March 23, 2011
News & Opinion: Pre Commerce
It may be no surprise to you that the internet has changed your business, but with the rise in social media, those changes will continue, and will reveal great opportunities for those who are paying attention. Bob Pearson, chief technology and media officer at WCG, has written a book called Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers Are Transforming Business Together, describing those changes and how leaders can apply the right knowledge to take advantage of the opportunities they bring. To further describe some of the ideas contained within the book, I sent Mr. Pearson the following questions: How can companies impact social buying decisions without turning it into another form of advertising? Bob Pearson: Consumers are most often looking to their peers to consult on buying decisions, not advertisers. Peer influence is driven by the sharing of knowledge between people who have mutual respect for each other. The best advertising in the world is simply a catalyst to get that conversation started. It doesn’t lead to respect. A company’s goal should be to become a relevant peer in conversations related to buying decisions, so they can have the most potential impact. This requires a new approach to outreach. How are some companies honoring their ambassadors? BP: The best way to honor an ambassador is with recognition and respect, not a tchotchke. It is much more impactful to receive a thank you than a pen. Don’t you agree? What happens when negative social feedback is overwhelming? How can a company (or just an employee) manage it properly? BP: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Companies of all sizes need to take one step at a time. There is no easy fix to decrease negative share of conversation. The best way is to identify why customers are unhappy and then help solve their problems one at a time. If you find a solution that applies to many people, share it online, since 95% of your customers will not call you each year for customer service. They will search, talk with friends or do nothing. They don’t see as great a need to contact you directly as they did a few years ago. However, if they realize you are trying to help them online in their communities, they will appreciate it greatly. Think about it….would you rather have someone visit you or make you find them? Is it possible for companies to make direct correlations between social activity and sales? BP: Yes. Online behavior lends itself to quantitative analysis. If you know how to measure behavior online, you will start to see if what you are doing will lead people to make a purchase or other decision. Other decisions include doing nothing, which is also an outcome. What impact does this new focus do for traditional forms of marketing? BP: The entire marketing mix is evolving. All of the communications, psychology and business models we learned in school still apply, although the marketplace has changed externally. As a result, the way we market is evolving. For example, if you can see if an advertising campaign is working in 24 hours via online behavior, would you still lock in a three month media buy? You wouldn’t today, but you might have done this a few years ago without blinking an eye. --- Whether your company is active in social media practices or needs to get a better understanding of what's involved, this book is a helpful guide to improving your business. There are new ways to develop influence beyond traditional advertising and this book shows you how to participate, and with the best practices known today.