Where does Social Media fit in the marketing funnel?

Social Media Landscape

The past two years I have had an internal conversation going on about the choices business people are making in regards to social media, mobile media, newspapers, direct mail ect.

As our economy started the slide I saw businesses start to blame their media outlets for the lack of response they were receiving and decide to jump to newer and trendier media selections. Unfortunately I also saw a rise in businesses which lost brand value and often found themselves in that place where going out of business would be more delightful than staying in business.

Let me try to clear up where I believe Social Media Fits today in the Marketing Funnel. I am big believed that Audience size does matter. Those elements such as timing and buying cycles in your industry must be used to increase the effectiveness of your marketing ROI. If you are just beginning your social media experience, you know all to well that your Audience is very small at this point. So making a marketing decision that represents this as a base marketing program at this time is reckless and will be damaging to the momentum of your company.

Before I share my ranking of sort let me tell you a little story I once heard to illustrate a point.

This story takes place back near the Great Depression. Mr. Wrigley, Wrigley Spearmint Gum, was on a train heading West with several of his trust business executives, they were discussing the decreasing revenues and profit statements of the company, A young accountant speaks up and tells Mr. Wrigley that he has a wonderful idea on how to reestablish a positive bottom line for the company. He suggests that they cut the marketing campaign budget until things improve. It is at this point that Mr. Wrigley displays great leadership and ponders this thought for just a moment. Then he asks this question of the young man. “Son how fast do you think our train is moving?”

The Young man says “35-40 MPH?” Mr. Wrigley Walks him to the front of the car and then asks, ” So if I pulled that pin out at the front of the car that attaches us to the main engine how long what do you think will happen?” “Well Mr. Wrigley we would coast to a stop” said the young man.

Mr. Wrigley then turns to the entire staff and exclaims, ” that is precisely what will happen if we cut our marketing efforts, we lose all momentum and come to a stop, Marketing is the engine that creates our movement!”

I tell this story because I think many businesses today are facing this same question, not only because of finances but because media and Audience has become fragmented and is responding differently than in the past.  See the Media that is out there still works, but the audience is smaller and the Audience has changed the expectations for responding.

So how do we design a marketing funnel for today’s audience?

Basic Marketing Funnel principles can still apply.

  1. Broad Based Marketing – The use of large audience impressions to place any possible customer in the funnel and building them to a potential customer.
    • Newspapers – Still have some of the largest Audiences in every Metro Marketplace
    • Television – Very Large Audience in a Region or Nationally if you have the budget.
    • Facebook Ads – non-targeted, you ever looked at the size of audience if you set out your message to all users? Pay per click options make this very attractive.
    • Google, Yahoo Ad Words – Similar to Face Book you can capture a global audience.
    • Direct Mail – Saturation Mailing has become easy and more affordable with the USPS new simplified mailing programs.
  2. Target MarketingAfter filling the funnel with potential clients it is much easier and more cost effective to target market to groups of customers or potential clients. Many businesses think they can just jump to targeting and skip the first step, however I would argue that they do it at the expense of future growth and will eventually spend much more trying to find that additional market share. Target Markets tend to move or dry up and then leave businesses in want for their attention.
    • Social Media Ads – Facebook etc., now allow you to zone in geographically, demographically etc.
    • Google and Yahoo Ad programs you can target very effectively, with these programs and again the pay per click model allows even small budget firms to take advantage of practice.
    • Radio – Demographic profiles of stations make this more of a targeting vehicle.
    • Cable TV – Same as radio
    • Direct Mail – Not as cost effective as Saturation, but lists today will allow you to slice and dice a zip code in various ways to get the right target.
    • Zip Code Insert Programs – Newspaper, Still one of the cheapest ways to reach a Zip Code and have a good client demographic reading your material.
    • Web Ads – Pick your site
  3. 1 to 1 Marketing – Any marketing channel where you have the ability to personally talk with your customers and or clients.  Social Media has now made this Marketing level very affordable and is now changing the workforce in many large companies around the world.  This step does take Data, and Audience and is not effective till you have both.  The secret is in accumulating Data on your customers from the first two stages and then building relationships with an audience, which trusts you and will share their love for you with all that they know.

Free Spots = No Audience

Example of an American grocery store aisle.

Image via Wikipedia

Beware of the Free Spot. You know the ones, the ones on radio, TV, Classified Sections, Internet Directories etc… which you purchase x and get X+ Y and you are supposed to be thankful for them.

