Welcome to 2009, the Year of Engagement, Social Marketing and Web 2.0, Part 1 & 2 (updated)

Note to readers. This is the first post in 2009.  Happy New Year!  As promised, there will be another 3 posts in the coming week.

As I mentioned in my most recent column — a recap of the National Center for Database Marketing conference last month — it’s not good enough to merely serve your customers anymore. You must cement them emotionally to your brand, your products and your customer service.

With social media strongly in play (whether you like it or not), you don’t get to choose what’s said about your brand. Control of your brand image has been passed, torch-style, from the marketing department to your customers.

Your customers are becoming more and more voracious in their pursuit of information that’s not simply put forth by brands, but spread by their peers as brand advocates. Actually, it’s more like brand advocates and brand detractors. Your customers, much like plus/minus statistics in a hockey game, keep score — a plus point for a positive customer experience, a minus for a negative one.

Why the social media explosion? It’s simple: When you add the current overload of marketing messaging sent and received in a given day, coupled with a growing distrust of said messaging and a more jaded customer base, the result is an environment primed and ready for customer-induced growth.

The plus/minus as it relates to your marketing efforts. Your present and future direct marketing efforts only get you part of the way there. Customers and prospects alike search for information on your company to help with their buying decisions. The people who interact with your brand and the way they interact are the deciding factors in your success and/or failure. You don’t have to look into a crystal ball to envision a future where companies have less and less impact on buying decisions.

In the concept of the outward-facing, customer-focused business, there are two business models in the multichannel world:

1. Merchants: The first type is brand/product-centric. These are merchants who’ve built their companies from the ground up with an intuitive feel for what their customers want and need. Culturally, these companies are focused on merchandising, product development and brand building. They have a sort of “if you build it they will come” feel internally.

2. Marketers: The other type is the sales and marketing culture. Here, the focus is less on product/branding and more on the process of direct marketing. Marketers are more numbers-focused, and the feel you get when you visit is that it’s about list building and what gets sold to that list.

If I had to guess which of these cultures will better adapt to Web 2.0, I’d have to say the marketing culture. But the truth is, it’s anyone’s guess.

Check back next week for part two, where I’ll look at the role social media occupies for catalog/multichannel marketers, as well as how it can be a good thing to hear the negative things customers have to say about you.


Adapt or Die!
Clearly, the way to adapt to changes in the marketplace is to get out in front of the wave. It’s not too late, so don’t fret if you’re not. As a direct marketing consultant, I’m in the same boat. With a background steeped in the more traditional direct marketing principles, I need to be more on the cutting edge, too. In the last year, I’ve become enamored with social media as a marketing tool and its potential to engage.

What Are You Waiting For?
I conducted an informal survey over the past few days on how catalog/multichannel marketers have integrated social media into their overall marketing mixes. Here’s what I found:

  • Half of the catalog/multichannel companies I surveyed had MySpace pages and/or Facebook groups.
  • Only one was tweeting away on Twitter.
  • I didn’t see much blogging or message board adoption.
  • Usage of Flickr and YouTube didn’t even register a hit.

These results dovetail with a recent poll we ran on CatalogSuccess.com. For the poll results, click here.

Compared to another group I looked at, pure-play Internet retailers (let’s call this the control group), catalogers’ social marketing adoption was minimal.

So why is that? The biggest concern I hear from catalog/multichannel marketers is negative publicity around their brands, which brings us back full circle to our control issues and the whole concept of customer centricity.

Learning Opportunity
Ask yourself the following questions about what kind of role social media plays in your business:

  1. Are you afraid of negative publicity? If you are, why? Do you not want to find out what your customers are talking about? Or what you can do to fix or improve your company? If you bury your head in the sand, the ruthless truth is your customers will bury you. Like the proverbial Chinese alphabet character for “danger” having the same meaning as “opportunity,” now is your chance to become truly customer-centric — to finally understand by listening to the Internet chatter about your company.
  2. If you’re using social marketing within your business, is it just a tactic? Are you using it strategically to understand your customers? I’d guess the big question here is this: Does the data/information the marketing team obtains from its social outlets trickle up to the C-level executives?

Maybe the new paradigm shift should be, “If you listen, they will come!”

Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll begin to share what I’ve learned about social media. I’ll talk about Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn (mostly for B-to-B), Facebook (groups vs. pages), YouTube, Flickr, blogs, message boards, on-page ratings and reviews, and more — the strategies and tactics you need to know to build a customer-centric multichannel company.

And I want this to be a dialogue, because I’m not a social marketing expert by any means. It’s very much a trial and error process, and I hope to learn from you, too!

Just how powerful is social media? Some amazing stats!

I can’t wait to hear your comments on these facts about social media.

Do you want to include social media marketing in your business?  We can help.  We set up and even manage, blogs, message boards, Facebook pages and groups, twitter, video and more.  We can write and post custom content for you as well.  Contact us for more info.

Are you social, but looking for more ROI via traditional direct marketing?  Contact us for more info.