Dazzled by fireworks: one reason companies aren't ready for social media

I have found that many companies just aren’t ready for social media, web 2.0, conversation marketing and all those other buzzwords that are flying around the world of marketing and advertising.

It’s not because they don’t want to. It’s not because they don’t understand it or are against it. The reasons are simple and interconnected. Over the next couple posts I’m going to talk about some of the reasons I’ve spotted.

Reason 1. Dazzled by fireworks
Many marketing departments operate in what I call a fireworks model. Even if the company is selling a service, chances are it still thinks in terms of roadmaps and timetables that inevitably culminate in a launch, an event or a kick-off. It mirrors a corporate rhythm based on product development cycles — a vestige of an industrial-era business model.

But customers aren’t waiting around for you to launch your product. They don’t really care. Odds are that they already own the functional equivalent of what you are selling. They don’t need it. What you’re asking them to do is replace what they’ve got with what you have to offer. That’s inconvenient.

Sure, they like it when you tell them about something new that is relevant to where they are at that moment. But the newness may have nothing to do with the fireworks; it may just be new to them because they happened to be listening when you were talking.

One very effective way to get around this problem is to move from a fireworks model to a publication model in which marketing is incremental, a steady stream of messages and content that starts at the launch and lasts as long as the product does. It’s not really a problem if the customer misses your launch, because when they’re ready to buy, they will (theoretically) be attracted to what you’re saying, find it convincing and head cheerfully down the dreaded sales funnel.

The problem is that market departments are rarely organized or scaled to communicate about a current product and prepare the marketing for a new product at the same time. Getting ready for the launch eats up the available resources. Marketing about the previous product is put on the back burner. The communications become stale. Anyway, working on the launch is more fun, more motivating, right?

So what comes after the fireworks and the publication model? I call it “marketing as a service.” As a quick Google search painfully showed me, I am apparently not the first person to come up with the idea of turning creative ideas into tangible services (instead of one-shot fireworks). But more on that in another post.

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