Over at the Copy Write blog, Jonathan Crossfield writes that he is often asked what he considers to be the wrong question about how businesses "can use social media to increase sales, income or awareness. He notes that because the question focuses on a business’ goals, rather than consumers, then the application of social media is probably doomed to failure.
Jonathan’s comments allude to an important mindset – the mindset of being consumer centric – something that is known as the marketing concept. Basically it is an approach where you start with the consumer and identify needs and problems and build an offering to satisfy them. So long as you keep the consumer in the middle of your offering then you are a log way to being successful.
It is also what separates marketing and sales at their most basic level. Marketing is about satisfying a customers needs/problems while selling is concerned with shifting product (and focussed more on what the salesmen can achieve from the transaction rather than what real benefit it provides to the consumer). Check out a post on marketingmag.com.au written by Andrew Wilson. It provides a great example about how Mazda re-invented itself by employing a marketing concept approach.
The offering, if it is a product, consists of 4 elements – product, price, place, promotion (the 4 Ps or marketing mix). If the offering is a service then not many people know/remember that 3 more Ps are added, they being;
- The Process – The process that the consumer goes through to receive the service (think massage),
- The Physical Environment – what does it look like? Is it classy, basic, rundown? This is different to '”place” in the 4 P’s as place relates more to where as in shopping centres, online, in-home etc and does not give consideration to the appearance of the location.
- The People – the staff employed to perform the service.
Ok, so how does social media fit into all of this? The use of “fit into” is important in the question and ultimately should be what people ask Jonathan because social media doesn’t work by itself, in isolation from other activities. Instead, social media must be added into or used inside a company’s existing marketing mix.
Even if the company hasn’t approached their marketing from a theoretic framework then they will still have a product, price it, sell it somewhere and promote it somehow. If the offering is a service then they will also have a process in place to perform it, have staff that perform it and have a premises where the service is performed. Sometimes these elements are mixed together and executed well. Other times you wonder if the company gives a shit about you.
For some companies, it may be useful to do an audit on these marketing mix elements and think about how they relate to customers needs and problems. Then some thought can be applied to how to use social media in the existing marketing mix.
Jonathan gets asked and outside in question – how can social media be used? Instead it should be an inside out question and companies should go right back to square one – the consumers need – and then work out to see if and where social media can be used.
The diagram on the right shows the marketing mix – the consumer in the centre and the 4 Ps of a product around them and then the 3 Ps of service on the outside. The diagram shows, in dark blue, where companies can focus their social media efforts. For example;
- Promotion – can social media be used to promote your offering? Be careful, social media isn’t like traditional media where you can just push a message. This is definitely the P that poses the biggest challenge.
- Place – can social media expand the places where consumers can access your offering?
- Process – can social media improve the process? For example, can customers place their coffee order over Twitter or use Facebook to RSVP to your events?
- People – definitely the place where social media provides the biggest opportunity through connecting your customers with your staff. It also helps portray your companies personality and values.
The use of social media should focus on how it helps solve your customers problems or needs. Don’t let your social media use focus on how it helps you sell more product.