As online/digital marketing options skyrocket to near-epic numbers, national brands who market locally and local merchants alike are continually evolving their online/digital strategies to keep up with the growing number of options. Recent data from eMarketer shows that 42 percent of marketing executives are increasing their social media budgets for 2010, while 24 percent are increasing their mobile media budgets…most likely because of the cost-effectiveness of these marketing channels. That got me thinking: how effective are brands and merchants at leveraging local/social/mobile campaigns?
Personal experience this past weekend illustrated for me that there are often some broken links between the communications programs coming from the corporate marketing/advertising departments and the sales outlets that serve customers actually visiting brick-and-mortar stores. In the best case scenarios, there are slight disconnects in terms of product offerings and specials. In the worst cases, customers would think they are dealing with two entirely different organizations.
Case in point: I went to a large furniture chain where there was a major discrepancy between its digital offerings and its local offerings. Because I find the furniture shopping process tedious, I researched many options for purchasing two chairs and a sofa, narrowed my decision down to some fabric selections and armed myself with special offers to ensure I received the best price. Upon arriving at the store and reviewing my picks with the floor sales person, I was told that not only were two of the fabrics shown on their website no longer available, the special offers weren’t either. The floor sales person said, “I am not sure where they got that pricing, because my price book has a different [higher] number.”
The above situation was not, I am afraid, an isolated experience. Three weeks ago I researched a power washer online, checked its inventory at a large national brand store, and then went to the store to purchase the item (identity removed to protect the deficient). Once there, I was told that the item I wanted was last year’s model and “wouldn’t I like this year’s model for $50 more?” On top of that, the sales person told me they did not have the item in stock. Well, right in front of the sales person I went on the company’s website and purchased the item for in-store pick-up. Amazingly, my item appeared within 10 minutes at the merchandise pick-up area. So where is all this ranting leading?
Communications Programs Are All About Communication
Integration is the first step to fully leveraging online/digital marketing efforts. If you’ve taken the time to develop shopping tools that help consumers research products online and buy offline (ROBO), ensure your sales force knows how they work. Or better yet, make them use the same sales interface.
The smartest companies using new media understand that as the sales process transforms, education on and integration of new media opportunities is a must. Start first with the basics. If you are going to leverage your website, Twitter, Facebook and the plethora of available local/mobile apps (like Foursquare), make sure the selling organization is first, allowed to access these tools at work (you’d be amazed how many block these tools corporately) and second, they know how to use them.
“An Investment in Education Pays the Best Dividend”
Thank you, Benjamin Franklin. But it’s true. All the leading-edge marketing work in the world is only as strong as the ability of your sales force to leverage it. The first step to integration is adoption. Leading-edge companies know that changing their internal communication methods can lead to large-scale shifts in how their constituents learn about and adopt local/social/mobile communication tools. Let’s face it, e-mail is a little passé. Instead, use tools like Yammer, corporate blogs, video, and text messaging to get the word out on new promotions, product offerings, and competitor insights.
Tips and Techniques
Short Webinars (10 to 15 minutes maximum) that show how the new platform works and how your company is leveraging it through promotions can be invaluable. There are hours of videos on YouTube on how to set up and use Facebook, Twitter, etc., so in many cases there is no need to create new content. Just add your perspective, so that your selling organization knows why and how they’re being used.
Certification quizzes, scavenger hunts, and other exercises on these website/apps can be used to ensure your sales force understands how they work.
Success Breeds Success
In any organization there always are a select number of employees that leverage new media opportunities and then change their selling techniques – they’re early adaptors. Celebrate them and leverage them. Create a new media dealer/agent/franchise advisory council and then communicate its efforts using the same platforms.
Contests and competitions always work within sales organizations and can be a valuable way to spur adoption. I have one client that has a contest to see which dealer can create that largest qualified Facebook “Like” and Twitter “follower” groups over a one-month period.
Do Not Abandon Your Ready-to-Buy Prospects
One final note of caution: once you get started, measure response speed and rate for these new communication channels. The road to hell is paved with good intention and nothing is a bigger turn-off than an abandoned or out-dated profile page, Facebook page, blog, etc. Many social monitoring software packages can help you measure usage and mentions. Just make sure your content is fresh and that your sales force is acting on the incoming leads quickly. At the risk of yet another cliché; remember your marketing program is only as strong as your weakest link, common sense and through communications internally before externally can be the difference between success and failure