ROI: Challenge the Model “The conversation is the currency!”

ROI: Challenge the Model “The conversation is the currency!”

the conversation is the currency

Where’s the conversation about your business taking place? Are you listening? Are you responding?

ROI ROI ROI seems to be everyone’s challenge to social media here and in the mainstream media’s coverage of social media. And having been at Dell during the TWITTER sells a million dollars of refurbished computers news, I can tell you there is a lot more to the picture trying to draw the old school marketing equation around social media engagements. (5 dollars spent will earn 20 dollars in sales)

It’s not quite that easy to see. But if you take the Dell story as an example, what Bob Pearson and his communities and conversations team built (empowered by Michael Dell himself) was a team of over 100 people working the web 24/7. But they were not sales people. Their first question was not, WHICH COMPUTER DO YOU WANT TO BUY?

The first question of the Dell outreach team is still, “How can we help?” The answer, depending on the situation will be different every time. But not having that conversation is like being deaf and dumb to your customers concerns, ideas, innovative solutions, and YES sales opportunities. But it’s not 100% focused on making the sale. That’s called marketing or sales. There IS something called social media MARKETING and social media SALES. All part of the spectrum that we are still trying to hold under one umbrella as “social media.” The follow-up question is “social media [what]?” If you just call it all social media, you are mixing up all the possible roles the conversation can play in your business.

Where the benefits get outrageously profitable, and yet still not quite trackable, is in the large business space. Often sales for large installations of systems and networks and storage platforms can take months to put together. The deal is usually being driven by numbers as well as personality. If you hate your account executive, the 10% discount on the project will probably not translate into the deal. So what is it that influences the final sale more than the ± 10% pricing difference?

It’s the people. It’s the way you are being communicated with. It is even the communication platforms and patterns that are largely responsible for how smoothly these transactions go through. In a multi-million dollar technology purchase, so many layers of management, finance and technical engineering are involved that the overall project team will probably lose and gain a number of key decision makers during the course of the 6-month close.

How well does your company respond to questions?

What about if those questions are not posted on your site? What if someone is complaining about your SAN disc product on and you are not listening? What if the twitterverse is a twitter with just how bad your after-the-sale support is?

Are you listening? Are you responding? Are you solving problems on all levels of your organization using informative discussions rather than marketing/advertising push-like blasts?

In a Social Media Club meeting on Tuesday night we listened to Bazaarvoice and IBM’s Rational Software talk about the value they provide companies like Petco, Dell, Best Buy. And the quote that really stuck out and was even clarified by @wesley83 in the crowd.

“So you are saying the conversation IS the currency?” he asked.

“Exactly,” said Michael Osborne from Bazaarvoice. “That’s right. The conversation IS the conversion point.”

So the big challenge that defines success for social media is “Are you listening?” Because at every level, if you are working your business right, they are talking about you. If you put up your listening tools and there is ZERO discussion about you or your products, you might need to rethink your marketing strategy.

Listen, Talk, Learn!

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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