Saturday, 15 May 2010

Everyone's a marketer

As I run seminars helping professionals get to grips with how social media* can help build and grow their businesses, a simple truth is becoming very clear to me;

In the new world of social media, everyone's a marketer.

I am not saying this is the end of the need for marketing departments. Of course there will always be the need for them, to co-ordinate and drive activity. However, I do believe there needs to be a mindset change within organisations as to what the role of marketing is. Traditional marketing is about lead generation, brand building and supporting the sales function. This kind of marketing is well defined and often lives quite independently of other departments. I believe that, particularly for professional services companies, marketing is at a challenging place, as it needs to become much more integrated and cohesive with the rest of the organisation.

Most marketers understand that social media has challenged traditional activity, and that the blend of go-to-market activity of any campaign now needs to include social media. That is a given. But what is not so well understood is how this new social world impacts the relationships between departments within an organisation? I am not sure many marketing departments are asking the questions;

1) How do we harness the power of social media, utilising everyone within the organisation?
2) How can marketing bring leadership to the organisation in order to maximise the benefit of social media?
2) What is marketing's role in coordinating this disparate activity?

As with all opportunities before us, we have to embrace the change that goes with the opportunity. Business leaders need to empower their organisations to explore these things.

Our understanding of the power of social media to benefit business has only just begun.
Exciting stuff.

Sandra Bullen

*Social media is complex, but in the main, I simplify it to Linked-in, blogging and micro-blogging.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Why Apple’s ‘unveiling’ of the new iPhone wasn’t a clever marketing ploy

A couple of weeks ago an Apple employee left a prototype iPhone in a New York bar. The phone was discovered by an as of yet unnamed individual who, upon realising what they’d found, sold the phone onto, who subsequently dissected it, confirmed it’s legitimacy, and took the story to press.

Gizmodo blogged about everything from the design of the outer shell to the apparent new processing power found within the prototype iPhone. Their verdict was unanimously positive, leaving an apparently red faced apple with a glowing report of their newest tech.

With gadget blogs all over the net reposting the story, sceptics started questioning the legitimacy of the ‘accident’ that led to Gizmodo getting hold of apple’s secret iPhone. Apple refused to release any definitive statement on the blunder and rumours started flying that it had all been part of a pre scripted marketing ploy.

As seemingly positive as this has all been for Apple there are fundamental reasons as to why this definitely wasn’t a clever marketing move and why it’s unlikely to ever happen again.

1) Apple’s current marketing strategy has taken years to refine and is the envy of most, if not all of their competitors. When Apple held a keynote to announce the iPad earlier this year, rumour had already been circulating of a tablet like device that would revolutionise the way we view digital media. With absolutely no word from Apple pre unveiling, the hype built and built culminating in the event itself making international news. The fallout from the keynote led to the selling of 1 million units in the U.S. alone.

2) Even if Apple were developing a new marketing strategy it’s unlikely they would choose a new iPhone as the flagship product. The existing iPhone has been a phenomenal success for apple, selling well in excess of 30 million units. Consider that most of those sales are to contract customers who will inevitably consider a new iPhone as a replacement for their current phone, and you have a product that does not necessitate this style of promotion.

3) And finally, Apple remotely wiped the product after they realised it was missing leaving Gizmodo with an essentially useless prototype. Althugh Gizmodo’s article was a candid review of the product, it was essentially built on speculation.

It will be interesting how Apple handle the promotion of the new iPhone from here on in. With a guestimated release date of later on in the year, all eyes will be on Apple over the next few months. Doubtless they will carry on with their secretive approach until the day the product is officially launched but for the time being gadget lovers all over the world are left to enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity to salivate over a new Apple product before the unveiling.

By Rory Muldoon

Saturday, 1 May 2010

2 sides to every story

Very soon a new LinkedIn App. Is launching – it is called DueDil – short for ‘due diligence’. It comes hot off the heels of a service called Unvarnished that launched in March, with a large amount of US PR noise.

The aim of the APP. is to bring more transparency to social networks.

"We all expect the web to be transparent and objective, yet in closed communities like LinkedIn and Facebook, there is no objectivity," the company explains on its web site.
"As a result it is almost impossible to get a true understanding of a person or a company before going into business with them."
"We invite you to participate and become a part of this community by submitting your own contributions, and thus building your own reputation as a trusted reviewer."
"As difficult as it might be sometimes, honesty is the best policy. We ask you to be sincere, constructive and fair, and to speak without fear of repercussion."

As a director of service providing companies, it raises really interesting sociological issues, that are leaving me feeling very uncomfortable, so I have spent some time thinking through three points of concerns.

Firstly, ‘there are two sides to every story’. Anyone who helps friends through a divorce, arbitrates in their children’s arguments, or runs a service company knows that there are two sides to every story. People see the world very differently. It is a core value at both ABA-design and The Flexible Marketing Co. that we go the extra mile to please our clients. In fact when an independent consultant, Kitty O’Hagan, came to assess our own brand values and proposition, she came up with the expression ‘ you like to delight and surprise your clients’ – and we try to live by this. But in the twenty (or so) years that I have been doing this job there are a handful of times, where I have had to walk away from a client knowing that the client is not happy. I hate it. It really upsets me. But I have to shrug my shoulders and move on, because in the main, it is usually about an expectation gap between us (agency) and the client. With the most rigorous of engagement processes, contract negotiations etc, human nature is that this still sometimes happens. No processes stop human beings misunderstanding each other – from time to time. So in summary I am worried that good people will get bad press.

The theory is that if you are good you will have many good reviews, and the odd bad review will just be ‘noise’ amongst the truth. This leads me to the second concern. Another aspect of human nature, we take the energy to complain, but we will not take time out to praise. I am concerned that only the disgruntled will engage with these sites, and those that are quite content will not even think to enter the debate.

My third point is less of a concern and more of a comment from the company, “As a result it is almost impossible to get a true understanding of a person or a company before going into business with them." That is true if you just choose to use LinkedIn to engage a client, but surely this is were the online and the real world collide? As much as I believe in social networking, once you find a product / service / consultant, you then do your own due diligence in the real world, and get on and get good old fashioned references. The real world and online world have to co-exist, and to try and do everything online in a complex business environment, I just don’t believe in. In our industry we often refer to our first client meeting as a ‘chemistry meeting’ – ie. Did we get on? Could we imagine working together? That will never be achieved from a social network.

So, unless I am proved very wrong, and there is an energy in human beings to take time out to positively comment as well as negatively comment, and I am proved that the voice of the many will overpower the voice of the odd individual, then I probably won’t be taking the application any further.

Sandra Bullen
(if you are interested in using social media for business benefit, check out our social media starter pack)