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The way to the real-time future of marketing mix

When you hear the term “marketing mix”, what do you think…? Pause! Think… Pause!

Does that sound familiar to you? For some of you it might. To others it blurs as they follow the hypes as new marketing topics that are shouting at them. Or did you listen to their silent tones? Isn’t it better to varify and understand the client before start creating a new marketing-mix.

Watching the latest videos on your Youtube channel, talking to “friends” on Facebook or following the latest conversations on Twitter is one thing. Drawing conclusions out of these conversations on the social web world is another. And taking actions like evaluating adwords versus email versus social network marketing or blogs versus micro-blogs) for your marketing mix afterwards is a third step.

Conclusions might also be that marketers realize that B2B people still read print preferably to online or love real face-to-face conversations. They might find out that these business decision makers think twice before they engage in conversations. Reasons might be social media guidelines or policies. Steps are needed (like social media monitoring) before you start understanding your own marketing mix could pay out (i.e. online and offline focus groups).

Other marketing opportunities have never died although social media still hypes. And there is a reason why the “marketing mix” phrase was created by Neil Borden some years ago. Not only as it is an easy to understand phrase. More as we use it in our daily business as marketers without even noticing anymore. It is in our DNA. It is a necessity. Will it ever be removed? I doubt it…

Isn’t it interesting that we never had something like “The ultimate approach to market your products and services”?

Obviously, there is none. In over 50 years nobody found one. Why that is? Well, the world is driven by human beings and their attitudes to become familiar and aware of new things is a dynamic process. Some people adapt quick, other slower. They prefer to get informed via paper. Some like online (via publisher platforms, social networks or blogs). Some still stay offline (as they are often on planes or trains). Others record TV news programs and watch them on-demand with their iPads. And then others use mobile readers or apps to stay up to date with their favorite brands.

Seeing the social hypes in our business world from an outside perspective, I sometimes get the feeling that marketers have to refocus on where users are in their “adaption of technology evolution”. And not invest all their money in one horse race. Or to use another business anology from a tactical HR point of view: Never let the whole sales team be on the same flight.

Where is the difference in marketing?
Is there one? If all your marketing budget goes on airport billboards and then an oil crisis comes up, the invest equals zero in terms of earn out. Or if you buy just one ad in a service provider catalogue on the web but the world uses Google and cannot find the provider in the first ten results, the budget might be wasted.

Some companies think investing in Twitter or Facebook saves their brands awareness in the future but forget that these sites go down once in a while. And then the data is gone or not accessible. Lucky are those who can be approached from other access points then – be it via a phone call (at most companies I am searching hours for a phone number), at an event promoted with social media maybe, at their corporate website, or the self-hosted community that is not on the popular social networks.

The cocktail of having different access points available, and those interacting with each other, is the marketing mix of the future. Although they might have a single target or focus the are aiming at, the marketing mix should be aligned to one common strategy: Engage the client.

Spot on!
As we are automizing our marketing more and more, we always have to keep an eye open which tools and trends are coming up. As technology evolves quite quickly, human beings tend to forget that they need to adapt their marketing mix accordingly. Having said that it does not mean they have to switch their marketing mix approach immediately. Watch out for the tipping point when your power buyers, your brand vangelists, start using different technology. This is the time when the “adaption of technology evolution” happens…

Just a reminder… – The web is people

Sometimes you come across videos that people don’t know, need to watch and need to LISTEN to. Although this has quite a past already, Jay Rosen of New York University and PressThink still gives the right approach for business decision makers -no matter if B2B or B2C- to understand what the web is…

“The Web is people. That’s what the web is. (…) The web is people connected by computers.” He describes the origins of the World Wide Web. This excerpt was taken from a Carnegie Council panel on April 3, 2008. In my eyes you don’t even have to see the full video, audio, and report. Just watch these minutes and there is enough to think about…

The 3 types of social networkers that influence the buying process

It’s been a rumour in the industry for quite a long time now: Facebook and Twitter are becoming indirect shopping platforms and their buttons can boost sales. A recent survey by the research firm Gartner Inc. discovered that most of the users appreciate and take suggestions from their friends through social networking sites before purchasing products. And furthermore, they rely on three types of social networking friends for their purchasing decision process.

The Gartner study asked nearly 4,000 consumers across 10 key markets. The interesting part is that people in the social networks are taking different positions inside the purchasing process when recommending products to people they are connected with. Gartner identifies three types of people and roups them into three categories: ‘Connectors’, ‘Mavens’ and ‘Salesmen’.

So, how do they differentiate from each other?
The ‘Connectors’ are defined as those who “perform a bridging function between disparate groups of people and enjoy introducing people to each other”. The ‘Mavens’ are “knowledge exchangers or information brokers”, who are experts in particular area and people go to them for advice. But they are not people who wish to convince people to buy certain items; they are more interested in acquiring new knowledge, it said. The ‘Salesmen’ are those, who have “extensive social connections” and the personality trait that persuade people around them to “act on information in highly directed ways”.

