Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Still Pitching? Is anyone really listening?

Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.

In my humble opinion, this topic is the essence of the “Cluetrain Manifesto”. Whether you are a B2B or B2C enterprise, the concept of this topic is really not new. The “Internet Age” has only made it easier to see and address. In blogs about Cluetrain being published today, there will be a lot of discussion around conversation, relationship building, the current economic climate and transparency. And, there will be a significant focus around marketing and PR as a key business drivers connecting all these discussions.

I’d like to take it a step further and outline the importance of this thesis statement and the impact this realization is having.

Have consumers (businesses or individuals) ever really relied on the “pitch” as their primary influence? Effective advertising in any form of media (online or offline) has only ever been a way to reinforce and focus consumers towards considering products offered by organizations they trust. Unless trust has been previously established through reputation, relationship etc, has any form of “pure advertising” ever been effective?

The internet, specifically Web 2.0 and the emerging 3.0, has just further enabled organizations to capitalize on this. Not only can they effectively engage directly, their customers become their advocates or detractors. Influence and reputation then spreads virally. Now they can become measurably more effective and efficient over a broader audience with various forms of media (advertising or otherwise).

Like anything new, the hype factor occurs first. Then reality sets in. With this “reality” comes an extremely powerful impact on our corporations, our consumers and the economy in general. I believe that unlike “The Great DotBomb”, a significant lesson for us all, the “Social Media” hype factor is quickly eroding as corporations apply common business and corporate principles. We are now seeing the entrance of comprehensive business systems vendors into the Social Media space from the Business Intelligence and Knowledge Management markets.

These vendors have the attention and respect, through proven experience, of our most senior business leaders. They will blend Social Media with standard corporate systems, data, business processes and most importantly corporate governance and regulatory compliance. They will also pay attention to security, privacy and shareholder / stakeholder concerns. And, because these major business systems have “grown up” in the corporate world, they have a natural understanding of business realities: “Nothing is Free”, “Intellectual Rights need to be Protected” and “Without Profit, Business Cannot Exist”. The Social Media industry as a whole also needs to understand these basic fundamentals.

With these more comprehensive business systems comes the inherent ability to analyze, measure, predict and manage the impact “Social Media” will have on the business as a whole. Not just sales, but everything from product development, manufacturing, forecasting, marketing, profitability, customer service and most importantly risk mitigation. As a result, the true value of Social Media will be clearly understood, added to the overall corporate knowledgebase and effectively leveraged.

Some would believe we are heading towards a “CluetrainWreck” due to the hype factor and the lack of sound business practices currently plaguing the Social Media domain. But I personally believe, being an eternal optimist, that because of recent lessons learned, a distinct advantage of the increasing speed of change in our lifetime, that these evolved business systems now entering the market will protect us from ourselves as basic economic laws prevail.

In summary, the reality of this simple statement “Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone” has always existed but is now having a profound impact on our ability to leverage the economic power of the rapidly evolving online world in this economic environment that we see before us today.

Special thanks to Kevin MacKenzie, Hessie Jones, Amanda Chapel, Tim Moore and Scott Purdon for all of your help with this!