Welcome to 2009, the Year of Engagement, Social Marketing and Web 2.0, Part 1 of 2
As I mentioned in my most recent column — a recap of the National Center for Database Marketing conference last month — it’s not good enough to merely serve your customers anymore. You must cement them emotionally to your brand, your products and your customer service.
With social media strongly in play (whether you like it or not), you don’t get to choose what's said about your brand. Control of your brand image has been passed, torch-style, from the marketing department to your customers.
Your customers are becoming more and more voracious in their pursuit of information that's not simply put forth by brands, but spread by their peers as brand advocates. Actually, it’s more like brand advocates and brand detractors. Your customers, much like plus/minus statistics in a hockey game, keep score — a plus point for a positive customer experience, a minus for a negative one.
Why the social media explosion? It's simple: When you add the current overload of marketing messaging sent and received in a given day, coupled with a growing distrust of said messaging and a more jaded customer base, the result is an environment primed and ready for customer-induced growth.
The plus/minus as it relates to your marketing efforts. Your present and future direct marketing efforts only get you part of the way there. Customers and prospects alike search for information on your company to help with their buying decisions. The people who interact with your brand and the way they interact are the deciding factors in your success and/or failure. You don’t have to look into a crystal ball to envision a future where companies have less and less impact on buying decisions.
In the concept of the outward-facing, customer-focused business, there are two business models in the multichannel world:
1. Merchants: The first type is brand/product-centric. These are merchants who've built their companies from the ground up with an intuitive feel for what their customers want and need. Culturally, these companies are focused on merchandising, product development and brand building. They have a sort of "if you build it they will come" feel internally.
2. Marketers: The other type is the sales and marketing culture. Here, the focus is less on product/branding and more on the process of direct marketing. Marketers are more numbers-focused, and the feel you get when you visit is that it's about list building and what gets sold to that list.
If I had to guess which of these cultures will better adapt to Web 2.0, I’d have to say the marketing culture. But the truth is, it’s anyone’s guess.
Check back next week for part two, where I'll look at the role social media occupies for catalog/multichannel marketers, as well as how it can be a good thing to hear the negative things customers have to say about you.
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing, a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert, or you can post a comment here or e-mail him at email@example.com. You also can follow Jim on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gilbertdirect.
Jim Gilbert has had a storied career in direct and digital marketing resulting in a burning desire to tell stories that educate, inform, and inspire marketers to new heights of success.
After years of marketing consulting, Jim decided it was time to “put his money where his mouth was" and build his own e-commerce company, Premo Natural Products, with its flagship product, Premo Guard Bed Bug & Mite Sprays. Premo in its second year is poised to eclipse 100 percent growth.
Jim has been writing for Target Marketing Group since 2006, first on the pages of Catalog Success Magazine, then as the first blogger for its online division. Jim continues to write for Total Retail.
Along the way, Jim has led the Florida Direct Marketing Association as their Marketing Chair and then three-term President, been an Adjunct Professor of Direct and Digital marketing for Miami International University, and created a lecture series, “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing,” which he has presented across the country at conferences and universities.