Customers leaving marketing behind?
That is an assertion made in the subhead of an article in a special section of today's Wall Street Journal on Web 2.0 and marketing. While it may be exaggerated (what headlines aren't?), the article -- written by professors from Babson College and Bentley College -- drilled into the fact that consumers (including those of enterprise products and services) are getting the information, knowledge and valuable interaction with peers online in order to make decisions. The implication is that this decision-making increasingly is taking place without the influence of marketers.
Based upon research among marketers that have tried to harness social media marketing, the authors offer a "guide" to marketers that still are trying to determine where to start. It covers some well-trodden tactics:
- Give customers a forum to offer ideas for new offerings
- Allow customers the opportunity to interact among themselves on a company-branded community
- Determine where the peer influence is taking place outside the company's site and join carefully
- Don't sell; solve
- Let go of the urge to control the conversation
The article explored the topic of social media marketing in a way I've been talking with a lot of clients lately -- namely that it should be done mainly from a customer-centric perspective. This needs to be done within the context of a strategy to ensure that the tactics used are going to provide the return on what is mostly a time investment. Based upon this last point, I disagreed with the last piece of advice the authors of this article provide:
I've found when working with clients that that is an approach many companies take only to find that initial social media efforts are not successful. Throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks will almost never provide that return.