Perhaps the worst thing a business or agency can do during a severe downturn is to pull back on marketing activity, even if writing the checks is exceptionally painful. The reason is something known as the ’sales cycle’. Salespeople know what this is: the average time it takes to close a sale from prospecting to a check in the mailbox. For a lot of products and services this can be quite a long process and it lengthens as money gets tight.
However, as money gets more accessible, sales cycles get shorter because there is pent-up need. This brings us to the marketing quandary. If you stop or curtail marketing activity, you cripple your ability to bounce back when the economy gets better. Your customers don’t stop thinking about buying, they just hold off until they can afford it. If you stop marketing and participating in the conversation you won’t be on their radar when they’re ready. Your sales cycle starts with marketing.
So what does this have to do with social media? Everything. Social media participation is extremely cost effective, especially if you target intent, in other words, those conversations that are fine-tuned to your product or service. Any number of keyword tracking services, including ours, can help you find that intent.
There is another compelling reason to dive headfirst into social media: Timing. We are at that proverbial tipping point where a group of ideas, tools and smart people converge and the world changes. Waiting until the economy turns upwards to embrace social media means you’ll be far behind the curve. We saw it with the belated advertising agency reaction to search marketing. They didn’t embrace this new model and a whole new style of marketing agencies took the business out from under them. This, in my view, is taking place right now with social media.
Are you on the brand-owner side but not successfully selling social media participation to upper management? It’s time to go guerilla. Start monitoring with free services like ours, tracking Twitter keywords, blogging product mentions, etc. Become a power-user and you’ll eventually get your chance to make your case. Chances are that when the realization sets in among those managers that your brand is being discussed, there will be a ‘why aren’t we doing this moment?’ And you can say, ‘actually we have been’.
It’s not just the listening side. Start building knowledge around platforms for social media interaction. Things like Ning, Yammer, WordPress. They’re free and you can learn them quickly. Again, when times get better you’ll have a jump on your competition.