Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young may have written the soundtrack to the new research on marketing dollars. In 1970 he reminded us: “If you’re down and confused, and you don’t remember who you’re talking with… Love the one you’re with.” With social media, a more smart-phone centric population and growing web interactivity on a skyrocketing trend, new data from Forrester Research pretty much says “Love the One You’re With” through their interactions with your company.
In other words, speaking and interacting with your customers are the new leads.
This may sound like “flat is the new up,” but it is different – the whole marketing world is changing. Look at all the smart phones out there. A recent article about Verizon Wireless 4G speed may have these phones going faster than home Internet. (My phone is already faster than my broadband). This means businesses (or all customers) can or will be able to buy anywhere, anytime. And more are joining these ranks literally every hour.
Michael Greene on the Forrester blog does a pretty good job of describing the talking points:
He explains that over the next five years, Forrester sees a doubling of interactive marketing to $4.8 billion by 2014. “That’s no number to sneeze at,” states Greene, “but what impresses me most is that historically conservative B2B marketers are not only investing in interactive marketing, but actually shifting budget towards online channels.”
He brings up three touchstone points: B2B interactivity will bring tangible results; digital isn’t just for sourcing leads anymore; and B2B marketers can’t ignore social media.
“Even more than their B2C counterparts, B2B interactive marketers are highly focused on channels that deliver tangible business results,” according to Greene. This means turning interactive data points to identify who is really interested in your product or services. This could mean trouble for traditional marketing channels like catalog and mailing lists. No wonder CoTweet, a CRM interface for Twitter used by Ford (among others) was just purchased by email marketing firm ExactTarget.
Forrester finds that paid search is still at the top of the B2B marketers’ spend, while display ads, mobile, and social media are exploding.
This becomes, in my judgment, the slippery slope that we saw when the Internet was new. Some of the best-known companies took their print ads and literally moved them onto the web. PLOP. Just stick it on that page. When that didn’t work, some fired their web teams because it became clear that you could not sell on the web. Enter Amazon to prove they were wrong. Not just a little wrong, but really, really wrong.
I see companies making the same mistake, especially with content, usability, and metrics. Some are cramming their sales in social media channels but are missing the larger point. Customers want to have a conversation with the company, or perhaps just a question answered. The new world demands accessibility and not just pasting your big Photoshop ad on a small cell phone screen. Sure, branding and maintaining a recognizable look and feel are important, but you need to remember how the media is being used, how people are interacting with the content and what they expect as an outcome.
I have a vivid picture in my mind of Marshall McLuhan (“the medium is the message”) throwing up his hands and walking away because so many business people refuse to change gears to see what the customer needs, thinks, wants, and in the case of social media, is saying about your company.
McLuhan would, on occasion use the pun, the “mess age.” And he was writing about the television era in the mid 1960s. It is apparently every bit as relevant today.
Scott Monty who runs the social media program at Ford said this on his personal blog: “When you start hearing about social media taking up more budget rather than having to struggle for dollars and attention, it’s clear that the practice is gaining in legitimacy.” And that is indeed becoming the case.
I have ranted about two of the nation’s (U.S.) largest retailers having good Facebook pages, but no way to ask questions or get help on Facebook. So I bought somewhere else feeling like I was being ignored in their “store.”
Customers and prospects are demanding answers on their terms, be it on Twitter, Facebook, NING or a phone call, which is more likely now made from a cellular phone. Our new job as B2B marketers is to reach out and hold conversations with customers, develop relationships and analytics to identify which will provide what our company is seeking to achieve (without ticking off any of the other customers). Or more simply, when it comes to chatting with the customer, “Love the One You’re With.”