It may be changing the scorecard for some, but for any savvy small business marketer, the concepts being introduced as “new” have been a way of doing business for decades. There will always be those who stampede toward the lottery promises and complain about their bankroll. Others just really get it.
As I hear the death knoll being chanted for marketing as we know it, I recall the same predilections in prognostications for paper (no need for hard copy documents with electronic files the rage, designers (remember when desktop publishing was introduced?), radio (with the advent of TV), network TV (cable), phone land lines (cellular technology), books (promised kiosks yet to be erected) and even grocery stores (when you can order on-line). I don’t buy it.
Keep old principles in mind when embracing the new
Sure, technology provides opportunities that may not have been available in the same fashion as in years past, but the idea of relationship and network building (and I’m not talking about cheesy so-called networking profit-centers for the provider) has been around for a lot longer than I have.
I’m not a big proponent of rushing to embrace every technology platform that surfaces.
Facebook seems to be a total waste of time for my business, but the jury is still out there as some have indicated I need to create fan pages and groups (I’m still sceptical). I’ll try it for a couple more months, but won’t spend considerable time here.
Many are singing the praises of Twitter. Frankly, I find it hard to keep up with the signal-to-noise ratio. Plus, even though I’m a fan of concise writing, 140 characters really isn’t my style.
LinkedIn, however, has been a great resource for me. So, I’ll continue to spend probably more time than I should participating in groups there and making connections with people who add value to the lives of others through their shared knowledge and participation.
The more we change, the more things seem the same
What is this really all about, though? The initial claims were that online social networking, Web 2.0 and all the other related tools now breaking through had enabled new marketing realms that allowed you to connect directly with your prospects and customers.
I say that we’ve always been able to do this. Some have chosen not to. Smart business owners have always understood that talking to your prospects and customers in a receptive and responsive fashion, and keeping in touch, created big opportunities.
Now some of the “online marketers” are pushing products that allow you to automate the process – it’s just too hard to keep track of all the stuff created to keep us in touch with our audience. Stop wasting unnecessary time sending personalized messages, supplying feeds to the various (and extremely different) communities where you have a presence and create a barrage of auto replies (it’s personalized because you have a script that inserts a name) to give those 27 (or 27000 – must be the more the merrier) impressions once indicated necessary for a sale.
So much for the relationship building and responsive dialog features boasted as “new and different” by the bleeding edge crowd.
Will it last?
The more I watch this “movement,” the more I see a crash on the horizon for the silver bullet crowd. People who get it are smart in how they use the technology to enhance their following and net worth by serving others – and staying personal. When you look at most of the winners, they’re not seeking a quick and easy way around connecting directly with their audience.
In fact, they’ve done the opposite. They’ve created communities and have made themselves available in a big way. They’re building relationships, literally, one at a time. They gain huge credibility by being available, responsive, real and flexible.
Yet, the latest barrage of advice, products, offerings and focus seems to be on easy management tools that relieve the business owner (or administrator) of the burden of direct contact.
Stand on the shoulders of giants
So, yes, I think Web 2.0 as the opportunists are trying to define it, is definitely moving away from good traditional marketing precepts.
I now unsubscribe from anyone who sends me a letter filled with red and yellow ink. I ignore those who send every message in the same language out to all their Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, LinkedIn groups and other social media channels. I get annoyed by the auto-responder messages that barrage my e-mail accounts with e-mail pitches the minute I give them my contact information. I also get cranky about those who create a platform, but don’t bother to check into the comments for a month or more. And the latest rage seems to be affiliate programs. Ten pitches in an hour to the same program from so many minions doesn’t cause me to run to their offering. It turns me off.
If you want to make Web 2.0 (or whatever you want to call it) really work for you, I suggest getting back to basics. Limit your time to what you can handle and what works for you. Be ready to respond almost immediately (or at least within 24 hours) to those you attract. Demonstrate your interest by responding to feedback.
But don’t let this “new” tool rob you of critical time from your business operation and objectives. Build relationships with people you’ve learned to respect and trust – and keep them. Use these tools to find, meet, engage and help centers-of-influence. Don’t spend too much time participating in venues that may be entertaining, but don’t serve your business well.
It’s the economy, stupid
Smart small business owners tend to weather the storms. Many who already get how to make their business about others don’t need Web 2.0 preachers to tell them how to do business successfully. They listen to their prospects, customers and colleagues and implement what they need to make others feel great about doing business with them. Online connections are critical, but the mix depends on the owner and the audience.
Small businesses that are struggling and blaming it on the economy haven’t made their offerings invaluable. No amount of Web 2.0 is likely to fix this until they change their mindset.
Sadly, I’ve signed off of almost all groups indicating a sales or marketing focus. These so-called pros so don’t get it. The savvy small business owner got relationship building a long time ago. Smart ones are picking and choosing how to use the web to improve what they offer – not fix it.
Those who get the importance of one-on-one communications and responsive reactions will thrive. Those who don’t will chase the next promise, complain and blame. Which crowd would you like to join?
Nanette Levin started marketing firm, Fulcrum Communication (leveraging creative and cost-effective opportunities for small businesses) in 1989. She’s also responsible for a book publishing initiative with two tight niches in the equine and entrepreneurial arena. The Horse Sense and Cents™ series is being launched this year. Visitwww.HorseSenseAndCents.com for more information and a link to her equine blog. Entrepreneurial titles (and the associated website and blog support) are scheduled for release in 2010.