I just completed an exhausting two weeks working with a globally important technology leader on two separate company-sponsored events and it occurred to me that the company’s efforts are worth noting. They provide insight on a plane higher than the typical tactically-oriented Blogosphere pabulum such as “8 Ways To Turn Twitter into an Income Generated”, “12 Secrets for Turning FaceBook into Your Best Business Buddy” or “15 Social Media Tips That Really Work”.
Some background. The events are important to talk about because: (a) They are significant initiatives that are integral to a strategic Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Program. (b) Lead generation was not a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). (c) The objectives were to build long term relationships with two important constituencies other than customers. (d) These were actual face-to-face endeavors where real people dialoged and networked with other real people about common goals, common problems and common resolutions.
Five years ago, the idea that a company conducted sponsored events would have been unremarkable and not worthy of comment. Prior to the Fall of 2008 the fact that a leading technology company had an IMC program would have also been unremarkable. But not so today, it seems.
In an effort to quickly recover from the Great Recession, marketing management has become one dimensional. Revenue NOW (always important) is overemphasized to the point that relationship building … activities that started months if not years ago and result in Revenue NOW tomorrow … have completely dropped from the scene. And yet ExpoWeb.com (www.expoweb.com) survey data from trade show visitors show that 82% of booth visitors are interested in the product or service displayed, 49% planned to buy exhibited products and services within the next 12 months and 77% were buying influencers. And that is for a third party tradeshow, not an attendee-screened company event.
Lead generation was not a KPI. The sessions were held to build long-term mutually beneficial relationships with two core constituencies. The idea was to create a market environment that would substantiate, sustain and grow future revenue for all parties involved. Again, such an objective would have been unremarkable just a few years ago, but today, in a bibliography of marketing literature it is downright cutting edge.
Finally, of note, is the fact the events brought people together FACE-TO-FACE. The brand theme for both events revolved around collaboration. Dialog was encouraged, in one case, with exceptionally long coffee breaks. The participants … high level decision makers … actually talked and gestured!! There was not a Tweet, text or FaceBook update to be found!!
Look, I’m not opposed to social media. I have LinkedIn, Twitter and FaceBook accounts. I text my colleagues, daughters and grandkids. I subscribe to a few well-chosen, well written blogs and get news updates on my Blackberry. That said, my point is that establishing market leadership and thought leadership that results in market preference and ultimately future Revenue NOW requires more than the latest and greatest social media skills and tactics.
Social media needs to be a part of any successful IMC program today. But it is just that. It is a part; a big part, perhaps, but still a part. What business needs now, as we climb out of the recession, is to return to an investment in integrated market relationship building in order to reap the economic rewards of not just next quarter, but also the next year and the next economic cycle.