Marketing has been the custodian of digital communities since the arrival of social media over ten years ago. But is marketing really the right place for it? It turns out that just about anyone else in your organization might do a better job at convincing consumer to become customers via social media (highlight to tweet).
Seem too unbelievable to be true? Consider how these other departments and functions might add more value before you decide.
What I call today’s “social consumers“ are doing more than just purchasing from a company; they are building a relationship. And relationships require long-term value to survive. Marketers address this by mixing holiday messages and discounts with standard sales and marketing content. None of this gets at the heart of what consumers really want: insider information on how your product or service must make their life better, easier, or just more fun. Unfortunately, marketers can’t create content that meets this need the same way R&D, product managers, operations, customer service, or even sales subject-matter experts can. Experts tell you something you could never have figured out on your own; marketers too often tell you things you already knew.
Know Your Niche
Social consumers also form relationships for another reason: They like what their friends say about them. Do they want to be viewed as hanging only with the cool crowd, or showing they can accept the unpopular? Social media practitioners know this and respond by trying to make their brand look as popular as possible—and therein lies the problem. A company can’t be all things to all people and still effectively convert consumers to customers. Tight branding, supported by on-point marketing collateral and knowledgeable, communicative sales people lets consumers know what a company can and can’t do for them. That earns their confidence and their loyalty.
The Art of Selling
Ask someone in your marketing department to go to the front of the room and sell you your company’s product or service. You will be shocked—and disappointed. Social media has blurred the line between sales and marketing, creating an ineffective online sales process as a result (and other sales channels, as well). Selling is part process and part art form—just as marketing is. But they are two different processes and require two different artistic talents. What to sell to your community? Use a sales person.
Big data (derived from social and mobile sources) can be used to determine the relationship between discounting and propensity to purchase. Any one consumer can then be compared to the results (using data about them gathered by social login technology) to determine the minimum discount necessary to prompt any one person to purchase—or if a discount is required at all. Too often, marketing departments adopt social campaigns that do little more than offer discounts and coupons, training consumers to wait until that next discount is offered before they make that next purchase. Marketers do not make very effective data scientists—even though they now control more data than almost any other department.
Sales, customer service, product development, and nearly every other department bring something to bear in the corporate-consumer relationship that marketing cannot. Each of these is critical if an organization wants to use its digital initiatives to convert consumers to customers and create tangible results. It won’t be long before all digital initiatives are required to deliver quantifiable results that point to greater revenue and profit, not just more friends, downloads, and data.
The realization that marketing may not be the best place for these digital initiatives may be startling, even concerning. But marketing has one thing none of these other departments have: a deep understanding of how social, mobile, and even big data can be used to support the larger efforts of the organization. The key to success is integrating these initiatives with each other, and with the organization itself.
Marketing must give up some of this newly-won power and become what I call a “content conduit”—a group that helps other areas of the organization connect directly to consumers and customers so that deeper, more meaningful relationships can be formed—and more easily monetized.