Advertising Begins When "Know, Like and Trust" Fails

I stole the headline for this article from Scott Stratton, author of UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging., who spoke to the Social Media Club in Dallas the other night (and I'm not giving it back).

Scott was talking about the role of social media in marketing and why it is so important to businesses that are seeing their marketing/advertising costs go up, and their results go down.

We've all heard the truism that people do business with other people they know, like and trust. Scott pointed out that people only look for a business in the Yellow Pages or on Google when they do not already have a relationship with a business they know, like and trust. In other words, only after relationships fail does traditional marketing have to take place.

Therefore all of our advertising, all traditional marketing, even search engine optimization is directed toward people who do not already know, like or trust us (Call me lazy, but I'm shortening that phrase to "KLT" for the rest of this article).

Think about the sheer cost of this problem. Massive amounts of advertising money are spent every day to target the no-existing-relationship potential customers. Would not the cost of marketing be a lot less if we put the focus on building lots of KLT relationships instead?

In contrast to mass advertising, this is the role of social media marketing:
To build KLT relationships with targeted people who may not now have a need for our products or services; so they will know, like and trust us before they need us.

Social media is the ideal tool for gathering lots of people who KLT you. It is an awesome relationship building tool because it works in real time, has a global AND local reach, allows you to mingle with people of like interests, and enables you to show the human side of your company.

But be warned: social media is shockingly ineffective as an overt, in your face, buy-my-product-now, selling tool. It is more like a social event where you can get to know people, talk about Major League Baseball, talk about what your kids are doing, and share helpful ideas and information, than it is the showroom of a new car dealership.

But this is precisely why a lot of business people have trouble warming up the the idea of using Twitter and Facebook to reach out to customers. It sounds warm and fuzzy, but how do you measure it? How do you determine that this dollar brought in this sale?

There are a lot of really good ways to measure social media's impact. You can measure how many people clicked on a link and visited your website, how many people Retweet your messages, how many eyeballs see your messages, etc. But the truth is that the true value of social media is based on common sense.

Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, answers the question of what is the ROI (return on investment) of social media by asking, "What is the ROI of your telephone?"

You could never measure the ROI of your telephone. Nor can you measure the ROI of meeting people at networking events, or volunteering to get involved with charitable organizations.

How can you possibly attach an ROI to talking to people?

But we all know that talking to people is extremely valuable. If you were invited to speak to a large group of your target customers, would you show up? Of course you would, but can you put an ROI on that speech?

If you were invited to appear on the Oprah show, would you show up? I'm betting you would make that appearance if you had to push your car from San Diego to Chicago. But what is the ROI of sitting beside Oprah and getting your chance to tell the world about your product?

What is the value of credibility? What is the value of relationships? What is the value of brand awareness?

This is the same challenge PR faces. How do you measure the value of favorable news? If your company is constantly in the news in a favorable light, is that valuable? Of course, but how do you measure it?

Here's the real test. Show me a single top executive that isn't a great networker. I personally know of several top people who readily admit that some of their biggest deals were made or initiated on golf courses, country clubs or at social events.

Harvey Mackay says that he always flies first class because of the people he meets there. The very best business deals are made in non-business settings.

But the real kicker of why social media is so important is not just the KLT relationships you establish directly. It isn't always the person you meet on the golf course or in the seat next to you in first class, or the person you work with on a charity's board.

It is also about the people these people know. It's about the people who know, like and trust the people who know, like and trust you.

No advertisement is ever going to trump a referral from someone who trusts you. Even if that referral comes from an old high school friend your customer has reconnected with on Facebook 30 years after graduation.

The more you are out there on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the more you can get known, liked and trusted by the friends of the people you connect with. If you want real word of mouth to take place, nothing beats social media.

Here's why:

Something that takes place every day on Twitter is the very visible customer service interaction. A customer has a problem with a brand and tweets about it. From there, one of three things happen.

  • First, the issue may be ignored. This company is not on Twitter, is not aware someone tweeted about their brand and the issue never gets resolved. Other people who see this happen think bad things about the company. (Here's an example of what happened to FTD when they failed to respond to a customer on Twitter).

  • Second, the company is on Twitter and does respond, but handles the matter badly. (Scott gave an example of a coffee shop that got snippy with a customer on Twitter, and the incident unfolded before thousands of people who were following either the customer or the coffee shop). Result: the company looks really, really bad and probably loses a lot of business.

  • Third, the company responds quickly and politely. They take steps to resolve the problem, and do so in a very professional manner. Result: thousands of Twitter users see this interaction and think what a quality company this is. And they see this company as an organization they know, like and trust.

On social media, your everyday customer service interactions becomes a powerful marketing tool if you handle them well.

The bottom line is that social media is really a big, big networking event. You don't want to go there to push product and back people into a corner with your sales pitch, but you do want to meet people and build relationships with them. If you build enough KLT relationships, you won't need to spend massive amounts of money advertising to people who do not know, like or trust you.

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