“Our survey results showed that one-fifth of the consumer population is composed of Salesmen, Connectors and Mavens. These are three roles that are key influencers in the purchasing activities of 74 per cent of the population.” (…) “Salesmen and Connectors are the most effective social network influencers and the most important groups for targeted marketing based on social network analysis.” Nick Ingelbrecht, Research Director, Gartner

Gartner advises companies based on the findings of its survey to pro-actively engage with these different types of people on social networking sites. Not surprisingly, they define these categories of social media influencers as the “critical, but underutilised, aspect of the marketing process” for the future.

“Companies attempting to use social networks should develop relationships with key customers over a period of time and progressively refine the social network profiles of those individuals.” (…) “Retailers who run small shops have instinctively done this with their best customers for years with the intention that these ‘VIP’ customers will not only buy the new products but recommend them to their friends.” Nick Ingelbrecht, Research Director, Gartner

Spot On!
For me, there is a strange thing about this study. It causes a Deja-vu, I have never had before in my life. Two years ago, I published and explained -in German- in a long post the importance of these three types of people in business networks for business decision makers, and how businesses should focus on them when talking about their social media approaches. And guess what: Two years ago, I came to the same conclusion and refered to the same types of people. In these days, I have read the book “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell for the second time. And in this book you will find the same categories of people, and you are told to rely on them and work with ‘Connectors’, ‘Mavens’ and ‘Salesmen’.

The main question is now, how to address these social networking influencers? Can you call them up and talk to them directly? Send an email? Invite them for dinner or lunch? What is the best way to start the conversation with them?

Study: Social Network access at work? Teens expect it!

social-networks-sepia1Your company thinks about limiting or restricting the access of social networks during working time? You better have a second thought about it…

A recent study states that for the net generation social networking has become a crucial part of their business life. It is so central to their lifestyle that it becomes one of the main decision criteria when weighing job offers.

The Junior Achievement/Deloitte Teen Ethics Survey shows that 88% of teenagers use social networks on a daily basis. 58% of the teenagers surveyed said that they would consider the ability to access social networks when considering a job offer.

Business decision makers in companies should be aware of the fact that this might become a central question in recruiting talks. Teenagers will definitely make decision pro or contra a job on considerations about having the ability to access Facebook, Twitter, and the lot when applying for jobs.

Spot On!
Teenagers don’t use social networks to waste time witht heir peers, or even be unproductive. The main reasons for the use becomes clear when taking a close look at the results. 51% of the surveyed teens use social networks to help others. And 29% use the social benefit to create awareness for a cause. So, if you think of improving customer service, you should consider these facts and try to transfer the social abilities of the networks in order to build a stable customer communication world – with the net generation.

B2B Study: Marketers Strategies and Spendings for 2009

A recent study from Marketing Profs and Forrester Research amongst 300,000 marketing executives and other management professionals, conducted in late 2008, offers insight in the latest b2b marketing strategies, budgets, tactics and attitudes.

The key findings are that marketers have three deeper needs for the future: measuring effectiveness becomes increasingly important (i.e. webinars and search provide great tactical benefit), understanding customers deepest needs and wishes, plus exploring and learning from best practices for daily business implementation is crucial.

The report makes clear that top marketing business decision makers are relying much more on digital marketing tactics. With a high percentage of respondents saying that their company web site (91%) and email activities (81%) are the top media used for their tactics. Still, it is interesting to see that a lot of marketers work with traditional tactics like public relation (72%) and tradeshows/conferences (70%) as very important lead generation tools.

With the increasing importance of web 2.0 and social media platforms and tools for customers, companies are changing their media mix from ‘[more costly] traditional media and toward [less costly] new tactics’. Nevertheless, the marketers knowledge on tactics for the new social media platforms is still in an ‘infancy’ status.

In average, the budgets are still spend in an ‘old-school’ manner with tradeshows/conferences (20%) and TV advertising (18%) leading the marketing mix spending, followed by inside sale/telemarketing (16%) and print advertising (13%) – the leading field only interrupted by one digital marketing activity: direct mail (14%).

Spot On!
The report reflects in some way the economic crisis when the executive summary is talking of reducing spending and focusing efforts on a narrower segment of their target markets. Meaning… the so called ‘watering can’ marketing strategy is vanishing and marketing strategy will be focused much more on the digital ‘1-to-1’ as well as ‘1-to-many’ approach. The real (or potential) customers, their environment and the people influencing them has reached the marketers mind – so social media is not too far away for them to understand, and offers great opportunity to learn much more needs and wishes.

