Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why Do Psychic Fairs Advertise? And Your Customers Don’t Have ESP

I have always been somewhat bemused when I hear radio ads or see billboards for Psychic Fairs. My assumption is that at minimum, those who are exhibiting their "skills" don't need to be solicited to participate as they should "see" any upcoming events pertinent to their genre and those who are interested may also have an "inside" track on this type of event. In the B2B customer relationship world, on the other hand, communication and engagement with our prospects has always been a critical activity and the world of marketing is obviously predicated on finding the secret sauce that will entice participants to join our events, review our materials, and participate in discussions with us.

In my continued exploration and curiosity around the SMN explosion, however, I am seeing a clear demarcation between those companies who are taking a shotgun approach to communication, advertisement and marketing in a misguided attempt to not miss the "boat" and those companies who are assuming that their clients are active participants in communities and social media sites and they can engage strictly as observers or rely on virtual word-of-mouth that is the foundation of these mechanisms to drive customers and prospects to their more formal websites and material. As I have stressed in previous posts, I think these positions on either end of the conversational spectrum are both indicative of our failure to establish a strategy for SMN participation prior to implementing our interaction and our confusion and still trepidation about how we should play in this sandbox. In short, our customers still do not have ESP and it is an inherent responsibility to let them know that we are "out there." I might go so far as to suggest that it is hugely presumptuous and egotistical to adopt a "field of dreams" approach to our social media and networking implementation. Just as we have used traditional email campaigns, newsletters and other methods for updating clients and prospects about new features, websites, conferences, etc., we need to adopt a similar approach to evangelizing about our entry into the world of on-line communities and profiles. I think a customized social media assessment or audit is appropriate on a company by company basis, but here are a few starter steps that I might suggest once you have decided to enter the Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, social soup:

  1. Add links to your new corporate profiles, Twitter addresses, community invitations to your website.
  2. Include announcements of your presence and a statement of your objective in newsletters, email campaigns, blogs, etc.
  3. Invite current clients to participate by launching a "membership drive".
  4. Interview reference clients from any beta tests you have done with new support infrastructures or forums that have utilized social networking and publish the interviews.
  5. Survey your clients about their participation in social networks and include their corporate Linkedin profile addresses, Twitter accounts, blog addresses, etc. in your CRM or SFA database.
  6. Use some of the embedded communication functionality in the social network applications to evangelize and spread the word.
  7. Ask your employees (particularly your sales, marketing and support personnel) to comb their contacts, connections, and friends for presence in social networks.
  8. Rinse and repeat often as the growth statistics are exponential and profiles and accounts in the SMN world change far more often than email addresses.

I hope these "top of brain" initial thoughts are helpful; at minimum interesting.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Don’t Forget the Oatmeal: True Story and Metaphor for Losing Sight of the Key Ingredient When We Implement SMN Tools

Last week I decided to make a batch of oatmeal cookies, an undertaking that I have completed successfully (following the good old standard Quaker lid recipe) hundreds of times. This batch, however, was an attempt to duplicate the particular crispness of a batch that my mother had prepared that had been received with accolades and raves. I gathered the ingredients, whirled them together with the trusty mixer and threw them in the oven with little concern and mostly by rote.

The first cookie sheet came out with a solid brick of baked mess end. I was puzzled and began hypothesizing that perhaps my oven temperature was a little off. I made some adjustments and threw in the second batch: same result, yet this time I began to hypothetically analyze the quality of the brown sugar and flour. Ever hopeful and certain that since I had done this successfully many, many times in the past, I threw yet a third sheet in the oven only to achieve the same disastrous results.

It was hours later that I realized that in my haste to try and duplicate my Mother's results and my inattention to the specifics of the recipe due to my assumption that I had done this so many times I had it down pat, that I had forgotten the key ingredient: the oatmeal; the fundamental POINT, glue, key, objective, focus, etc., etc., of the entire cookie.

As I have been speaking with various clients and colleagues over the past couple of weeks about metrics, tool selection, and plans for their implementation of SMN in their B2B customer relationship and reference programs, often a similar recipe mishap has emerged. Our eagerness to apply the elements of social media to our marketing and sales strategies can sometimes result in us losing sight of our primary and overarching objectives: maintaining and enhancing our current and prospective customer messaging and relationships. We can become too focused on the "shiny" factor: "X company used Box-in to add audio clips to their corporate profile. We should do that!", that we end up considering or deploying applications and tools that are not relevant or appropriate for our messaging. Worse, we may find certain new features so exciting that we implement them without any consideration of our fundamental goals and themes. I shared a story in a previous post about a company's extreme reaction to a negative Tweet. They had established a Twitter profile just because they had heard they "had to" and had given zero consideration to the reasons they may or may want a presence in this medium. The company had established no link between the profile and any existing customer relationship infrastructure; paid no heed to their marketing strategic plan; and other than creating a profile, had not even taken a stab at what SMN tool-kit objectives might be. When they found a negative Tweet about their product, their immediate inclination was to ask Twitter to shut the offender down and to specifically and directly answer his comments in a very aggressive and defensive fashion. They "forgot" that their customer relationship strategy included language about open and positive dialogue about issues and solutions, that their marketing mission was to attract and education potential new clients and audiences, and that the point of their Web 2.0 presence was the engage customers in meaningful dialogue and educational opportunities. In other words, when an unexpected result occurred, they were not positioned to respond cohesively or coherently because they hadn't followed or even really established their own "recipe".

If our customer relationship and reference objective is "oatmeal", then we should be diligent about including that ingredient in our entry to the SMN world. No matter how many times we have launched a new forum, community, blog or collateral infrastructure in the past, we should return to the fundamentals of our strategy and ensure that our social media and networking presence aligns with them consistently.