An Email For My Social Media Marketing and PR Friends

by Gregg on January 5, 2010

I got this in my email earlier today. I’ve changed the product name to the generic “our product” and the expert’s name he mentions to “Social CRM Expert.” No reason to ruffle any feathers. This is from a long standing friend. That friendship dates back to the mid-80s when we were both staking our then futures on this thing called Windows, something that at the time, very few people even knew about. He has been very successful in his accounting, programming and consulting life. He is a passionate advocate of Small and Medium Businesses, the average Joe if you will.

“The realities that Sean and I are encountering in introducing our product to the ultimate end user are not surmountable by anything being proposed anywhere, whether it’s or an established CRM bragging about how good their product is, or the wild claims being made by Web 2.0 (or whatever the Web du jour is) advocates.

And there’s a reason for this.

Social networking is making zero inroads into any of the businesses (SMBs) we have visited and interest in “mining” those networks is similarly zero. It’s not that they are rejected as future possibilities, but rather that SMBs haven’t time for it, since they sense the costs far exceed the benefits. I’m not going to speculate in a broader sense, because I don’t care what the pundits say. The facts are the facts – SMBs are still the same as they always were: overworked, scratching for dollars, but now fighting even harder for market share. They are competing not just with local competition but also with online, distant suppliers and, of course, big box retailers.

We do see local organizations trying to message better to people. Sean is working on an Economic Development Commission project to use social networking in an expanded environment to communicate. One of our customers wants to start using the social arena to get more and better information out to its members. Those types of organizations are the exception to the rule. The fact remains that virtually every small business is still ensconced in the every day, workaday processes, and those don’t include blogging, tweeting or concern with their web sites. Actually, I shouldn’t say “concern”. They are concerned; they often just don’t know what to do about it or have the time to do it.

Our few customers are initially excited about our product, but that wains quickly when they realize the enormity of the task of truly managing the customer experience.

Yes, many shoppers are certainly using the Internet for shopping, but that online shopping is not taking place in the local community. Typically, the shopper is ordering online from a distant supplier and the type of goods is not particularly competitive to the local retailer (maybe books is an exception, and that industry is certainly hurting on a local level). Local shopping is still just that: physically visit or contact by phone. Big box brick and mortar companies do blur the purchase process by offering online and local services, but they are not SMBs anyway.

To the point: Joe average – architect, restaurant owner, retail store – are not stupid, nor are they unaware of the need to handle their customers better. All I see in the print world (I’m including blogs, etc. in “print world”) time and time again is the same, stupid Social CRM Expert-type of messaging. A bunch of esoteric bullshit skimming the surface of the problem, with no real solution offered. Everywhere I look, they all say the same thing: “You have to communicate with your customer…”, “you need to serve your customer…”, “you need to do this, that or the other…”. Lots of “you needs”, but few “here’s exactly how”.

And that’s my point. “Exactly how”?

We talk to SMBs – they all acknowledge the obvious – those things the “thought leaders” spout over and over again, thinking they are telling the SMB something the SMB doesn’t already know. Shit, SMBs know they have to have conversations with their customers; they know they have to maintain ties to them; they know their customer base is the source of their success; they know all those obvious things. They are trying to do those things when they can.

That the pundits think they should do it more and constantly harp on that falls on deaf ears. The SMB knows all that.

What they don’t know is three things:

1. Exactly how to do it better.
2. Where do they find the time to do it?
3. How can they afford to do it?”

What do you think? If you deal with SMBs, do you find the same feelings being expressed?

Mark W Schaefer January 5, 2010 at 9:41 pm

wow. love this reality check. I hear the same thing in a lot of places … but I also see successes. got my wheels turning here Gregg. Think we just might have my next blog riffing around somewhere here : )

Social Media Marketing January 6, 2010 at 4:22 am

A neighborly thank you in the form of a private email or a public comment. …

Gregg January 6, 2010 at 6:54 am

Mark, yes, I see successes as well but he and I have had many a conversation around this subject and plain and simple, he’s right. That small business, supposedly the backbone of our economy, just doesn’t have the time it takes. Or maybe a better way to put that would be that they could make the time if they saw a potential payback. From their standpoint, all of the Marketing, PR and Social Media types spend all of their time blogging about themselves and their businesses and then tweeting each other about the same. It’s hard to argue that point, some successes or not.

Eric Goldman January 7, 2010 at 2:30 pm

What a fresh and interesting take on the issue – thanks for posting it and thanks to the email’s author.
Obviously from his statements, he is talking about b2c SMBs, as opposed to b2b companies. And while the situation is different for b2bs (more than 90% of their buyers begin their search for a solution online), I do believe that all businesses these days suffer from the “deal with that alligator biting my ass” before we can get out of the swamp.
But having said that, I also believe that in the b2b world, it’s imperative to get into Social Media Marketing (SMM), SEO and PPC and even offline traditional media outlets if they work for you. Leave no stone unturned is a good motto. But, as you and the email author say, one has to have the time to do this. What better way to manage this problem than by using the most trusted and proven measurement to determine whether to do something or not? I’m talking of ROI, of course. We advise all of our SMB clients to get involved in online marketing (SEO, SMM, PPC, blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) because you have to to stay current and viable. But measure everything, especially the ROI of every campaign element, so that you can learn to do more of the campaigns with great ROI, and thus lose the campaigns with poor returns.
Okay, you’re excused for muttering, “yes, but just how do you calculate ROI for marketing campaigns?” Seems most people think it can’t be done. So many of the people we talk to said this, that we decided to write a few posts to dispel this notion. If you are interested, each post covers a different aspect of calculating ROI. Here is a link to the 2nd one, (all three are linked so you can find them easily enough from this one), which provides a list of the 10 best free ROI calculators on the web:
And if you are thinking about running a SMM campaign, here’s a link to a formal Process Specification for how to do just that:

Gregg January 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Hi Eric,

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your take on that. It’s interesting that you should say what you did about ROI since I have seen a lot of blog posts predicting that 2010 will be the year of Social Media ROI. I’m about to follow the links you’ve provided. As a quick aside, did you happen to see David M. Scott’s post on ROI this morning? “Epic ROI rant”

Jayme Soulati March 29, 2010 at 11:30 am

I love what this post has prompted. Rather than tell SMBs what to do, I will kindly encourage and lead them toward how.

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