Social Media Strategies for Solution Marketing, Part I
By: Steve Robins
Over the years, I’ve coached employees to control the marketing message, ensuring consistent repetition across marketing activities, communication channels and sales training. Repetition increases message effectiveness so “control” has always been important. But a new model has emerged that’s less about control and more about influence in a widely connected Web 2.0 world where anyone that wants to, can have a voice that gets heard.
This is all about education and dialog – and that’s what the Information component of SIVA (Solution – Information – Value – Access) solution marketing is all about.
Thesis #25: Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.
Last week, I attended the New England Business Expo in Boston including two outstanding sessions sponsored by The American Marketing Association/Boston: “Marketing with Corporate Blogs: Customers are willing to talk if you are willing to listen” and “Building an Influential Social Network: Understanding and Optimizing Social Media.” Speakers included John Cass, director of marketing at ideaLaunch and author of Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging; Jonathan Kranz, of Kranz Communications and author of Writing Copy for Dummies; Rob Cargill, Creative Director at Nowspeed, Mike Volpe, VP of Inbound Marketing at Hubspot and Marc Fireman, Vice President, Digital Strategy at Fleishman-Hillard.
The speakers did a great job and spoke of how companies needed to take the plunge into social media. They also underscored another critical point: we marketers are losing more and more traditional/direct control over our message in the marketplace – and that may actually be a good thing.
Whoa – what’s this about?
It’s time to focus on influence rather than control.
It used to be about control. Historically, we marketers sought to tightly control our company, solution and product messages in the market. We want to ensure message consistency so that the same base message or value proposition, seen multiple times and in different media by the target audience, is more likely to “stick” with customers. So we seek to use more or less the same base message or value proposition everywhere – on websites, in brochures/collateral, in presentations, in sales calls, ads, Google adword placements and the like. Essentially, our companies pay to control the message presented on our websites, in our ads, in our collateral, etc.
Beyond these paid marketing tools, historically, we marketers have also sought to influence a limited set of thought leaders and market influencers such as press and tech analysts. While never a sure thing, this was at least manageable with a defined list of target analysts and press to influence.
But more and more, messages proliferate that we can’t control. But we can influence them.
The new influencers. With the increased dialog of the Web 2.0 world, the balance has shifted away from controlling the message, toward a new model based on influencing the message. Sure, companies can still maintain control over everything they pay for, and press and analyst influence will continue. But more and more of the communication – or messages – about our companies, solutions and products is taking place over social media/Web 2.0 channels such as blogs, Twitter, and link sharing among others. And that information is coming from everywhere – current and former customers, self-proclaimed and widely acknowledged industry experts, commenters and many others. Thought leadership and influence is no longer the exclusive realm of press and analysts. Sure, some influencers wield more clout than others, but in a sense, we are all influencers. Whether a person blogs, or tweets or posts to a LinkedIn group, they are influencing others. I have seen the new influencers and they are all of us.
Social media and solutions. Solution marketing is ideally suited to social media because of solutions’ focus on solving customers’ business problems rather than providing technology alone. Social media enable you to engage directly with the market to talk about how the solution can solve customers’ business problems. And you can use social media to engage with influencers during all phases of solution development and marketing – from solution identification and prioritization to solution requirements and specs to beta tests to ROI to case studies and success stories and beyond.
Of course it’s still important to ensure message consistency wherever you can. But beyond that, you may want to consider developing a social media strategy for your solution so you can influence the market by engaging in an ongoing conversation.
Conclusion. You may not be able to control your message everywhere but you’re still accountable for the message. Use social media to positively influence the message in the marketplace.
The next post, Social Media Strategies for Solution Marketing, Part II, will show you how to develop a social media influence strategy as part of your broader marketing strategy.