Business Social Networking For Smarty Pants

October 3, 2009 by: Enogg
social_networking

PART 1: Developing A Social Network That Compliments Your Marketing Plan

So you decided your company could benefit from a Social Network. Certainly the marketing rules have changed since the Internet superhighway has weaved a prolific path through households. Today’s consumers have a multitude of avenues to research products and services. Most importantly, consumers are more apt to listen to their peer group or an unbiased consumer over a companies advertising program.

With the explosion in Social Networking platforms, businesses have become savvier in how they address the social media phenomena. As the technology advances and marketing budgets are squeezed tight, the shift in marketing dollars has been reallocated to the social network platforms, where the user-community plays a vital role in shaping products and services.

In particular, marketing dollars are more efficiently spent when the user-community plays a vital role in developing the product and service. When the service provider incorporates a platform that rapidly, and effectively captures the voice of the community, this results in a dynamic and growing organization. Connecting the consumer with the service will create profits.

A social network on your company’s website will help develop a two-way street so your business objectives can include the ingredients that are important to your consumer. A social network will help your company harness thoughtful participation and build a remarkable and loyal, perhaps even evangelical, consumer base. If anything, you can readily learn what your consumer is thinking and saying so you can adjust accordingly.

The key ingredient for a successful social network is that it dovetails your Marketing Business Plan. Pulling the marketing goals and roadmap from the plan will help build a business case for your social network. Your marketing footprint can be respectfully and thoughtfully woven into your social network.

Potential ROI should be analyzed in your marketing business plan. If all the ingredients support your social network than a viable action-plan is put in place. It can be difficult to measure a true ROI initially as brand appreciation, loyalty and other intrinsic variables are measured over time. The initial starting point is framed as a preliminary exploration designed to foster discussion and future development. This will set the tone for flexibility and adaptation so your program can grow without strict rigidity. True ROI and other important metrics can be more accurately quantified after the program develops traction.

Where to start?

Smart Marketing Solves Problems

When setting up your social network, keep these things in mind.

Marketing involves defining the following:

Product - Accurately define the product and services. How do the goods and services relate back to the user community or marketplace?

Price - Determine price points and analytics. Not all pricing is monetary. For instance, keep an eye towards the opportunity cost of a product. For instance, what is exchanged for the product or service? Is it time, energy, or psychology? Will it effect where the potential community decides to put their attention? Will it change how they currently behave? What is the price of change?

Place - Is the product/service delivered online and/or in a retail environment? How will the service get to the customers?

Promotion - Selling of the product or services. This includes such things as direct advertising, publicity, promotion, word of mouth, viral components and brand recognition.

Once these areas are defined, it is important to solve customers’ problems and provide a compelling business solution to the market community.

In order for a marketing plan to be successful, the marketing mix above must reflect the following:

  1. 1. Solve business problems.
  2. 2. Service the wants, needs and desires of the user community.

A sustainable program will invigorate the community to participate. The marketing plan will develop a set of procedures that create, communicate and deliver value to a specific user community. The consumer base will be even more motivated to participate in the functionality of the service if it provides value. Developing “value” is an important component to the delivery of a service. In corporate-speak, developing a “value proposition” will help your company identify the marketing strategy. The value proposition informs, educates and provides a value in using the products and services.

Developing a Marketing Strategy

The following 12-Smarty Pants (Yes, Eggs can wear pants, sometimes!) guidelines that are meant to establish a blueprint to developing an overall strategy.

  1. 1. Identify and if possible, quantify the need in the marketplace.
  2. 2. What are the target markets?
  3. 3. What is the optimal cost effective media- online or offline? Could a combination of both online and traditional media reach the target audience?
  4. 4. Establish the priorities of the product offering in your overall product stack.
  5. 5. Identify and develop the most cost effective distribution channels, for instance: wholesaler networks, partnering, affiliate programs, print media, radio, etc.
  6. 6. Testing – Test the product or service. Have testimonials. New concepts can be open and creative.
  7. 7. Determine the go-to-market packaging, branding, messaging etc., strategy. How will the service/product be offered?
  8. 8. Determine most optimum pricing strategies.
  9. 9. Develop promotional strategies, leveraging affective advertising and providing supporting material to help drive the product/service launch.
  10. 10. Develop a sales documenting process to measure metrics and product/service profitability or impact.
  11. 11. Adopt a test model that is flexible and forgiving. Retest,retry and rethink. Use R&D style marketing program for maximum feedback.
  12. 12. Nurture programs to optimize the relationships with valuable customers and encourages new customers that are rewarded by a platform that provides an exceptional user experience.

The goal is to offer products and services within a target market that sustains the business and encourages repeat customers while growing with new products/services into the future.

Once the business case is approved for the social network and it supports the marketing objectives and branding goals, nurture some type of Focus Group (10-12 participants) to test functionality, poll your community and generate a dialogue that addresses the needs and ideas of the user community. Even though best practices have not been solidly and irrefutably established for social networks, it is still a good idea to engage your user community when building a social network. This will ensure that you build a community that complements your constituents.

Stay Tuned For Part 2 on Building A Social Network

From The Desk of EnoggEggbert (A Smarty Pants for the Day)

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Modern Marketing For Smarty Pants (Part 2)

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