The straightest path between two points is a line – but when it comes to connecting with your customers – the path is anything but linear.
Ever since I can remember, business people have always wanted a “soda machine” relationship with their marketing and advertising. Slide a dollar or two into your “marketing machine” – and out pops a sale.
It’s no surprise that those same people desperately want social media marketing to work in a similar “sales funnel soda machine” fashion.
The sales funnel is a myth either created by or created to satisfy the bean counters who wanted to see a direct link between marketing expenditures and sales figures. In the attempt to “prove” that when a dollar is fed into the marketing soda machine that a soda can customer does indeed “pop” out the other end, the Rube Goldberg type of sales funnel was created. This was the myth used to explain the complex process customers go through between the time they “consume” marketing dollars and the point in time when they show up in the sales figures.
Like all myths, it had a purpose. In this case, it was created to provide “hard evidence” that there is a cause and effect between marketing and sales.
Unfortunately, for the sales funnel myth, in the real world, people are rarely willing to be lined up and marched in orderly fashion to make their company coerced acquisition on schedule. Consumers don’t consider themselves to be “consuming” marketing dollars when they watch a television show. They feel no moral obligation to purchase from their favorite television show’s commercial sponsor.
SURPRISE!!! Customers make acquisitions to satisfy their own GDP – Goals, Desires and Problems.
Ah -there’s the rub. Those pesky customers have their own agenda. Those pesky customers expect to be treated like real live PEOPLE – people who are usually pretty smart and who make decisions as to what is in their best interest. Those pesky customers who want more from their relatioship with your business than to be treated like a credit card wielding ATM whose goal in life is to keep your payroll and profit margins fat.
Social media is about connecting with people. It’s about pulling back the veil between companies and consumers and allowing companies to put a FACE on those customers who, until recently- were just numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s about having the means and opportunity to watch as consumers discuss your product online – as they Tweet their recommendations – as they blog about their disappointments.
In Social Media’s Warning Label – I highlighted the story of a business that didn’t recognize or appreciate the marketing intelligence provided by a disgruntled customer.
With that said, the social media warning label can only help the business owner who understands that the very nature of social media is to remove the veil which separates customers from the proprietors of the business in question.
Again – IMHO the sales process has NEVER been linear. Success has always been found in focusing on the customer’s goals, desires and problems. Francois Gossieaux over at emergence marketing writes in his post “Where are my leads?”
A new study published in McKinsey Quarterly reports that 2/3rd of touch points in a buyer’s active evaluations process are now consumer-driven marketing touch points: user generated reviews, word of mouth, and in store interactions. Only 1/3rd of the touch points are still company-driven. DID YOU HEAR THAT? You still control 1/3rd of the touch points!
I’ve linked to Jason’s post before about why your blog needs to focus on creating cheerleaders and not leads but I’m doing it again because it’s a message that needs to be spread. In a world where 2/3’s of the sales process is out of your hands – it’s best to marshall your marketing forces to try to SHAPE those interactions… or if nothing else – load your customer’s lips.
Your blog – your Facebook account – your Twitter account were not created to function as “sales funnel soda machines”. They are communication tools to connect you with other PEOPLE!
Your customers are people too. Their first concern is NOT your bottom line -it’s their GDP (Goals, Desires, Problems). Creating a business which counts on customers caring about your bottom line is the quickest path to destruction – or if you’re an auto maker – government ownership.
Connecting with people CAN result in more sales for your company, but not because your blog is a sales lead collector. Social media can literally pull back the veil and literally provide insight into how your company is perceived by your customers – without the whitewashing of a carefully constructed “customer survey” or “focus group” – if you have the courage to listen.