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Is Twitter a sales tool?

twitter-dollarIn a lot of talks and meetings with clients I am asked if Twitter is a sales tool. Now, what would you say? The university professor might answer with a Solomonic answer: “Well, it depends how you see it…”. Being a member of the Twitterati it is one of these questions where you have to hold on to your horses in order not to be too excited. The best answer is probably: “Yes, it is… and No, it is not!”…

The why for “Yes, it is”…
Looking at the latest development in the “Twittersphere” it can be said that the micro-blogging service can be used as a push tool for sales promotions meant to generate an upside in revenue. The best examples are accounts from companies like Dell (selling re-furbished IT for 3 mio. USD), Threadless (selling shirts – no numbers released yet) or Zappos (selling shoes – no numbers released yet).

Although we don’t know see any revenue figures of Threadless or Zappos, seeing the follower numbers alone offers the option to sell through the indirect way to this new “distribution list” by keeping up the conversation with new thoughts and ideas gathering engagement – or direct via ‘extraordinary’ offers. Just take a look at my sales statistic or metric, I summarized on the Dell Outlet account and you can evaluate your sales options.

Especially, the aviation industry has used the power of pushing their offers through this new media channel – thus uplifting their revenue figures. Some airlines like JetBlue (called “JetBlueCheeps“) and United Airlines (“twares”) offer cheap seats Twitter sales promotion programs (also for unsold tickets). The companies push their announcements via Twitter and the user -hopefully- listens to their Tweets and needs exactly the route offered.

In Germany Lufthansa has also started with sales promotions via Twitter – and obviously after this test the worldwide Twitter offering is “coming soon”.

The PRO view…
Yes, Twitter is a sales tool as there is no limit in terms of target-group, industry sector, the costs of the product or the product and service itself. Use it as a sales tool if you think your customers or your desired target-group is open-minded, loves last-minute offers or is ready to be engaged via social media.

The why for “No, it is.”
Nevertheless, the way how companies use Twitter to address their target-group with their sales promotions appears like some kind of old “watering can” marketing principle. Is this really time-to-market sales? Can this be called “targeting” which is the modern form of receiving sales promotions? One thing is for sure: Forecasting on such sales push activities is nearly impossible… the proof is in the test. But: once started, there is no way out. Sales promotions on Twitter are relying on the “hope” factor by offering an additional sales channel called “SomeTwitterAccountByOurCompany”.

And sales strategies go against the means of social media anyway. Sales philosophy is “We know what you want and here is your customized offer!” – social media is “We listen, learn and share what our customers want to buy from us!”.

From the airline examples we can learn that the offer is not just positive extra media promotion. It is limited in its sales power in a way that consumers need to be flexible and last-minute offer driven. Sounds a bit like the ebay way of selling…

So, Twitter sales promotions are relying on the “hope” factor by offering an additional sales channel called Twitter account. Some follow as they are just listening to the company or product development, some as they learn from the tweets and some as they want to share common knowledge. Not all followerrs really want to buy something. You are in good company when your company does not want to aggressively buy followers in order to go down the good old spam route.

The CON view…
No, Twitter is not a sales tool but more a customer service tool with the positive side-effect that you can sell indirect by giving good service, helping your customers and solving their problems in real-time. Don’t use it when you think your customers are bound to traditional cliches, rarely take the advantage of accepting fast shopping opportunities and don’t know what social media can do for them.

Spot On!
Generally speaking… – From a followers point of view (in this case meaning customers), there is a positive argument about Twitter sales promotions: Interested customers will follow (=read) the sales push tweet – uninterested won’t, they will ignore it. And customers don’t even have to delete the message like a spam mail. It is dying with the followers timelife stream…

Advice
The Critical question to ask are… Do we have a long-time social media strategy or do we just want to “drive” a short-time sales push? What have we done in the past to push our sales revenues? What worked out well? I am sure, if you ask yourself these questions, some more questions on your web strategy in terms of sales achievements will follow…

Am I right…?

