber Nashlund, Marc Meyer, Chris Abraham

Chapter 6/ 9-27: Ari Herzog

Chapter 7/ 9-28: Danny Brown, Jay Baer, Becky Carroll

Chapter 8/ 9-29: C.C. Chapman, Elmer Boutin

Chapter 9/ 9-30: John Moor, David Armano, Beth Harte, Justin Levy

Disclosure: Powered and my agency, Rosetta, are good pals and evolving business partners, and I was sent a copy of the book.  (I would have gladly bought one.)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Social Media Does Not Exist

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. – The Usual Suspects (1995)

I had an interesting discussion recently about Social media strategies.  When discussing inputs to a social media strategy, an admitted “social media skeptic” replied that she thought there shouldn’t be a need for them; rather that social media strategies were really just customer relationship strategies.  Frankly, well put.   MarketingSherpa recently published a study of companies that are integrating social media tactics with offline and online marketing tactics.  I’d like to see the evolution over time and agree with the premise – “The benefits of integrating social media with other marketing tactics far exceed the benefits of utilizing social media alone.”

Effective businesses manage all customer touchpoints – every customer interaction is a chance to impact the experience, whether it’s an ad, a product purchase, a customer service call, talking in the store with an associate, or replying to a post in a social network.  When companies start to realize these synergies, they will be able to achieve a lot more than focusing on pure social media tactics alone.  The customer lifecycle is a journey, and each interaction point can have multiple tactics that make it more compelling (and ultimately provide benefit) to the customer.

The technologies that are available influence traditional marketing tactics already.  In some cases, they magnify each other.  Take these examples:

  • 50% click through rate increase in paid search when consumers were exposed to influenced social media and paid search (comScore & GroupM study).
  • Email marketing approaches need to factor in calls to action in social platforms, like soliciting ratings and reviews for products and services, or asking customers to become fans on Facebook.
  • Attribution of revenue from interactive marketing tactics like paid search, display advertising and landing pages now need to factor social tactics (shared links, social content on site) to understand the impact to analytics and optimization.
  • Location based services like Foursquare and Gowalla are about understanding who is coming to your store offline, and enabling targeted promotions to reward visitors.  (Imagine that, technology that helps bring visitors in the door, and keep them coming back.)

While social media specific strategies can help companies digest and learn the technologies and approaches that build success, they aren’t the end game.  I’d like to see more companies treat social media as if it were an embedded part of building customer relationships, focusing on making the most of all relevant touchpoints they have with customers.  I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at how social technologies are changing and influencing other areas of marketing.  Despite lots of hype and lots of platforms grabbing headlines, I’m convinced that companies who truly embrace social media, by understanding and engaging, are the ones who treat it as if it doesn’t exist.

Don’t just take my word for it – there are others that think the same way.  Think we’ll see the day when “social media” isn’t a separate line item in a marketing plan?

Photo credit: niemster via Flickr

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Two Dirty Little Social Media Secrets

I was intrigued by Marc Meyer’s post about social media marketing being too labor intensive.  He outlines a whole series of activities, from smaller things like creating listening posts and monitoring buzz, mentions and opportunities to bigger initiatives like creating and managing blogs, microsites using social platform providers, and broad community initiatives.  Agencies and businesses alike need to sort out the level of effort and costs required (not to mention roles and responsibilities for maintaining each).  I’m not trying to be a wet blanket, but trying to highlight reality a bit by sharing two topics you don’t hear about much when it comes to how successful social tactics are deployed.

1. More Successful Means More Expensive

As these tactics become more successful, they become more expensive.  These tactics require long term effort and can certainly can do more damage if abandoned.  But it takes more effort to continue to manage, build and grow, and that can mean more costs internally, at a minimum.  The effort can result in more resources, more media, more content – all of which have a price tag unless you believe people are free (in which case I’d like to hire you for my next project).

2. Hope is Not a Plan: Paid + Earned Media

A partner at Accenture I used to work with was king of pouncing on anyone who responded to a question with “I hope…”   His response was a sharp  “Hope is not a plan.”  This applies to social ideas too.  Even the most successful social media initiatives are likely combined with other marketing tactics – especially paid media and email marketing.  I’d be surprised to hear about social ideas that were grounded purely in the “hope” they will go viral alone.  What’s the quickest way for a brand to get fans (likes) on a Facebook page?  Engagement ads on Facebook with a call to action, or emailing customers with a similar call to action.  Companies like Rapleaf can tell you which customers are active in social networks – you can be precise on the call to action, but just building something social doesn’t mean customers will show up.  Li Evans wrote an excellent post recently about how social media marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, going deeper on other tactics like SEO and PPC.  Together these tactics magnify each other.

Am I just being Master of the Obvious again? Have an example that contradicts?  I’d love to hear it, and I hope I’m wrong.  Right, hope is not a plan.

Photo credit: movetheclouds via Flickr

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Facebook Changes Relationship Marketing, Again

The discipline of relationship marketing is already facing waves of changes with social media providing a variety of new approaches and opportunities to communicate with customers.  Optimizing communications with email marketing alone has been an ongoing challenge for companies of all sizes.  Developing an appropriate communication strategy requires understanding the needs, attitudes and behaviors of customers, fine tuning copy and frequency that will resonate with customers a business is trying to reach.

Clearly social media is already having an impact.  Customers opting to follow Twitter streams, join community programs or become “fans” on Facebook are signaling they are opting in to some sort of communication.  I met recently with a financial services company who is leveraging these opt-in communication points to offset email marketing – literally, they are sending less email because customers are choosing to interact with their brands through different vehicles.

Facebook just threw yet another a monkey wrench into the mix. With the ability to “like” any page or content out there with a unique URL, a communication strategist has another dimension to manage.  When a customer “likes” a page, or perhaps even a specific product, the brand then has the capability to communicate directly with those fans.  For example, as a reader if you “like” this blog post (you can choose the verb “recommend” instead, in the settings for the API), I have the ability just like a normal fan page in Facebook to communicate to just the fans of this post.  Facebook creates a ‘ghost’ page only available to the admin, which will allow me to track statistics and see an explicit list of people who “like” or “recommend” the post.

Imagine the applications.  Companies in all industries could consider implications around targeting through Facebook for specific brands, product lines or individual products. A pharma company, for example, could leverage this function to communicate with Facebook users around specific conditions if they happen to “like” a specific treatment.  Retailers could too, except they need to be careful – do they really want to manage communications and fans at a SKU level?  Nike could integrate communications via Facebook likes for fans of Air Jordan, but it’s probably not sustainable for each shoe.  Bookstores could manage communications with folks who “like” historical fiction different those who “like” Manga.

At the big business level I think there is going to be an emerging emphasis on communication management, copywriters and ongoing relationship marketing strategists to digest these technologies and build case studies to drive business results.  Have a favorite example of the application of Facebook’s new “like” API and approach?  I’d love to hear it.

Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn via Flickr – who also provides a template for businesses wanting to create a similar sign