The Social Globe – social networks become paid-content

The challenge for social media will remain to find ways to monetize platforms best way. Now, facing Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, or any other social- or business network there is probably nothing shorter than their best practice list on monetizing social media business. Still there is banner-, text- or link advertising as the prominent revenue stream. Nobody really finds the right turn for a profitable and successful revenue model.

Now, let’s take a wild ‘think-tank’ approach… Is a business model like the ‘Pay-Per-X’ Murdoch TV business models (i.e. Sky TV) a solution? A company which ties together or combines social networks to a bundle and offers those on a paid subscription basis?

When we started silicon nearly a decade ago as a closed b2b IT community (see picture), social media and web 2.0 did not even have a name or definition. In those days we thought about offering silicon as a paid subscriber community for IT and business decision makers. Obviously the idea was to make our investors and share holders happy ‘asap’ by monetizing the business modell best way. But web days were too young for such an approach, paid content was seen as ‘boo’ and we were fighting against old media that gave ad space away for free in order to save their ‘powerful-print-publisher-position’ in the market. Paid content models were not embraced with open arms by (business) user. The appearance of an evangelist was even worse in the user’s eye. Today every adolescent knows about online communities and their use is paid for by parents. They are about to accepted spending money with their credit card for their children networking.

Surprisingly enough, most of the leading social and business networks as well as any other communities don’t want to touch the monetizing issue ‘premium-subscriber’ or ‘paid communities’. In the past as well as today it is the art of financing social- and business networks not only by revenue streams coming from the classical (banner-) advertising or cpx model because for social networks as well as for any other business counts: profit is a liability. A critical business model is, if users just love but are not willing to pay for it. Nevertheless, investors and the providers need to re-finance the business and ideally make it profitable. Altruism is nice but in our modern common era it does not exist anymore, and in business never did.

So, what if social media platforms were only offered as a subscription model? Let’s give the responsible company the title: The Social Globe. The business area of this company would be defined with the following definition…

The Social Globe is the leading pay-social-media company. The business segment of The Social Globe relies on the credo that pay-social-networks can only be successful as a broad offer of high-quality and exclusive community content. Social networks on subscription basis is the main business of The Social Globe. Furthermore, The Social Globe offers its subscribers an attractive value of business communities, corporate networks, micro-blogging services and so on with the option to subscribe to single- as well as pay-per-use services. The company carries the open networking, markets the lineup of all social networks and provides a world-class service around the planet.

Facebook Connect could be the door opener for this kind of open marketing via The Social Globe for the users (and also solve some security issues). Whoever wants to use social networks in the future has to pay a certain mite per month and intensity of use. These subscriber packages are targeted to business or private user or as topic packages – nice portions with attractive subscription offers and reasonable offers, or as single use offers. Would the users pay one to ten EURO if the social or business network is useful for them? Probably…

If providers and investors of social media platforms want to see reasonable profits they need to make their users pay for the quality platforms they get offered – on a long-tail view, advertising and co-operations are too heavily depending on global and regional fluctuations of marketing budgets and the world-wide economic situation. If the financial situation for social media remains as it is today, a positive view of the future will be a distant prospect. XING did it right when taking 5 EURO from their premium-users – but no other social network seems to be following. OK, XING wanted money from their users from the very start… a clever move!

Nevertheless, other social networks do have to follow if they don’t want to run out of money and face a ‘internet-crash-reloaded’. A big user and interest database -and most of the social networks are nothing more and nothing less in most cases- is nice to have but somebody has to pay for the efforts the providers are offering. Otherwise these business models are worthless, or let’s say, not really of value.

The saying “Free things always hurt!” has it’s rights. The power user will be paying, the ‘normal user’ needs to be made visible that there is a surplus value in social networks. Then this user will be paying as well – or this person will not be of real value for providing the platform. And if ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing works, then friends and peers will be getting this normal user to pay who once unsubscribed as of financial reasons. As this person will not be able to follow the offline conversation if he is not part of the online community. These people will become unpopular, or not…?

Spot On!
The surplus value of a subscriber model for social media platforms is huge and the ‘funding’ as well as the ‘revenue increase’ as well. What value do 140 million users have if the business model will not be flying in the sense of incoming revenues. If The Social Globe just turns 30% of the users of this social network to paid users the providers have 40 mio. EURO more to elaborate an even more powerful platform. Ad and newsletter formats would continue to serve as additional revenue streams but not as the only and leading ones. The Social Globe could tie all together and split revenues according to traffic.

Just utopia or is ‘The Social Globe’ a viable vision?

Personal Web Manager – the next web 2.0 job?

Time is the most important asset of the modern job world 2.0. Why? This should be quite clear – we all get booked up (Outlook and Intsant Messaging), burned out by mobility (increasing mobility – thanks to mobile internet we cannot live offline anymore) and above all “networked up” (social media explosion).

