Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

I've made something of a tradition out of my Friday posts on this blog - my Friday Fun Video series. Long weeks, hard work and frayed nerves by the end of the week usually give rise to a little pawky humor that lends itself to Friday posts. But seeing as I've kept you awash in video posts this past week, I'm going to keep away from it today.

But I can promise you that I've got a real winner of a video to share with you next week.

For this week, I'll give you a thought about push marketing as inspired by the famous National Lampoon cover from January 1973 (full disclosure: I used to work just down the street from the Harvard Lampoon. The twisted humor probably rubbed off on me). How often have you felt like you've been held hostage by advertising or marketing?

More recently, this concept was illustrated by a Dilbert strip. Too many marketers, when they've exhausted the traditional lead generation, direct mail and sales-intensive efforts, seem to espouse this mentality:

And I've seen it happen with marketers who, after they've exhausted their lead generation, direct mail and trade show efforts (and budgets!), want to start a social media campaign in order to pick up the slack. Common phrases include:
  • "Which social networks should I join / which blogs should I comment on to help sell more product?"
  • "I'm going to measure ROI on my [blog/podcast/other social media effort] by measuring sales."
Bzzzzt! Sorry, wrong answer. That's not how it works.

With a social media strategy, your goal should be to become part of the conversation, to allow a community to form as a result of the conversation and the tools that you make available. If you really want to become indispensable in your customers' eyes, you need to understand them, you need to listen to them, you need to let them tell you what they need.

Maybe they'll tell you that you'll have to reconfigure your packaging or develop an improvement to your product or face a major overhaul of your website. Is this a pain? Sure. Is it expensive? Sometimes, but not necessarily, and let me tell you why.

The money you spend on these short term fixes, on listening - yes, actually listening to your customers - and taking action will be one of the smartest investments you could ever make. Think I'm overstating it? If your customers perceive your product to be inferior or the information on your website too confusing, they'll leave you for a competitor who can give them a better product and a more enjoyable Web experience.

The money you spend on making improvements - the very improvements that your customers ask for - will be goodwill that you can't buy any other way. They'll know that their opinion mattered and that a company actually listened to them, rather than forcing them to buy more crap. With a conversation that you've fostered or a community that you've nurtured, you'll have a committed and long-term focus group that will be able to tell you what you need to know.

Now, that's not to say that you should take every last recommendation or spend a huge budget on changes. But you should be open to hearing about your customers' points of view. After all, they're the ones that have to live with your products.

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