I had the privileged of sitting with an account today and listen to a media rep sell her on the value she was getting from his company, because every time she ran with them she got twice as many spots as she paid for. Man he made it sound fantastic.  I listen quietly and went along with his program until he was finished and we asked him to follow-up with us later. When the account asked me what I thought, I had to intervene and bring us back to reality.

The reason company X is giving away twice as many spots as what we paid for is can boiled down to a couple of points:

1) The original spots are over priced.

2) The Free Spots have no Audience listening of Value

3) The Audience that we are being sold is of little value in the marketplace because the best audience would never be given away FREE. The Big boys would have taken all they wanted of that Audience.

When Buying media it is important that you analysis the deal you are being pitched, for its merit in the market place, for the audience you are reaching and for value of the product compared to the norm.

Let me explain a little deeper.

1) Merit of the media in the market place.  If you are a small or medium-sized business and you are being pitched a product for marketing that seems really under priced or a really great value, stop and think a minute about why it is available. Are the biggest advertisers in the marketplace buying this package?  What do they know that you don’t?  Now that does not mean don’t buy it, this might be a great fit for you in your audience mix and for the price you are more likely to be able to afford enough to make a difference, just don’t allow your media rep to push into over believing in the media.

2)Free Spots traditionally don’t run during Drive Times, Prime Times, Featured Sections or Front Page Headlines. Free spots run when the inventory is not sold, in most cases when the audience is so thin that the Value even at FREE is questionable. Again don’t refuse them, even ask how many can be run in prime times or placement, but don’t let the FREE spots be sold to you as a bill of debt to the media company, they gave them to you because they needed to fill the void.

3)Audience is King. If your Free spots run when your target Audience is not their or is never there what value have you gained? Any guess as to why the largest grocery stores don’t buy late night Radio or TV spots? Could it be that the minimal audience that they might reach are not target grocery consumers?  If you are a small business, I understand you may not afford prime time or page three placement, however if the audience you buy must be the right one or you have wasted more money than the big guys who may have a budget that allows mistakes.

I am not a media basher. I believe all media works. If you target the right Audience at the right time, with the right message you will get results in every media out there, You just need to analysis the media buy up against the audience received and calculate its value towards your ultimate business goals.

Often this is why Media agency‘s and Media planners are so important to have on retainer, so that they can help you analysis the media plan and product mix and give you feedback on direction.

A blizzard in marketing information

The message received by Neo

Image via Wikipedia

I just got back from a business trip in which I had to drive through a complete white out from the snow fall that was falling.

As I caught up this morning on the hundreds of e-mails from the week that I had not been able to review and the variety of marketing messages and sales pitches people are sending me to help me launch my business I started to feel like I was back in that blizzard.

Thousands of ideas each unique in its own right just flying at me in the headlights, most not really intended for me but just any random eyeball that would give it the courtesy of paying attention.  Is that what marketing a business has become? Just staring out into the future at the thousands of options, none particularly meant for you but willing to stick to you if you want to listen?

While pondering this today I thought why not offer up a few sensible points for business people to follow as they stare straight out at the blizzard of information that is attacking them like a snow storm on a black Nevada night.

How do you filter and learn what is right for your business in this new information age?

Five tips:

1) Know what your goals and targets are for your company. A friend of mine reminded me of this while we shared a dinner and few beers. Focus, is the key to growth. If you have a clear vision of your goal and desired direction or outcome the storm of information will magically start to filter itself and you will key in on only the relevant news and information.  Remember the movie The Matrix? When Neo could all of a sudden see all the code that was around him, and was able to focus in on the bullet heading straight for him? He had Focus, the focus we will all need in this new age of information sharing and information pushing.

2) Remember why your core customers buy from you, and how that relates to your marketing efforts. It is very easy in todays information surge to just ride the wave and get caught up in the direction you are being  pushed, but often we need to realize that our current core customer is not on that wave, and is watching us move on without them. If you currently have a customer base that is 45+ in age and that core is still engaged with you are your current practices, then moving suddenly to a media platform which is predominately used by those under 35 may not be the smartest move a this point.  Not that you can ignore the future marketplace and the new tools but you don’t have to change dramatically and shift focus when the world is screaming that change is a must. Example is this Blog, I started it knowing that it was helping build a future base of business and followers, but I still go out and meet clients face to face and sell traditional products  to my clients the same way I have for years.

