Published on: April 14, 2011Note: This week, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) offers a preview of some of the most anticipated sessions scheduled for its Future Connect conference, slated to be held May 10-13 in Dallas, Texas.
This morning, an e-interview with Jeff Molander, an authority on improving digital marketing's business return, who will present a Future Connect general session called “Off the Hook Marketing: A Practical, 3-step Way to Make Social Media Produce More Leads, Sales and Loyalty.”
Molander will be speaking on Wednesday, May 12 at 10 am.There is a sense is that a lot of companies - especially retailers, but also a lot of manufacturers - either sprinkle a little social media/mobile funding and tactics on top of traditional marketing plans, or put this category toward the bottom of their to-do lists. What needs to happen for these companies realize that this has to be a fundamental, integrated part of everything they do?Jeff Molander:
Frankly, I believe what you're describing is a result of well-founded concerns. The reluctance to invest is a result of skepticism over the "revolutionary change" today's gurus proclaim. I think most businesses realize: social media's arrival represents an exciting evolution, not a revolution. And I think they're smart enough to realize there's more than a little bit of snake oil being sold in this gold rush. So to answer your question, I don't think anything needs to happen. There's a presumption: that social media needs to be a fundamental cog in the marketing wheel. That comes from all the hype around it. Is it critical for survival? Probably. But for some more than others. Those that truly "need" social media (for their business to survive) will see wheels start to fall off. But I think this constant "need to save them" is folly -- demand creation for "guru" consultants.
In my humble opinion, the real, "under-discussed" problem is this: These "new rules" declare that success involves technology. It doesn't. It involves designing social media to produce behavior. Setting up a Facebook page or learning how to operate blog software, install plugins, set up widgets or create LinkedIn groups. These skills are essential to have. But understanding how to “do social media” is not worthwhile unless you have a practical way to design it to pay you. That's what my presentation at FutureConnect is about. Giving stores a fast, practical way to make social media marketing achieve business goals -- beyond "likes" and follower count. And beyond regurgitating promotions and circulars into a new channel. A millennial generation blogger recently said at an industry conference that there is no chance she will ever buy a newspaper to get a coupon - never, no way. And yet, companies still spend a fortune on paper coupons in FSIs that, on a good day, get 2% redemption rates. Talk about the opportunities available to people who move into social media and don;t adhere blindly to old patterns.Jeff Molander:
Again, this may not be what you're expecting to hear. Everyone knows there's upside in what you're describing. But if that's the case why the reluctance to tap into it? Isn't that your story? Aren't we hearing enough about the benefits?
Or are the benefits being dismissed because they're not valid, real? As I see it, businesses aren't really lost -- so much as they've been convinced of it. Consider where typical priorities are coming from. For instance, why is “managing your online reputation” and “developing enthusiasts” more important than generating sales? Because a company selling social “buzz monitoring” software says so? Or why is the end-goal for Twitter something called engagement? Because someone who wrote a book on Twitter decided so?
Most businesses have been listening to and engaging with customers for a while now. Updating Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, posting on blogs. They've been creating “compelling content” and “being transparent, more human.” All good and necessary. But is doing these things helping them sell more, more often?
In my research, successful business owners and marketing pros are quietly asking themselves better questions. For instance, "Is there more to social media than grabbing at customers' attention? (being "liked") Or answering their complaints in a new way? (Twitter) Or handing out coupons and discounts wherever and whenever they flock online?" I think gut instincts tell them that social media is a chance to help customers get what they need into their hands – their products and services. They just don't see how to make it happen -- beyond "like-ability." And that's because those selling simple, misguided answers are in charge. For instance, "getting liked more" or "upload a viral video" are not business strategies.
The real upside lies in asking businesses asking better questions of themselves. Just like Tony Robbins says. Want better outcomes? Ask better questions. For instance, could the answer to selling more with social media be found in starting conversations that are worth having? And could conversing in ways that generate questions – that your products or services give answers to – generate more customer inquiries? Many companies make social media (and other e-initiatives) an IT project, an opposed to something driven by marketing. How do you advise companies to structure their social media projects?Jeff Molander:
"Social" is something you are, not something you do. That's where businesses are getting it wrong. Because if a company's culture doesn’t already focus on building relationships with its customers then chances are it won’t use social media to do it either. The "media" doesn’t dictate how social a company is or isn’t. It simply enhances its ability to be a social business – if in fact it is. If not, it illustrates the extent to which it isn't.The numbers suggest that a lot of social media usage - especially the kind interesting to the FMI audience - is not being driven by young people who are the customers of the future, but by women who have jobs and kids and are very much the customers of today. Why is this, and what do marketers need to do to use social media as a sales and marketing tool?Jeff Molander:
Why is this? I have no idea. And I don't know that I care... respectfully. All I know is that marketers need to do these 3 things. And I base it on my research:
1) Get back to basics: Decide what NOT to do first. Focus on solving customers' problems first, not technology. Where to start? Follow needs of customers, not gurus nor “best practices.”
2) Think like a designer. Make each social marketing tactic “scratch customers' itches.” Mix in time-tested promotional techniques that create opportunities to connect those itches (problems, urges) to products.
3) Translate: Be forever relevant. Use social media to help capture insights on customers' pain points. Then put them to work. Be relevant 24/7. Invent ways to keep prompting more questions that your products answer – stay relevant over time.Finally, to what extent is social media a networking/marketing tool, and to what extent is it an actual sales tool with an ROI? And how should its ROI be evaluated differently than traditional media expenses?Jeff Molander:
If you don't mind my saying so... I despise this debate. Because it's designed to go nowhere. The marketing industry, much like the financial industry before it, has become blinded by metrics that they don’t understand. Somehow, the notion of accountability has morphed into a misguided quest for the sure thing in the form of ROI metrics for just about everything. For registration information about Future Connect 2011, click here