Friday, April 16, 2010

Give Members Their Own ROI

Isaac Hazard, Director of Strategic Consulting at Mzinga, talked about “Member ROI” in my class a couple of weeks ago. It’s an important concept. If people, customers or otherwise, are going to spend time on your Facebook page, a corporate blog—wherever you build your community—you’ve got to give them something of value. These members of your community are giving you their time—and hopefully their trust. What are you giving them in return for those two valuable, and scarce, commodities?

In some ways the concept of Member ROI is a basic tenant of advertising. Good advertisers don’t write headlines and copy about the product. They work to understand the benefits that people want from the product. That often takes marketing research, hopefully done so you can design the benefits into your product. If you do that, the task of your advertising staff is easy; they talk about the benefits your product delivers to the target customer, and your advertising works. Product-focused advertising doesn’t work; benefits-focused advertising does.

Fast forward to the age of the Internet and social media. Online display advertising follows exactly the same principle; focus on your target customer and the benefits he/she wants, not on your product. That’s a relatively easy transition.

The transition to social media isn’t so easy. All of a sudden marketing has become conversational and marketers aren’t very good at that. The headline in Smart Brief called them “lousy conversationalists.” According to Jason Fall, “A marketer, in the public’s eyes, is a salesman. Our audience is predisposed to not trust us.” That’s true, but it’s only part of the story.

Sage Lewis nails it with his headline, “No One Cares About Your Products.” His argument, and he has a great pizza story, is that what people really care about is what other people--not marketers--say about your pizza. There are a lot of good comments; the article is well worth reading.

The power of customer reviews is undeniable in the social media era. But it’s still not the entire story. Marketers have to listen, participate and even seed conversations as they build online communities. And to the extent that marketers are used to talking about their products, even the benefits of those products, that is the hard transition.

The conversational marketer cannot focus on product. She has to focus on what customers want to know, what they need to understand, in the product or service space. As the marketer becomes more knowledgeable and skilled, there will be opportunities to explain how the product meets needs. That, however, is on a subsequent date—definitely not the first one!

Download the Mzinga white paper, “Social Marketing & Online Communities: Getting Started” and explore other resources on the site. It’s a good role model, making a major effort to provide value in various media channels and to encourage conversation. However only the individual marketer, can develop the conversational perspective; it takes time and practice!

You have already recognized that this is largely talking about acquisition marketing. When you are talking about CRM, the focus changes to helping customers successfully use your product, your service. But the focus is still on customer needs, not on product bells and whistles!

Whether it’s acquisition or retention, the social environment is about talking to people you want to be your friend, fan, member, whatever. Keep them coming back. Your time to sell will come—or maybe your happy pizza customers will do it for you! It’s all about providing real value in the exchange; that’s the way to make them loyal friends!

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