3)Control your time –  Don’t be afraid to hit delete. How ridiculous is it that you open your e-mail in the morning and their hundreds of e-mails that are calling for your attention.  I tried something new this week while away on business, I opened my e-mail and deleted all e-mails that were from companies,that traditionally are just offering to sell me something, all linked in group reports and any e-mails that were not from contacts that I routinely have conversations with, before opening them. I found that about 12% of my e-mails had any relevance to my days work.  Funny thing is I received just as many e-mails the next day, many form the same people I deleted the day before, I was not even behind.

4) Find Guidance – During that snow storm and virtual white out along hwy 395 last night I had to find the simplest guidance possible so that I could continue n my trip, I used the groves on the road that usually tell you that you are crossing the line and going off the road. What made them so trust worthy , is that I could not see them but I could always feel them and hear them.  In a storm sometimes our eyes will deceive us, and our minds will play tricks on us.  In Business we have to find our guides, mentors or groups of  colleagues which help us see through the information surge, and we have to listen to that internal voice that tells us to be cautious. In todays information surge too good to be true is getting harder and harder to tell, your colleagues and groups can be a great source of helping see value, and find references to all these offers.

5) Keep moving forward – At times the information will seem unbearable,  but if you stop it will only bury you. Keep you r goals in front of you and your mission steadfast.  Remember in todays of information surge, that it is always available when you actually need it.  I love the e-mail offers from companies now a days that promise you that this is only available for the next few days and will be gone forever. It is called the internet, nothing is ever gone, a quick search and all the information you want on a subject is right there, or of course they will just send it to you again in four days….

So if you are driving your business through this information surge and feel a little  over whelmed at what you see in front of you remember to just focus in, keep moving, find a guide and control your speed,  you will be through this in no time and cruising in the right direction before you know it.

Social Media + Traditional Media + Mobile

QR-coded-business-card

Mark 2011 on your calendar. This is the year that small business is able to leap over the hurdle of heavy box store competition and level the playing field in marketing.

Ok, small business still is not going to be able to own the newspaper of TV prime time slots with their budgets but in world where their influence has been diluted the small business owner and entrepreneur now have opportunities to capture prime real estate and market share like never before.

In todays Blog I want to discuss how small business can add simple steps in Social Media, Mobile Marketing and traditional media in order to drive their marketing campaigns to levels they have never before imagined possible.

Social Media is a scary process for most small business owners. They just don’t see how they can have enough time, or knowledge to share, to make this a worthy investment. Even though most of the social media world (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you tube, Manta etc…)  is a free service, I find that many small business owners still have stayed away because of time constraints.  I spoke with a business owner last night regarding the time it takes to run your social media campaigns and to stay connected with customers or future leads. He was amazed when I talked about 30 minutes a day of planned out routine and then just basic communications with customers throughout the day. He confessed he wasted more time than that daily in his office in small talk.

Truth is if a small business will commit to 30 minutes a day of content development for any of their channels, then properly link the social media together (Blog) the remainder of the Social media experience is communication with current or potential clients. And last I checked I have never found a business that did not have time to communicate with customers.

Now lets insert Mobile marketing with Social Media, this is where I will lose many small business owners. First as an owner you have to disengage from the notion that people like yourself don’t like to receive text messages or use their smart  phones for business.  Reality is that busy professionals are increasingly growing their use of mobile technology and now will do as much searching about your company by phone as they do on their home PC or office computer. The challenge is two-fold for you, one your current website is to graphic heavy for smart phones and customers have to wait through painful download times. the second is that you miss out on lead generation capabilities of cell phones by not capturing their phone number when they visit.

Mobile Technology allows you to eliminate both those obstacles. With the use of SMS or DSMS text marketing, and QR codes small businesses can now provide quicker data, and collect phone profiles fo potential customers. There are services now that even offer small business owners a mobile app for the i-phones, a mobile version of their website, that will download to all phones through cloud based software systems and allow you to build VIP Text clubs in order to continually text your best customers and drive additional buying cycles.

By adding both these technologies to your traditional direct mail or mass media buys, you have invited new consumers to engage with your company in multiple channels. This increases your success and increases ROI in marketing.  Imagine adding a short code or QR code to your next Direct Mail Post Card, this short code directs clients to your Facebook page for contest entry, and additional printable coupons for your business.  Your Direct Mail campaign now has three channels working at one time:

  1. Time sensitive offer of a Direct Mail post card – 40% off this weekend
  2. Mobile opt in program that offers them an immediate additional 10% coupon for one item
  3. A social media contest that drives fans and future sales. This is also shared with thousands of people who you would have never been introduced to for future potential sales.

