Thursday, May 13, 2010

Quick to be Slow... The Marketing Tortoise Beats the Social Media Hare

Welcome to a Rainy Chicago Thursday...

The weather's making me a bit pensive or maybe more so than usual.  You see, courtesy of Yoda, I'm to participate in an invitation only roundtable discussion on May 22 with the National Restaurant Association show as the backdrop.  It should be a great time and an even greater learning experience with operators, other marketers and suppliers as part of the discussion.  To say I'm thrilled to be there is an understatement!

So why should I be pensive?  Well, Yoda's suggested icebreaker is for all of us to share a pet peeve.  I'm usually full of them as I'm no wallflower when it comes to having an opinion.  The thing, though is which pet peeve to share and is it more of a quirk than a peeve?  I tend to over analyze.

Luckily some unintentionally helpful social media consultants came to the rescue!  I have a friend "J" who runs a successful business but, like everyone else, wonders how this business could be doing better.  He's in an industry which benefits from an active social media presence but he doesn't feel like his current supplier is "delivering the ask" as I like to call it.  He wants to make a switch.  "A" runs another outfit in town that provides social media services to another business just like his.  Here's a basic rundown of how the conversation went from consultant A to my friend J (all on email):

1) A to J: Hi J, C told us that you were interested in learning more about us.  When would be a good time to chat?

2) J to A: Hi, I think you do great work!  But I need to know your rates.  I might not be able to afford you.

3) A to J: Hey, I can appreciate the point.  For a company like yours we'd charge $X per month with a 6 month minimum.  Here's a sheet which breaks down our expenses.

Alors!  A pet peeve worth of sharing.  Here's the thing: there's nothing technically wrong here per se.  Someone reached out to win someone's business.  And the other person asked for the rates.  As consumers we do this all the time: at the grocery store, department store, online, etc.  Unless we're billionaires, the cost matters.  

So, if this is what we do all the time, why is it a pet peeve?  See, when J told me about the exchange, my first comment back to him was that giving a price without a full blown conversation is like getting a call from your doctor from 1,000 miles away after you sneeze telling you that you have the flu and expecting to collect fees from you.  You might have the flu.  But then maybe it was just dust.  Or a small cold.  Perhaps just allergy season rearing its ugly head.  

The channel cart was put before the marketing horse which is problematic.  The issues could be anything.  J was right to ask about the rates as he's got a budget.  What A should have done, though, was to diagnose the problem instead of offering a generic solution complete with pricing.  Even if all you offer is social media strategies, a strategic marketer is channel agnostic first always and asks some of these questions (see below).  

  • What are your overall marketing activities now?  Do the results meet your expectations?
  • What do you like about working with your current partner?  What do you wish would be different?
  • What do you know about your customers?  What channels do they prefer when they hear about businesses like yours?
  • What new customers would you like to have?  What about them makes them so interesting to you?
  • What is your marketing "pain" now?  Is it awareness, branding, positioning, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Foursquare check-ins, no YouTube videos, user reviews?
  • Who are your strategic marketing partners in any channel including the social media space?  Are there ways that you can drive business to one another via sharing content, driving offers to each other, etc?
  • There's a certain down time or opportunity cost as you make a switch from one vendor/supplier to another.  Is your "pain" bad enough to justify the move?  Are you making "enough" to stay the course or is it really hurting your revenue stream?
  • How do you define marketing success?  Is it higher foot traffic because of repeat business, higher foot traffic because of new business, higher number of sales, higher average sales, higher recommendations, more user mentions and recommendations regardless of channel, etc?
Strategic marketers should selfishly ask these diagnostic questions and resist selling features and benefits.  Why is it selfish?  Well, what if the problem is more a global marketing strategy issue and not the social media channel?  If the former, A can make a referral to a reputable agency.  If the latter and A doesn't understand the nuances of J's business, he won't ever be able to solve J's problem even if the solution is delivered in the social media channel.  In both cases, he will have wasted time, money and his reputation (aka the chance to win new business via referral).  

Interestingly, as I was thinking about this the last few days, I came across this post from Jay Baer and provided the inspiration for my title.  The long story short is that though social media is defined by fractions of instants, it doesn't excuse us from being disciplined strategic marketers.  We have to learn to take deep breaths, ask some questions, identify the root cause, formulate strategies and plan the deliveries.  These do not have to be the work of many months...  but they always have to be the work of some quality analysis.  

Do you want to be ephemeral or lasting?  I'd rather be lasting.


Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

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