Launch Bookstore auf The Strategy Web

bookstore-tswDie Nachricht von dem Partner E-Commerce Strategie der QStores bei Quelle liest sich fast schon wie ein lustiger Zufall für mich. Erst gestern habe ich mein Blog The Strategy Web um einen neuen Bücher Shop erweitert. Allerdings mit aStore von Amazon, nicht QStore von Quelle…

Warum ein Book Store?
In den letzten Monaten habe ich ab und an Rezensionen geschrieben zu Büchern, die mich in irgendeiner Weise fasziniert, bewegt oder nachhaltig beeinflußt haben. Diese (Business)-Bücher wurden dann in der Sidebar als Widget “Buchempfehlung” vorgestellt. Leider verschwanden mit jedem Update einer Empfehlungen die anderen gänzlich – und grundsätzlich zu schnell.

Karl-Heinz Wenzlaff, der die Idee des Bookstores an mich herangetragen hat, meinte mal in einer Mail: “So schnell kommt man ja mit dem Lesen nicht nach, wie Sie die Buchempfehlungen wechseln”. Mag daran liegen, daß ich mir als ehemaliger Literaturwissenschaftler das schnelle Lesen beigebracht habe. Was hier jetzt aber eher kontraproduktiv war. Mit dem Bookstore kann ich das Problem elegant umgehen.

Was findet man im Bookstore?
Mein Bookstore trägt die Überschrift “Books and Recommendations” also nicht umsonst. Zukünftig werden dort unter der Rubrik Books Angebote zu relevanter Lektüre die Blogthemen betreffend integriert. Webstrategy, Marketing, Sales und Mobile Web sowie “Unterhaltsames und Nachdenkliches” bei Easy Listening (witzige, lustige und trotzdem nachhaltige DVDs) und Easy Strategy (moderne Startegieansätze der ‘Light-Version’ sowie Romane).

Wie schwierig ist es, ein aStore zu erstellen?
Überhaupt nicht schwer, denn mit den Amazon aStores benötigt man keine Programmierkenntnisse. Der Aufbau von aStores ist nahezu selbsterklärend. Man kann seine Kategorien selbst definieren, Farben & Design anpassen, die Sidebar konfigurieren und die finalen Versionen per Link, iFrame oder Frameset sehr einfach für jeden Blog-, Webseiten oder Communitybetreiber integrieren.

Monetarisierung oder Service?
Wer glaubt, als Amazon-Partner kann man seine Blogaktivitäten gut monetarisieren, der muß ein anderes Blogthema als ich haben. Vermutlich ist nahezu jedes andere Blogthema der Umsatzgenerierung dienlicher. In den letzten Wochen bin ich oft gefragt worden, welche Literatur man so in den Themen des Blogs ließt, um “Up-To-Date” zu bleiben. Der Bookstore ist ein Service für meine Leser – nicht mehr, nicht weniger.

Ich wünsche Euch viel Spaß und hoffe, dort gute Vorschläge und Empfehlungen eingebaut zu haben. Natüprlich erfährt der Bookstore regelmäßig ein Update…

Dell: social media business or the just good marketers?

Dell is the social media super-hero these days and one of the most named examples of social media intelligence. At least, if we believe in a lot of blog posts…

Last week, Dell reported in a blog post that their Twitter account @DellOutlet earned more than $2 million US dollars in revenue. Money that can be attributed directly to their Twitter activity. This does not surprise us, having heard that Dell broke the $1 million US dollar barrier some months ago.

Nevertheless, let’s think a minute about the ‘social aspect’ of this Twitter account. The funny thing about it is that Dell is just using old marketing techniques to generate revenue via Twitter.

Or is the use of coupon codes a marketing innovation of the web 2.0 era?

These couopons come flying into my mailbox at home every day – quicker than I have time to throw them in a bin.

“Dell Outlet sells refurbished Dell products at great prices, but inventories fluctuate, making it difficult to know when products are available or on sale. Dell Outlet uses Twitter as a way to message out coupons, clearance events and new arrival information to those looking for Dell technology at a discounted price.” (quote from Dell blog)

Reading this statement, the question is what is the social media strategy? Isn’t this just good old marketing tactics? This Dell Twitter account @DellOutlet is not acting in any way like social media has been teaching companies lately.

