My agency suit friend, Marc has very sore feet this week. You see, he’s been making the rounds of the holiday parties. His agency has hosted a few, then there’s the ad club, the marketing association stuff, his clients’ parties and his suppliers’ lunches. Sometimes two or three on the same afternoon or evening. And don’t get him started on the client dinners.
Even as he wipes the wasabi off his sleeve, he knows enough not to complain. This is schmoozing at its finest and, when all the gift bottles are safely tucked into wine fridges across the city, the connections, the gratitude, the networking and the friendships will keep paying Marc’s salary for another year. Hold this festive thought; I promise I’ll come back to it.
We’ve spent the last couple of weeks looking at the disgraceful state of most websites and a few ideas to get them back on track. All well and good, but here’s why we should be looking at an exit strategy for our websites: they are increasingly less important in our conversations with the market.
For a quarter century, these marketing beasts of burden have been the centerpieces of most B2C and B2B marketing tactics, and a good bit of the strategy as well. We loved them because they were all ours. We controlled the content, we controlled the access and all we had to do was drive our prospects and customers into our little worlds and deliver a terrific experience. Plus it didn’t hurt that we could spray a little cash to drive more views on a slow month.
Early on, we figured out websites require a lot of care and feeding. So we pried them out of the Productivity Prevention Department’s purview and hired webmasters, who became web managers, who became digital marketers as the skillsets changed. We dreamed of being “destination sites” “industry portals” and we secretly plotted what we’d do when we no longer needed sales people. You know you thought about it.
But then a funny thing happened: people like Mark Zucherberg and Reid Hoffman came along and built these platforms we don’t own, don’t control, can’t restrict access to and which move a thousand times faster than we do. Let’s call that social media.
At first it was for kids and bored retail workers, and we could sneer. Then it was just for B2C companies who had a few bucks to throw at this meaningless bandwagon, and some of us could sneer. We were content to let other companies profit with games involving chickens. That’s because while we saw media, our customers saw social and thus opened a gate at the marketing rodeo setting loose this crazy, kicking horse of conversations. Marketers, typically, responded by trying to jump on this bucking bronco and turn it into one of those coin-operated supermarket ponies. If you are as exhausted as I am, you are realizing that we are not succeeding.
This exhaustion, for many marketing departments, is exactly why their websites are such a tip. Those digital marketers, who were supposed to be keeping it up-to-date and looking pretty have instead been running around on social media, desperately trying to be relevant. They’re hiring third parties to make sure the trolls and nasty-grams are dealt with and they are, mostly, spraying complete nonsense into the conversation just so they can say they tweeted that day. Just the other day, a law firm I follow on Twitter was asking the universe if it was hoping for a white Christmas. Oddly, nobody responded.
Lords and Ladies of the Spin Cycle, have you noticed your quads are a bit sore? That’s what five years in a defensive crouch feels like. But what if we stop defending ourselves on social media? What if we stop pretending that the social media are just a tool to lure people to our dreadful websites?
What if we accept or even welcome that third parties are going to build and maintain the platform we use for conversations? It’s a lot like Marc going to a bunch of holiday parties all on the same day, and this why it’s a good thing. Someone else is getting the people in the door, mixing the drinks, setting out the canapes and hiring the band. Our job is to show up a little early with a crock pot full of meatballs and work the room for conversations.
Just as Marc has spent his career learning to have meaningful conversations with a mouth full of salmon mousse and a steel drum band in the background, we will need to learn how to behave at this party. We need to be having conversations, not screaming matches. We cannot be walking up to people with a photo of a kitten and asking them what they’re planning to do this weekend to relax. We need to be asking and answering questions. Helping them find resources (yours and other people’s). It’s the delicate, human dance we call conversation and, you will recall, it’s what I think marketing is all about.
Now, back to your website: if Twitter and WordPress and LinkedIn and Instagram are all fabulous cocktail parties in your fabulous condo building, then your website is the storage locker in the basement by the garbage room.
Now and again, you will want to send someone there to gaze upon your wondrous content, pricing lists, shopping carts and references. You may want to send Skippy down on a regular basis to tidy things up and keep the roach motels empty. I think the future, then, looks a lot less like trying to lure people over a shrimp ring and lot more like waiting for them to be interested enough see what you’ve got.
So what does this mean? It means we need to get cracking on our website exit strategies. Our assumptions about lead sources need to be weaning us off driving them through our websites in favour of driving connections to our sales teams. The digital marketing folks need to spend less time stuffing Hootsuite with irrelevant automated stupidity, and more time finding the right cocktail parties on social platforms.
They need to be figuring out what we ought to be taking to those parties. On Instagram and Pinterest, it had better be a platter full of great images. SlideShare and YouTube, not so much. Your digital marketers need to have a very, very granular understanding of these parties, who is there and what is an acceptable sort of conversation to be having.
We need to be looking at getting our sales teams invited to those parties and helping them have conversations that don’t begin and end with a lurid invitation to the storage locker. Because that’s just not festive.
BizMarketer is taking a couple of weeks off to read and drink and recharge the Snark machine. Wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas.
Interesting Things I Found This Week
I’m not a fan of year-end lists but this one is worth a look. Here is Future Crunch’s Angus Hervey with his take on why 2015 was actually a pretty great year for humans. He reminds us to get our heads out of our arses, be grateful for more than Netflix and feel good about the future.
If your creativity is feeling a little bruised or even a little absent as you stumble into the end of the year, Shelli Walsh at Shellshock UK offers this very good presentation to set things right.
BizMarketer is Elizabeth Williams
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