Both the Mobile application and the Social Media come with built-in customer data base applications which will help future marketing at a very reduced investment. And I have not even mentioned how you can use E-blasts to do this same model with a smaller budget.

 Steps to get started:

  1. Start a Blog –  Small business owners must be content creators. A blog will feed your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn accounts with little work. A blog will also help you in ranking higher all the major search engines because you are providing content. If you need help find a local business which offers set-up services. Many markets have several business start-up s which have taken this new career path of social media marketing.  Some services offer basic start-up and will set you up with all the services and teach you how to run it yourself, others offer to do the entire marketing program for you.
  2. Find a local provider of short codes and QR codes – You will have choices for SMS, or DSMS text marketing systems, or locate a business which offers the text service with the mobile app and mobile web functions. (www.wcmobi.com)
  3. Plan a marketing campaign with your next traditional marketing program. Add all your Social media links and invite customers to follow you. Build a contest for new fans and provide additional discounts if they join your mobile marketing program.
  4. Collect Data and use your instincts in growing business moving forward.

Good luck and remember the best way to succeed is to start.

Marketing Lessons from Dennis Rodman

Chicago Bulls Dennis Rodman 1995 - 1996 Season

Image via Wikipedia

I can’t believe I am actually going to write this, since I really could not stand the guy when he played, but the announcement today that he is a finalist for the basketball hall of fame inspired me.

Dennis Rodman – The NBA model of one Bad Man – is a marketing engine. He is in that rarefied air in athletics where the name becomes a brand and industry of its own.  One o the original BAd Boys of the Detroit Pistons, Dennis Rodman did not start of as anything special in marketing. He was a rather bland product if we keep this in marketing terms. He was incredible defender and rebounded for a team with many larger personalities and brand.  He played in a time where the world was being transformed by a rival in Micheal Jordan and legendary figures in Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were still fresh in everyone’s minds. Dennis Rodmans Brand had some serious competition for the limelight.  (Sounds a little like small business vs. Wal-Mart)  Most professional athletes in this position would be ok just being that role player of a brand, serving just their smaller marketplace and being happy about the little niche of customers they would receive as fans. But that does not seem to be what Dennis Rodman was all about. First came a romance with a Supermodel porn star, then a few Tattoos and Body Piercings. Soon to follow colored hair, hair slogans and a very public party and bash profile on all the networks. Dennis Rodman became the tabloid equivalent of Aliens are landing and the government is covering it. The world all of a sudden could not get enough of this Bad Boy, Turned Rock Star Turned Weird character, which by the way was killing it in the NBA as a Rebounder.

A Rebounder… thank about that for a minute, here is a guy that could possibly go into the Hall of Fame as one of the best in his profession, and he was a Rebounder.  Not the guy making the winning shot, or pouring in 50 points, a rebounder, a very skilled and awesome rebounder.  This just does not happen however in Hall of Fame history.  No what I believe has happened is that Dennis Rodman, master marketing genius, decided long ago that he was not good enough to compete with the  Wal-Mart of celebrity Basketball players (Jordan, Magic, Bird , Isiah, etc..) and instead became the brand nobody was trying to become, and he not only filled that void he took it to levels never thought of and transformed an image of culture and popular thought.  Ok, I don’t know he is that smart but what can small business glean from this example in today’s business world?

Marketing Tips learned from Dennis Rodman:

  1. If you can’t own the traditional normal markets, change and own your own market Dennis Rodman would never fit in with the clean-cut image of NBA legends he was playing with, so he choose to explore a different path and found a very profitable audience.
  2. Be the best at something and huge rewards will follow Dennis Rodman became the prolific rebounder of a generation. In a time where rebounding just was not the sexy of a topic on ESPN or talk radio.
  3. Let your hair down and live Stop taking yourself so serious, Dennis Rodman, was like the class clown that knew getting the laughs from all the jocks was actually attractive to 80% who were not jocks in the world. In your business, when was the last time you just let the staff have some fun and be creative.
  4. Creative.. CReative…Creative – Want to change your stars?  Get creative. Colored Hair, Body Jewelery, A flair for the dramatic was a pretty inexpensive stunt that gave Dennis Rodman a powerful brand. What can your business do to stand out.
  5. Ok I can’t finish this without the one mistake you don’t want to do…Dennis Rodman failed to put on the brakes and he has paid a price. In business and Marketing you have to know when to get off the bike and start walking again, keep the glory nad exit quietly, not with a huge crash.

Tell me what you think?  What lessons from Dennis Rodman did I miss?