Social Inequity

Short is sweet.

No, this is not another diatribe on compact market messages, though that lesson is well worth repeating.  Where sweet and short nicely collide is in the sales cycle.  The shorter the cycle, the sooner the revenue, the happier the stockholder and the fatter your bonus check.

Marketers know that social media is becoming an intrinsic, if not superior, tool for finding and landing customers.  What has not been well quantified is the degree to which social media helps.  The folks over at the Software and Information Industry Association, where I am a perpetual CODiE judge, recently presented some data that indicates how and which social media may be helpful in shortening the sales cycle (click the graphic for one large enough to read).

The blue bars represent sales closing in less than 90 days, and the gray bars sales lasting more than 90 days.  Where you see a significant height difference are those tools that accelerate sales (huge caution — the survey size was small, so use several grains of sodium chloride when ingesting this snack).  We see that marketing mavens believe that videos, Facebook and Twitter are significantly better at getting people to part with cash faster than any other mode.

The problem is that each serves a different purpose.  Thus you may need to use all three to get great sales close speed.

Video: Videos are best at communicating conceptual information.  From product value gestalts to detailed product functionality reviews, videos provide a consistent, reusable, self-guiding system for helping people discover what they need to know about your products.  The problem is that you never will be James Cameron, and if you direct anything bigger than an elementary school play, your lack of chops will show.  Frankly, most product videos stink because they try too little or too much, and at the wrong point in the education cycle.  It is better to make a series of small videos that guide the viewer from concept to functional details, and let the videos self-qualify the viewer in the process.

Facebook: The first authentic borg may be Facebook.  When old ladies actively use a web site for sharing videos of their grandchildren, swapping recipes, and joining the George Clooney fan club, then it is all encompassing.  For marketers, community hubs are for building communities.  Like her or loath her, Sara Palin’s 1,460,713 Facebook followers (as of this afternoon) connect directly to the product that is Palin.  Facebook is not a sales tool, but by assembling a community, increasing the credibility and approachability of a brand, you ease resistance to a sale and speed the sales cycle.

Twitter: Twitter is triage.  Though there are limited options for promotion on Twitter (Dell being good at it) it is more for management of a brand.  The internet has a habit of growing cojones on people, even women.  They speak their minds and Twitter provides people an instant outlet.  Twitter is best used to identify and coddle malcontents, and to reward loyalists.  It is also good for finding people asking key questions about your products and addressing those questions as instantly as possible, and for their friends and followers to see your very personal attentiveness and answers.

For marketing executives, these facts create both opportunities and hemorrhoids.  Anything that shortens sales cycles is a valuable tool.  However, unlike advertising, each requires a human touch, and with the exception of videos, requires hourly participation.  More work, more manpower, more costs.  If you are creating a new market and you need to dominate it so thoroughly that competitors never prosper (the SalesForce.com and Success Factors approach), social media is a must.  By compressing the sales cycle (or the ‘buy cycle’ when looked at creatively) you block competitors by saturating the market as quickly as possible.

That’s inequitable, and in business that is a Good Thing.


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