“Listen, learn and engage” (Brian Solis) is the value proposition of social media. The customers are coming to you as they have heard about the quality and value of your product, service or business. Then, they buy and do some good word-of-mouth activity via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, rating sites etc. for your business. This is resulting in community building – not a sales channel like the Dell example.

Dell is talking, pushing and selling. It is the good old communication and marketing practice we all know from some years ago.

Why is Dell so successful? It is a matter of simple marketing technics. It follows the old sales intelligence… From more than 650.000 followers, 10% will be real followers (as you just follow when you are in the evaluation process mode before a purchase decision) = 60.500 followers. And if you are lucky company 5% will buy your product in the end = 3.025 users. This tells us about an interesting average revenue of 661,15 US dollar per Twitter client.

Ah, I love sales statistics… though admittedly, these might be taken from the easiest perspective of ROI measurement.

Spot On!
But is this Dell activity really ‘social’? It is the email marketing system – tables turned upside down. Opt-In or follower? Subscribe or unsubscribe is the question… Email promotion or social media promotion? Email spam or social media spam? What comes next in the marketers arena? And, the account is just following Dell accounts… is the client/follower really interesting for them?

Not saying this is not a very clever approach reaching out for clients… well-done, Dell.

Your views much appreciated…

Study: How women use blogs and social networking…

A recent study Women in Social Media from BlogHer, iVillage and Compass Partners, shows that the motivation of women using blogs and social networking differs. Blogs for women follow the purpose to find the right information while social networking platforms have the ‘mere’ sense to connect.

The results state that US women are nearly twice as likely to use blogs than social networking sites. Blogs are seen especially valuable as a source of information (64%), advice and recommendations (43%), and opinion-sharing (55%). Social networking sites are more used to share their strong affinity to connect and to entertain themselves.

Women show much more interest and increase their activity in social media. So, women are turning to blogs (55%), social networks (75%) and online status updating (20%) to satisfy their interest.

The new study found that women spend less and less time engaging in traditional media activities like watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading magazines or newspapers.

And for women blogs are becoming more and more important as a trendsetting and purchase sources of information. Seeing the influence of blogs on purchase decisions, the study makes clear that women are more likely to buy a product after reading a customer post or reports about the item. 45% of survey respondents bought a product after reading about it on a blog.

“The scale of social media usage among US women continues to grow, and blogs remain the go-to resource for those who want to gather information, share ideas and get reliable advice,” said Elisa Camahort Page, BlogHer co-founder and COO. “At a time when the economy is top-of-mind for more than 70% of these active social media participants, women who blog are turning to online resources, including blogs, to help them make their day-to-day purchasing decisions.”

Spot On!
The influence of blogs on purchase decisions shows the importance for companies to evaluate blogs as a new important part for their media plans. Reading about the habits and attitudes, the study revealed that half of the survey respondents participate in social media activity daily and weekly or more often. When we think of the 42 million women participating in social media weekly, 55% of women do some form of blogging activity; 75% participate in social networks (i.e. Facebook or MySpace) and 20% are using Twitter. The data provided shows the change in the media landscape. While traditional platform face a decrease of importance, social media is on an all time high. The time seems right to rethink traditional and digital media planning.

Report: Marketers web-strategy not listening to SMB needs

The latest report from Bredin Business Information (BBI) finds that SMB’s will not become customers with the common marketing strategies: Marketers are going online while small and medium-size companies are still living the offline world of direct mail and tradeshows.

The two surveys by BBI, conducted in late January and February, combine the findings of 50 leading marketers and 741 SMBs. While marketers were asked about their outreach and research efforts for 2009, the SMBs had to give some insight about their online and offline media preferences, top business issues and brand ratings. The findings show that both sides don’t go and-in-hand to reach their targets.

The marketers world
What marketers know…
SMBs rely less on traditional marketing tactics but that’s one of the top ways they like to receive product and service information.
What marketers do…
Marketers’ spending will increase spending on every online tactic (especially microsites and resource centers, social networking and webinars) but decrease budgets in direct mail, print advertising and trade shows – only PR and telemarketing will increase.

