Networks ….. Oh my.
Marketing strategy sure has changed in the digital age.
If your firm hasn’t substantially changed its marketing strategy to reflect changes in technology and the way people interact with technology, you’re marketing strategy is failing you.
Changes to your marketing strategy
Marketing strategy now needs to do more listening and less talking. Before the advent of social networks, individual consumers didn’t have much of a voice, so corporations could out-talk them. That meant the marketplace (customers and prospective customers) didn’t hear much except the company version of their products, unless the media published or broadcast something negative.
Consumers who were disgruntled could tell all their friends (which wasn’t enough to make much difference to the company’s bottom line unless they were a small company) or do something to capture media attention, such as filing lawsuits or staging protests and boycotts. Even then, most company’s could survive since the media was off on its next story in a few days. Even BP and Toyota get little negative attention from the media now.
Social networks have changed all that. Consumers started to gain a voice when they could establish websites to spread negative comments about a company, but social networks have broadened the reach of these complaints — which can go viral.
Whether you use social media as part of your marketing strategy, you NEED to establish a listening post so you hear what consumers are saying and respond before complaints can build steam. For instance, I had a student who complained about the local public utility who was unable to sustain power through several recent storms. The public utility contacted her after she Tweeted her complaint. This allowed them to explain the problem and diffuse a potentially dangerous situation.
2. Customer engagement
Companies are finding value in building stronger relationships with consumers. – such as virtual communities and fans. Not only does customer engagement go a long way toward retaining customers, it generates customer recommendations, identifies areas for improvement, and suggests new products. Customer engagement leads to higher profits for companies able to harness the power of these tools.
Customer engagement is a two edged sword, however. The same customers who identify with your product and are so loyal, can stifle change. Look at the situation with New Coke, where their customers refused to consider a new product, despite market research results suggesting the new product more closely matched customer desires.
Customer engagement can also go south when they see your end of the conversations as false or you fail to hold up your end of the conversation. As virtual communities get larger and fan pages over-run with fans, its harder and harder to hear all the conversations going on so this problem is increasing over time. Firms need to utilize tools to track conversations on fan pages and funnel them to individuals who can respond to issues arising there.
The importance of e-commerce in your marketing strategy is nothing new and has been increasing over the last 15 years or so, since the world wide web (www) made internet access easy. But, companies are finding unique ways to integrate their e-commerce with social media — especially since much of our buying behavior is influenced by others in our social sphere.
Increasingly, companies are using “Like” information as a tool to market to individuals who have already identified themselves with a brand. Companies are sharing new information and putting discounts on their Facebook pages and more companies, like 1-800 Flowers are putting up shopping tabs on Facebook which direct fans to their e-commerce sites and show information about their purchases to their friends. These newer tools are likely to become more ubiquitous components of marketing strategy in the future.
These are just a few of the MANY changes to marketing strategy wrought by social networks. So, here’s the question.
How has YOUR firm modified your marketing strategy to accommodate social networks? Please share with the group so we can all benefit from your knowledge. If you develop tools for managing social networks, give us a link to your products. If you find problems, what solutions would you like to see developed to solve these problems?