Friday, January 22, 2010

Social media is not The Magic Bullet

By Jennifer Spitzer

If you own a business, especially a small one, and you decide to sink all of your marketing funds into social media, your business is going to fail. There… I said it.

As a marketer, I always find it interesting when I work with small business owners who are searching for what they call the “magic bullet” of marketing. What they’re looking for is a single tool or strategy they can invest in, knowing it will drive revenue for their business consistently over time. I can see the wheels turning in the heads of business owners who have experienced some success with social media. “This is it. It’s fun, and easy, and doesn’t cost anything. Think of the money I’ll save by cancelling my direct mail program or skipping the next trade show”.

The fundamental truth about growing a successful business is There Is No Magic Bullet. Marketing strategies are like financial portfolios – you need to have a combination of short and long term investments and you need to be well diversified. In today’s world, that means a healthy mix of traditional media, like direct mail, magazine and television as well as new media like social networking and email. Heck, even Google uses direct mail to promote their pay-per-click advertising. The notion that this sexy new media is going to replace traditional marketing strategy is crazy.

What’s even crazier to me is that some social media “experts” are suggesting it will. First of all, social media hasn’t been around long enough for there to be any real experts. To me, there are simply people who know a lot more than others on the topic. They understand the tools and know exactly how to use them. The answers to the real important questions like, “How long is it going to take before I see new customers and start generating revenue?” and “What kind of ROI can I expect?” remain to be seen.

You have to put your business where the customers are, and that’s why a diversified marketing mix is so important. Some of your customers will find you online while others will call you because they saw you doing work in their neighborhood. Others still will respond because they received a direct mail piece or simply because their friends said you do good work. Now you have social media to help you connect to consumers in new ways. Over time, you will gain trust within these networks and business will grow.

There’s no doubt that social media is here to stay. If your business hasn’t embraced the tools yet, it’s time to get on board. Just don’t expect your phone to ring off the hook with new customers simply because you start tweeting a few times a week. Instead, think of it as a powerful new opportunity to add to the overall marketing arsenal. Reaping the rewards of social media is going to take time, effort and a strong strategy… and it will be worth it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The old adage "The customer is always right", is sometimes wrong

By Jennifer Spitzer

Every now and then I have to work with a client through their advertising agency. Most of the time, the collaboration is a good experience because sharing new ideas makes the campaign more successful. I’m reflecting on a recent experience where this wasn’t the case and I find that it’s a lot like what happens when two adult siblings disagree about how to care for a child.

If you and your siblings have children, you can probably think of at least one time when you said to yourself, “I cannot believe he’s going to let that child do that”. I usually say these thoughts out loud, which almost always causes trouble. I’m learning that there are times when it’s absolutely necessary to step up and call out what has the potential to be a mistake, and times when you just keep your mouth shut and walk away.

I think a different approach is necessary in business. As marketers, we’re responsible for helping our clients make the right choices in regard to how they invest their budgets. Now more than ever, campaigns must generate measurable results. To me, this means sometimes I have to tell a client they’re wasting their money, or that the strategy doesn’t make sense, or the creative is too weak to use for the program.

In the case of my recent agency collaboration, our opinions about the importance of response analysis couldn’t have been further apart. To me, regardless of whether a campaign is successful or performed poorly, there’s always a benefit to measuring exactly what happened. When you analyze the results of a campaign, you learn what worked or didn’t and you capture the information you need to refine the strategy. When you don’t analyze, you’re doomed to either repeat the same mistakes over again or, even worse, miss out on a great opportunity to increase sales in your business. This usually happens when programs with a smart strategy aren’t refined properly, which can leave response rates stagnant over time.

Despite my best effort, at the end of the day it wasn’t my child and the parent had made his decision.

Educate clients. Be willing to step up and influence your customer when you think they’re about to make a bad decision. It’s hard to tell customers things they don’t want to hear, but in the end they’ll know you’re more interested in their long-term success as opposed to this month’s billing. When you create that kind of trust in a relationship, you keep a customer for life.