People who are seeking to have a good online reputation 2.0 need at least to be present in different XING groups, do some Facebook ‘business-socializing’ and look after their international connections in the LinkedIn business network. Some days ago, Mashable raised the question if it is possible to be registered in too many social networks. Well, this depends on the time you have, or have not…

“It’s time to find some time!” Translation of the new Centerparcs claim on German TV

The active business person has become an identity hiker 2.0. This person finds itself always in a discrepancy between satisfying the company’s business processes, staying up to date as well as producing high-profile mini-statements and thesis which polish the value of the own personal web-ID up. Furthermore companies expect more and more from their employees when facing the financial crisis, cost reduction and personal lay-offs.

And then there are some personal human needs (family life) and preferences like satisfying personal hobbies. The extreme heteronomy is growing. But how shall we cope with all these duties without being in danger of health damages? This becomes incomprehensible for most of the modern business people 2.0.

The surplus work load of web 2.0 and social media does its very best in this context and needs to be filtered as well as canalized. When the world of social media itself thinks about the idea, how to save some time as a business person 2.0, then a solution needs to be found.

But how can we as sucessful business people 2.0 embrace this phenomenon? On a long discussion night some managers I came up with an idea which found attractive interest in Germany and which was born from university memories. In those days we saw busy little bees of ‘professor followers’, so called student assistants, running around extremely motivated. These young energetic people who followed a hybrid life between administrator, aggregator and multiplicator (sounds like the first Twitterati generation…). So, the solution was obvious – a new job description needs to be found. The idea of the personal web manager as well as personal web assistant was born.

Profile of the Personal Web Manager (PWM) und Personal Web Assistant (PWA)
(For the rest of this post we will just use the short version: personal web consultant.)

The personal web consultant gets the title depending on his management qualification. The job will be given preferably to managers with extraordinary web-affinity or internet-enthusiastic or ‘web-addicted’ students. The personal web consultant is in his position a coach and/or assistant for successful ambitious business decision makers who take the course of mankind 2.0 who are reputation optimizer in the company management’s sense for the virtual-real world and who love to start a promising online career themselves.

Administrator of the virtual business
The personal web consultant organizes and segments web content for the business decision maker according to importance of markets and internal revenue expectations as well as projects and topics – except for email communication which can be done by the business decision maker who can concentrate on these duties as he finds more time thanks to the personal web consultant.

The personal web consultant is responsible for the registration on numerous internet platforms of relevance for the business decision maker (from communities to networks) and does the personal monitoring for his manager’s work. This person optimizes the profile of the boss. Furthermore, his work is concentrating on RSS feeds, bookmarks, micro-blogging and social and business networks which need to be brought in a standardized business format. All steps shall lead to one uniform personal web-ID.

Professional News-Aggregator
The personal web consultant collects necessary knowledge, posts, articles and trend ideas in the sense of his bosses entrepreneurial targets. Based on these facts he thinks about intelligent output strategies and elaborates recommendations for group input in networks, phrases these in the best possible version, hands those over to the manager who just needs to check them and do the final click to bring those online. In earlier days business decision makers got their map with documents to sign them, today you get an online folder with the content and/for the relevant links. Copy – paste – done!

Entrepreneurial Contact-Multiplier
The personal web consultant is responsible for the quality and the development of the chief’s business network. Registered as a contact-multiplier, the personal web consultant summarizes, supervises and optimizes the manager’s networks for old and new subject-orientated contacts. The consultant evaluates professional groups in business and social networks for new contacts and advises on necessary contact requests. Options for the moderation of groups in networks are also his duty as searching for virtual and real speaking options or guest comments or contributions.

But how can the personal web consultant be integrated in companies?
Companies are always searching for the ultimate and most efficient motivation incentive or hiring bonus which they can give to middle and top management apart from car allowance, mobile phones or a golf-club membership, all paid by the company in order to find the right motivation shot. Why not accompanying a motivated manager with a personal web consultant? The additional person is productive, innovative, motivated and makes the company live the maxim of web 2.0 – also in times of scarcity of resources.

The freelancer will love the personal web consultant if the order- and revenue situation is positive. This job is terminable from scratch and/or the personal web consultant can work on a freelancer-, trainee- or internship basis.

Spot On!
Some people may say the work of the personal web manager could be done by a automated web services (like Netvibes, PersonalBrowsr, Noserub, etc.). But if we take a serious look at the pace of the personal outputs on Twitter there is not even a 10% chance of effective following of the Twitterati followers. Especially when you are also meant to set the right tone and appropriate good manners when doing your daily business networking. So, all in all… either successful business decision makers have to transform into a virtual-optimized multitasking engine or simply automate the personal communication process 2.0. Establishing the job description of the personal web manager/assistant in companies could be a more professional solution and, talking of the economy crisis, provide numerous new jobs – and the next ‘web 2.0 job’.