“The world's greatest love letter is useless if it doesn't achieve the desired effect — get the date or marry the person,” Donald K. Wright, Harold Burson Professor and Chair in Public REaltions for Boston Uniersity quoted in PR WeekJune 2011.
Maybe I've been watching too many Sex In the City reruns, but I adore this quote. What Don Wright is of course referring to is the need for all forms of measurement to start with a clearly articulated goal. In PR you can write the perfect press release, but if it doesn’t get picked up by the right outlet that actually reaches the people you’re trying to influence does it matter?
Too often communications professionals think the “goal” is the placement, that one wonderful blog post, the headline in The Washington Post. But ultimately does that even matter, if your messages aren’t there? And even if they ARE there, if it doesn’t exert any influence, change anyone’s minds, or move anyone along the purchase cycle, who cares?
I would argue, now that Coke and Procter & Gamble have come out so strongly in favor of engagement over impressions, the notion that exposure is the ultimate goal is a non-starter. Impressions are the dating equivalent of sitting at the local café, leering at cute members of the opposite sex, but never actually talking to any of them..
No commitment, no involvement. Heck you don’t even know if that person you’ve got your eye on is married, related or of a different sexual preference. A recent Nielsen study showed that in one online campaign targeting women between the ages of 18-34, 55% of the impressions were actually served to men. So much for targeting.
So how to qualify the possibilities? Of course it does depend on the goal, but for the sake of this post, lets assume that the goal isn’t just a date, but some state of marital bliss – true commitment if you will.
In “Real” life there are a number of options. Asking a friend for an introduction, finding a common interest or the old “I think you dropped this” line. Whatever tactic you use, you’ve moved past the passive and into the qualified stage. So someone who friends your brand on Facebook or follows you on Twitter, or connects on Linked In or comments on your photos on Flickr, is essentially expressing a sufficient level of interest so that at least you know there is a possibility of a relationship. They may not be willing to have dinner with you yet, but at least you know they’re in the “eligible” category.
For Coke and L’Oreal, this is a huge step up from all those unqualified eyeballs and one they’re willing to pay for. For other brands, especially ones with a longer sales cycle or higher price point, this is still just the early stages.
You still don't have a clue if you’re really compatible. They may be GDM but GU as we used to say (Good Date Material but Geographically Undesirable.) For all you know they may be willing to go out to dinner, but not at a place you can afford or like that cute guy that was delighted to go to dinner with me, but would be leaving next week to return home to Tanzania and needed a place to stay in the mean time.
So you need to watch for signs of true interest. Repeat visits to your blog, commenting on your photos on Flickr, engaging in a dialog on Facebook or Twitter. Small indications that they’re interested enough in what you have to say to stick around for a while.
How soon you reach the next level really depends on the nature of your brand or cause. It may take weeks, months or even years of building a relationship just to get to that point of asking for commitment. But at some point they’ve moved from being a “friend” to being a prospect.
They’ve either registered for a newsletter, or downloadd a White Paper, or attend a webinar. One way or the other by now you should have captured enough additional information to add them to add them to your CRM system so you can begin to track their progress towards purchase. And, since dating is never free-- ever added up the real cost of your girlfriend? you also may want at this point to make sure you are also tracking the costs associated with acquiring this prospect.
After you’ve been hibernating together for awhile, generally there is a moment, an event, or a happenstance that makes one think beyond the comfortable now to the committed future.
It may be family related – driven by an outside force – the death of a parent, the birth of a nephew or niece -- or it may be internal, you experience something that changes you enough to think about moving from friends with benefits to family planning.
This is similar to what is happening with that prospect that has been happily sitting in your CRM system for months or even years, getting your newsletters, following you on Twitter. Paying attention but not paying money just yet.
Then, one day, driven by a new job or a new boss or other changed circumstances – or a knock on the door from one of your competitors they have moved from consuming content to actually completing a purchase. This is where the health and strength of your relationship should pay off. Yours should be the trusted brand with the inside track. Even though the other guy may have the “cool shiny new tool” factor. Good relationships won’t make up for bad products, but they should give you an edge in a fair fight. This is why it is so important to not just measure the activity on your social media sites, but also the health of the relationships you are cultivating.
So you pass the test, the invites go out, and the wedding planners come in. and the wedding day comes. But as anyone who has been married knows, the day after the wedding, a whole new relationship begins. As my father, who was a bit of a New England curmudgeon used to say, “I didn’t just marry your mother, I married her whole damned family, which I think included half of Ireland.
He was actually quite happy to be part of that family, but it sure changed his life. And when I came along, the only child of their union, it changed even more. Now he had to deal with my friends, my cousins and an entire generation of kids that were just discovering life in 60s.
Which isn't very different from the relationships you now have with your former prospect now customer. That individual has brought you into an entire purchase ecosystem that includes a broad range of influencers from friends and family to bosses and board all with different ages, different backgrounds and different expectations. Your job is to build on that important first purchase and move the customer along the path from purchase, to advocate. You want them to not just buy your product once, to buy it again and again, and recommend it to all their friends and relatives. The ultimate goal being to ensure that the relationship lives long after you’ve gone.
(and yes, this really is my family.)
So there you have it. To have and to hold, from this day forward, on Twitter and Facebook, thru pokes and follows, no matter what you’re worth on Empire Avenue that's how to move (and measure) your progression towards social media bliss.