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.

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