The SMB world
What SMBs rely on offline…
– 43,6% newspaper and magazine articles
– 43,5% direct mail (including letters, postcards and catalogs)
– 32% radio/TV ads
– 27,4% phone calls
What SMBs rely on online…
– 72% online referrals (friends and peers) most popular information source on products and services
– 57% search engine marketing
– 44,5% educational websites
What SMBs favorite in social media…
– 19.7% Facebook
– 15,6% LinkedIn
– 11,3% Twitter

“Marketers are clearly reacting to the difficult economy by using offline tactics much more selectively. They are also moving online aggressively, to reach SMBs efficiently and learn how to get the most from new media opportunities. (…) However, our survey of SMBs indicates that business owners are not nearly as enthusiastic about many online formats for business purposes – such as social networking – as marketers are.” said BBI CEO Stu Richards

Spot On!
The high percentage of marketers more focused on winning new customers than keeping current ones surprises… : 48% balancing their acquisition and retention efforts, 32% concentrating more on acquisition and 20% focusing more on retention. In my experience it is easier keeping clients and trying to meet their needs. Marketers should try to face the difference between customers who really ‘live and communicate the web’, and those that don’t. Going online will be the future, sure, but step-by-step with training the customers the benefits of receiving the information online. Today in some industry sectors, marketers can still put into question the high priority of moving online (3,5 on a scale of 5) and slowing down offline tactics (2,6 on a scale of 5) if the target group is not ready for listening online.

This is a Twitter wake-up call! Well done, Jim…

Some days ago, I read a comment on another blog moaning “OMG – not another Twitter post!” Bearing this in mind, I now reply with a post to Jim Connolly’s clever decision. The marketing expert who deleted over 20.000 followers some days ago.

So, my comment is…’YES, a critical Twitter article – finally somebody did it.’

One of our editors asked me the other day: ‘Why would you use Twitter?’ I replied…

Imagine you have a mobile phone.
Imagine there is nobody in your address book.
Imagine you have forgotten all numbers.

And, what is the value of your mobile phone in this case? That’s were you start to twitter…

So, I thought about the comparison and came to the conclusion. There is a big benefit of a mobile phone compared to Twitter. The communication barrier which is called the ‘Dial’ button. Although you have a lot of people in your business ‘communication network’, you just talk to them actively when it’s the appropriate time. But people love to listen to Twitter in a passive mode. This is becoming a critical efficiency issue…

Jim summarizes about his future Twitter balance… “BUT this time, I am only following friends, clients and contacts, (which will be quite a large number in itself.)”. Yes, he is popular and back at far more than 500 followers again…

Spot On!
Let me ask… Do we all know what the critical topic with Twitter is? It can be a ‘time thief’ where we spend hours killing the efficiency of our productive work output by trying to invest in our knowledge, in our vanity, in being the first to know and in our ‘trendsetter image’? Ah yes,we can learn a lot from Jim’s decision. It’s a wake-up call, not only for the Twitterati…

News Update – Best of the Day

Die Stunde der Stümper, Andrew Keen. Der Internet-Pionier und -Kritiker, fürchtet, dass Amateure im Web die Profis verdrängen. “Wir befinden uns auf einem gefährlichen Irrweg, sagt Andrew Keen: Wo Halbwissen und blanke Lügen herrschen statt verlässlicher Information, da fehlt auch die Basis für vernünftige und tragfähige politische Entscheidungen, da ist unsere Kultur in ihren Grundfesten erschüttert.”

– Und es gibt die nächste Community. Worldfriends nennt sich das neuste Social Network… Man frägt sich, wo man noch alles registriert sein soll und wie man den Überblick dabei behalten kann.

Rober Basic schreibt über ‘Journalisten sind schreibende Söllner’ und wird in der Axel Springer Akademie in Hamburg das Thema “Journalisten und Blogger”diskutieren. Auf den Folgepost darf man gespannt sein…