I was recently at the Corporate Social Media Summit (East Coast edition) and I was approached by a friendly fellow from Sprinklr, a sponsor of the event. He had a big sheet of white paper and was asking people to answer the question, “In order to scale social, the enterprise must ______”.
In return for an answer he offered a cupcake. How could I resist?
I like to take my time answering these types of questions. They offer an opportunity to try and distill down often-complex ideas into simple statements – a high art form in my opinion. I joked with the guy that this might take me a minute, and it did. After some consideration, here’s what I wrote:
In order to scale social, the enterprise must behave its positioning. (I’ve written about this before.)
I think the fellow was caught a little off guard. It’s not a light throw-away statement. It is, in my opinion, the secret to good marketing, brand building and customer service in just a few words.
We live in a world full of promises and claims. We’re inundated by them daily. None of us takes any of them at face value. To really ring true, a business has to live its positioning, not just in product delivery but in every other facet of how it does business. It’s not enough to say what you are, you have to be it at an operational level. Otherwise your marketing promises come off as inaccurate at best and at worst, lies.
Marketers spend vast sums of money trying to get a perception lodged in a prospect’s mind. If you pull this off, no doubt to great expense, doesn’t it make sense that when the prospect comes knocking they should get an experience that reflects the promise you made?
I’m a purist. I believe a brand can only really stand for one thing, maybe even one word. That positioning should be the singular consistent idea that aligns your company from the bottom up and inside out. It should be visible in the everything from vision and mission of the company down to how customer service people answer the phone. It should define how a business behaves across the entire ecosystem where it does business – from employees, to strategic partners, to yes, social media.
Technologies come and go. Today it’s Facebook, tomorrow who knows what. All social media technology is transient. But the macro trend that has been happening is that our media are allowing for more frequent, day to day, emotional communication between companies and customers. This is bringing them into closer proximity and even giving a sense that a business has similar traits to a human being.
It may have been legislators that first established corporations as being similar to people, but new technologies are now offering us a chance to scrutinize them like people too.
More and more, and especially among the considered purchases of our lives, products are the spearhead to a relationship with a company. There is great opportunity here. What company doesn’t want more share of mind (and wallet) from their customers? Informed consumers are now looking deeper than packaging claims, advertising slogans or showroom floor displays when making their purchase decisions. With a few taps of the keyboard they can see how a company behaves day to day and where its values really lie.
From corporate social responsibility to customer service, if the decision is important we evaluate our options on many more levels than just the headlines, features, claims and promises of advertising. In fact, because we’e all been sold to since we were infants, we may be looking at how a company behaves because we know can’t count on how it talks about itself.
Instead of catchy commercials, which may put a company in the consideration set for purchase, as consumers we also weigh aspects of a company that have similarities to interpersonal relationships. Is the company empathetic or cold? Does the company practice what it preaches? If the company makes a mistake does it come clean or try to cover up? Is the company inviting or standoffish? Are they interested in me or my money?
TV commercials may always get the bigger budgets and celebrity spokespeople, but the millions of small moments that happen on the phone, at the counter, on Twitter and Facebook – these define the company and its brands in a far more authentic, believable and ultimately opinion-forming manner than all of that catchy advertising – so you’ll want to be on your best behavior.