Your Ad Here

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Victoria's not so secret

It was not long ago that when you wanted to talk to your customer base you sent a letter in the mail.  It still works.  Judging by the sheer mass of Victorias Secret catalogs that arrive daily it still really works.  I trust these folks that send dollar catalogs daily to sell $50 items to have their marketing and sales team running at peak performance.  Metrics run that business of mail order.  But there is a not so secret change underway.  The facebook revolution(and it is a revolution of the highest level) has turned things upside down for most marketers.

Struggling with where to spend your precious ad money is nothing new...what is new is the lack of real knowledge out there on what works.  Our experts at Victorias's Secret are moving fast on all fronts...they are seeing the real results of a huge increase in reach.   Closer to our level you can see all of us small company folks trying to tell their company stories on facebook too...with some pretty wild results, not all of them good.  It sure is working as far as brand awareness goes...but is it replacing print and mail?

Only a moron abandons the old methods of communication that work to chase the next new thing right?  I am not so sure now.  I still think humans like to read and digest information from paper and something tangible in their hands, but what do you do when the effectiveness of the new medium such as facebook is so good that it starts gobbling up all your ad budget dollars?  It is not that the old mediums don't work, magazines are incredibly efficient at communicating a message to a target demographic, it is rather that facebook works
better still.

The answer to the sales budgeting dilemma is not what you think.  If you have a compelling story for your product then sure, facebook is a the golden goose.   People "like" your business because it is interesting...good for you...make the most of your brand and story and connect away.  Smyth Performance is proof that if you are working on a cool project or company launch people will watch for fun...and then buy in because of the tight facebook bond...we are "friends" after all.  So for some companies, Smyth in this example, you may just be intriguing enough to pull off  firing the mail man.  But it is a gamble.  With massive budgets like those at a retail giant like Victorias Secret they are expanding the budgets for ads since all avenues are leading to sales...the pie is getting bigger and they can take advantage of scale in advertising.   If you have an ordinary product the challenges you have always had to stand out are still there, facebook can't make you something you are will probably even be a complete waste of resources. People don't "like" ball bearing companies.  If you have a restaurant  Local targeting with filters for demographics and gende, you bet.  It is not cheap,every other company is now trying to figure out how to use it too,  but it is an amazing way to stay in front of your customers every time they log on and all withouit a single piece of paper.

In my case it is an easy move since I have the "go Green, Go Fast" mantra to live up to.  Cutting trees to contact my customer base would work like it has for years...but kind of flies against the core strategy we are launching here.  If I am trying to get car guys to justify re-using and re-building old cars by making the redone ride interesting enough when they are done with the can I use the mail to preach the Smyth way.  So for us here it becomes a multi sided e-media campaign/blitz to tell the Smyth story via twitter, facebook, blogs and the various powerful discussion forums.  A perfect fit for now as the guys building the cars are very educated in the way of car building and they seek us out because the crazy r7d guy in the warehouse made for an interesting read.

Committing to this path is tough since you are writing off a solid half if not more of your potential customers that are not super active on the net...but that penalty will lessen over time as almost everybody joins the facebook tea party.  The uptake of facebook  with the over 60 crowd is explosive...a sure sign we in for some changes.  There are still a few people that won't use facebook,  there are those that still have dial up modems too I'll bet...but my guess is that the tool is now a long term  part of our culture that 90% of the public will use effectively to improve their lives and stay in touch. Not so for twitter and the rest of "social media", I think they will just get swept in or away with the tide, but I am a car guy not a web guru...we will see.

If I am wrong and the U.S. mail has a resurgence,  or magazines start growing sales exponentially, I lose quite a bit of opportunity for my business.  But if I am right by letting all my chips ride on facebook for this launch the rewards are enormous.  The sheer power of  focus means we can do our work and not worry so much about ad materials and structure in these early pre-production days.  Oh that will come eventually, but in the launch phase of a new product we can substitute our day to day struggles and turn those efforts into story based "reality tv grade" advertising.  The investment in a web site and the formalities of running the business can be delayed until after we are already up and running with the early product.

No mail, no printed product information or catalogs...the paperless launch.  Let's watch live.  Facebook for the interaction and conversation, a web site for reference and relatively stable information and a blog to see how the guy running the place thinks.  Between the three you the customer will get a great picture of who you are sending your money to and what they can provide you.  Posers and fakes in this new candid world are ferreted out quickly and simply fade away over the next years.  People and companies with a real value story that are not afraid to share the good and the bad in their business experience the velveteen rabbit moment of becoming "real" in the eyes of their customers.  And "real" translates directly into sales success.

So ditch your futile efforts to control all this wild west marketing change and focus instead on the basic message of who you are as a brand or company...and let everyone who is interested inside the place for a look at who you really are.  They will probably like what they see if you are good at what you do.


1 comment:

  1. Mark,

    Thanks for taking the time to write these. It takes a lot of guts to vet not only the product, but the personal and business process of a start-up. It's cool that you've recognized the shift in product promotion seen in these niche industries and Facebook is a very good tool for that, as it allows you to build a fan base and enter meaningful discussions with your fans (and perhaps convert to owners). It's easy to get caught up in the seemingly endless ways to tweet, like, blog, post, etc. and I've seen lots of startups try the broad reach perspective where, like McDonald's or GM, there's a formal presence on every single aspect of the Internet. Screw that! You've chose, rightly I think, to limit the discussion to a few select paths, giving clarity to your fans. As you grow, sure, have a fancy website and forums and go for more eyeballs. For now, you don't need that. Build the tribe and build meaning for your fans into the product. The folks that you need now are the dedicated few who are searching for your solution. There's a lot of noise out there and tools like Facebook make it much easier for those potential buyers to find gems among the swarf. FB is large enough where, although there's not much control of the format, it's mature such that I wouldn't expect any radical swings in the platform.