When “The Cluetrain Manifesto” appeared in the spring of 1999, early adopters embraced it as the marketing guide for the new millennium. Web 2.0 started to change the way people interact online. Social networks began to appear and be embraced by people seeking connections with others without boundaries.
The first thesis in the manifesto, “markets are conversations” morphed into the mantra “it’s all about the conversation.” Advocates of the new social media marketing world cried for the elimination of direct marketing, calling it obsolete and archaic.
They got it half-right. Conversations are invaluable to building relationships between your company and customers. Social media provides unprecedented access to people with needs and wants that your organization can fulfill.
The new gurus missed one key point when they redefined marketing. Tools change, but human nature remains the same. There is a reason that the promotions created decades ago still work. They use the emotional triggers hard wired within our DNA.
Social media enhances direct marketing.
It doesn’t replace it. It makes it more effective. The combination of an interactive social media presence with proven direct marketing techniques improves customer loyalty, expands the marketing reach, and reduces costs.
When I started my social media experience several years ago, I began by studying the activity in the web 2.0 world. I found that there were continuous cries for keeping direct marketing out of the conversations. How-to articles said that if you provided good content in your blogs and conversations, it would naturally progress into sales.
But when I studied the leaders, I found that their behavior didn’t match accepted social media guidelines.
While the steps varied, every one had a systematic approach that moved people from conversations to sales. They also had an established infrastructure that supported their marketing efforts.
My move from observation to participation began with the creation of the Multichannel Magic blog. It was designed to provide tips and tactics to help people grow their businesses. After three months of writing posts with few readers, I joined Twitter. I tweeted and posted for another three months with very little effect on my traffic and no lead generation.
The purpose of business is to serve customers at a profit.
This is when I went back to the basics. The purpose of business is to serve customers at a profit. My social media efforts weren’t serving or profiting. Conversations don’t motivate people unless they include a call to action.
Clients started asking me about social media. They wanted to know if there was any value in it. My instinct told me that there was, but I didn’t have proof to support it. Actively testing it as a viable marketing tool was the only way to know for certain. If I could use it to grow my business, then we could adapt the process for our clients.
It’s always best to start with what you know. Being a diehard direct marketer, I started a free gift campaign. My gift was a series of marketing and operations tips. The product was newsletter subscriptions. It was a systematic approach designed to introduce my consulting firm to a broader market and provide lead generation.
The experiment has been successful. It has created speaking and writing opportunities and attracted new clients. There have been missteps along the way, but the experience has made me a passionate social media advocate.
Integrating social media into your marketing mix remains a trial and error process.
What works for one company will fail another. There are ways to minimize the time and resources required to find the right mix for your organization. Start by learning from others who have gone ahead. Then create your own strategy.
The best strategy will not work without execution. Finding the right balance between conversation and conversion is the key to a successful integration of social media and traditional marketing. It is different for every organization. Testing and measuring the effect is the only way to find your perfect balance.
Note: This post is an excerpt from “Social Media 4 Direct Marketers“. In it, you’ll find information about platforms and tools to minimize your learning curve. There are examples of companies doing it well and steps for creating the best strategy for your organization including how to measure the unknown. I’ve done the heavy lifting so you can move quickly into a successful implementation.