Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Customer Reality vs Shiny Objects

While it's important to know what's available in marketing technology, it's not effective marketing to chase after brightly colored tool suites and flavor of the month social media platforms. Raw, ridiculous, refreshing customer reality must be the primary focus, then with customer-centric solutions in mind, explore the gadgets and gimmickry.

I found myself responding professionally to a strategy hinted at in a recent quote provided by Danny Sullivan on GooglePlus in reference to his reaction to the article on Marketing Land entitled "Is GooglePlus Mandatory for Marketers? And Is That So Bad?"


"I get the feeling some the folks pontificating about the pros and cons of Google’s dominance have forgotten what it’s like to be sitting in front of a CMO talking about the relationship between search, social media and other online marketing disciplines. What’s most important — one of the biggest challenges marketers face — is determining which of the latest shiny objects deserve precious resources"

- good thoughts from +Kevin Ryan


No. I disagree that marketers need to select certain shiny objects, for themselves and/or their clients, according to the claims of the objects and the budgetary constraints of agency or client.

"We're on the new SlapJack social network!" or "Check out our automated instant order shoppers kiosk" may arouse curiosity in some, but without a consistent social media marketing plan, hopping from one trendy spot to another, and trying to keep up with it all in a rich, relevant, personally interactive manner, may exhaust resources, yet accomplish little.

Shiny objects. Pick the right ones, the best mix, and you'll win the prize!

This strategy, vaguely indicated in the Marketing Land article, but the trace is unmistakable, is, I think, this:

"Shiny objects will do the job, now which ones should we pick?"

which can be more completely expressed by including this underlying attitude:

"If we use as many shiny toys and tools as are currently trendy and sufficiently shouted about by the pundits, we'll have the appearance of doing social and digital media. Then, also, if it attracts an audience that drives itself, interacting with each other, without much inteference by us, and the content is automatically generated (curated or scraped from other sites), we'll be free to move onto other things."

Automated social media is not in compliance with the core values of social media. Authenticity. Transparency. Genuine Personal Interactivity. Sharing. Caring. Providing expertise by linking to good information and by personally answering questions and remarking on suggestions from customers.

This is the top priority. To enter fully and deeply into the world inhabited by the customer. Frustrations and expectations. Trouble and rejoicing. What are they trying to solve, fix, or enhance? Find that goal, inspect it from every possible angle, listen to the exact words used by customers when describing it. Consider only slightly editing their wording for use in marketing campaigns.

What must ring true is the ground your marketing is founded upon. That ground must be a pure and enlightened understanding of the raw reality in which your product provides a solution for a needy customer.

What is it exactly that is making the customer feel dissatisfied, incomplete, suffering some type of loss or missed opportunity? What is the overarching goal and underlying desperation of the customer?

What we must focus on is not the vast array of shiny objects.  The focus must start and remain upon customers. Customer needs. Customer interests. Customer problems. Customer experience. Customer relations. Customer acquisition. Customer retention. Customer word of mouth. Customer service. Customer loyalty programs. Customer feedback. Customer conversations. Customer rewards.

We must get in the dirt and grime, the misery and hopes of customers. Then let that light, that insight into customers, guide our every subsequent move. Object selection will then be secure in market reality.

Social media consultants must assess the wide variety of social network marketing tools, know how to navigate them in a manner that is not annoyingly commercial or inappropriately personal, and which ones are key to the client's objectives.

One client may need to prioritize working an audience interactivity campaign in Twitter, GooglePlus, Reddit, and LinkedIn.

Another client may be better served by building first a strong presence in BlogTalkRadio, YouTube, and Pinterest.

GooglePlus is where your customers will want to be, just as is true with all web objects and internet properties, when your presence there provides great news, information, insight, discounts, interaction, friendship, and other value to the customer. That's what's hard about social media marketing: determining what to provide, or better, how to provide your expertise and solutions in a way that relates to the consumer and is easy to derive value from spending time there.

If your presence on a specific social network is all hype all the time, with no genuine interaction with community members, if you delegate or automate it all, you won't have a real personalized presence there. 

People may be attracted to your brand and check it out, but after the initial burst of interest, participation will fall off and all you'll have is an echo chamber, broadcasting messages that nobody cares about, because you didn't prove you cared about them.

I generally advise people to begin with a website that does all the right things, and then a blog where the CEO, owner, manager, marketing department, or official staff blogger, some jubilant personality representing the company, becomes extremely approachable, neighborly, relaxed, and self-revealing. Not all business all the time, but also not unprofessionally personal (like expressing hot political opinions or self-congratulatory trivia others could not relate to).

The central hub of all client news, products, and information should be the twin properties of ecommerce website and corporate blog. The website needs a News page that features links to blog posts as they're published, while the blog should refer back to specific product pages in the ecommerce site when reviewing these products.

The website acts as the store front.

The blog is the inside circle, the interior office, the online customer service channel, the direct line to the boss, the inner sanctum of the presidency, the livingroom of the corporate suite -- where people are relaxed and get quick results. Comments get fast replies. Actions are taken on complaints. Help is given to solve problems.

At the website, customers see what you have and what you do.

In the blog, customers get to know you as a real, living, caring person and a distinct, differentiated professional of high standards and good practices.

The most shiny object of all must be the clear message of how the customer will benefit. Polish up how you present the driving idea behind your business: how you solve the customer problem effectively and economically.

A great solution at a fair price, with superior service. Tell customers what their bragging rights will consist of, using words derived from customer engagements in the store, office, or social networks.

Establishing the customer base in all its reality, and knowing the mission of the company in social media, what must be achieved and how it must be done, are the top priorities for strategy in social media marketing.

From these two torches of guidance radiate out all the ramifications and directions that impel our progress to increased sales and reinforced customer loyalty.

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