Just what you need: It’s not even January and someone is handing you a to-do list. Actually, you’ll like this one, and even more so the impact it may bring to your business. To get 2009 kicked off in style, consider the following five “to-do” items. I’ve also included references to the books that I’ve found particularly helpful in understanding each of them.
First up is your relationship as a marketer with operations. One sign that it’s missing something is when you find yourself having to ask where the COO’s new office is. You should have instead a well-worn path, committed to memory. As a marketer, you must be in constant contact with operations. This is the central tenet of my book, “Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day.” Your relationship with operations matters because operations is responsible for creating the experiences that your customers will talk about. You may create the next killer ad and generate a lot of buzz. But, if your product or service doesn’t sustain the conversation, then all is for naught. Operations holds the keys to success on the social Web.
Next up are your business objectives. Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff make a point of this in the book, “Groundswell. This is fundamental, yet often overlooked. I’m not talking about solid, quantitative internal business objectives like “increase sales across a defined range of SKUs by 12% in the first quarter” either. To be sure, knowing what you are trying to accomplish is important, but don’t limit yourself to that. Your internal objectives aren’t necessarily things that your customers are going to care about, much less talk about. Instead of anchoring your campaigns in your internal business objectives, anchor them in the specific ways in which your business objectives matter to your customers. My friend and colleague Susan Bratton, CEO of Personal Life Media, puts it this way: “Be in service to your audience.” This way, your campaign’s core message will be aligned with your customers’ needs, expressed in language designed for them to pick up and declare their own. They will recognize this and talk about it.
A ballgame without a scorecard is not a ballgame. It’s called “practice.” Your marketing department isn’t here to practice — it’s here to score runs. Third on your to-do list is identifying the metrics that matter and then tying them back to things you can measure as you go to market. This means, for example, tying Web visits and abandon rates to sources of that traffic, and then connecting them to the conversations that you follow. I recommend Avinash Kaushik’s book, “Web Analytics: An Hour a Day.” It’s worth looking at who’s telling your potential customers what you have to offer and then understanding what the response is when they actually; this is core to effective campaigns. It means connecting specific types of customers to return rates, assessing how likely they are to recommend you, and determining the number of times they “tell a friend” about a product they found on your site. When you know at a detailed level — rather than a mass level — what your customers are saying about you and how this is impacting sales, you can build an appropriate effort in response. Bryan Eisenberg’s “Always Be Testing” is an excellent reference as you set out to tune your site and commerce-related processes.
If the first three items on your list — getting with operations, recasting your business objectives from your customer’s perspective, and identifying specific measurement points — represent the basics, then this fourth point pulls it all together. In a word, integrate. While the performance of your individual channels in isolation is important, they operate together to produce a net impact. This includes your social media channels — and includes the ones that your customers define with or without your sanction.
Consider specific ways that marketing technology is being used by consumers and how this forces integration. My wife was in a department store the day before Christmas buying a last-minute gift for a friend’s party that night: The aisle display card said “40% off’.” This seemed like a good deal, so she pulled out her T-Mobile G1, scanned the bar code and sent it to CompareEverywhere, an Android application she’d installed shortly after buying the phone. In seconds, CompareEverywhere provided reviews and confirmed that the price really was among the lowest available. She confidently bought the item. Does your marketing program contemplate this?
Consumers have access to information that you may or may not be used to them having access to. This includes shoppers you may not associate with “cutting-edge” technology and social media too. My wife will be 45 next week. She does not represent the casually dismissed case of “young people using social media” but is rather a decidedly mainstream consumer taking advantage of current technology to make smart purchase decisions. This is the new retail reality, and a campaign that extends across the multiple channels your customers now uses is essential.
Finally, participate. To really bring your game to the social Web, you must participate. Whether it’s a corporate blog, or a presence on YouTube, or a community that you offer your customers, the required action is the same: At some point in 2009 you’ve got to get involved with social media. Start by listening and then use what you’ll learn as you move toward outreach. Develop an internal policy for your employees: Make disclosure a requirement when they participate in forums or discussions that relate to the business. Educate them with regard to what is and isn’t appropriate for public consumption. Invite your customers to respond as you build new capability into your existing marketing program, and pull all of this together into a vibrant outreach effort.
There you have it, five items to consider as you kick off 2009: Working closely with operations, connecting your objectives to your customers, measuring results, integrating across channels, and most importantly, participating. Make 2009 your year to shine.