Why Some Sales Stall While Others Cruise Through Darwin’s Social Funnel

Guest post by Mark Fidelman, CEO of Evolve! Capital, Inc., and author of Socialized!  How the World’s Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.

FunnelYou’ve probably seen a traditional marketing or sales funnel where leads sources appear at the top of the funnel and customers are at the bottom. In between, the funnel has been segmented into linear steps, and at each stage a percentage of leads makes it through to the next stage.

This traditional marketing approach presupposes a solution for customers without ever understanding their problem. Some leads mysteriously make it through and become customers while others do not. Smart companies compensate by A/B split testing content and messaging to gauge what positively impacts moving prospects through the funnel, but these methods do not properly engage prospects or show you what the new information means for their decision- making process.

Think about purchasing a new car. Most people go through a decision-making process in which their opinions change as they learn new information. For example, let’s imagine a prospective car buyer named Bill is in the market for a new electric vehicle. Bill has heard about how these cars help protect the environment and save on fuel, but he doesn’t know many people who have experience with them. So he decides to ask his friends and contacts on his social networks for feedback by sending a request on Twitter and Google+. A few people on Twitter respond and give their opinions about how great it is that Bill is going green. But one current owner of an electric car on Google+ claims that owning an electric vehicle is extremely difficult because there are too few recharging stations and recharging the vehicle at home is not practical. The owner also claims the car lacks acceleration and doesn’t climb hills well.

Those possibilities obviously raise some new questions about the efficacy of electric vehicles for a potential buyer, so Bill visits the car manufacturer’s website hoping for some more information. The website has some high- level content about recharging options and a six-month-old map of vehicle recharging stations, but nothing about acceleration or hill climbing. So, Bill decides to e‑mail the car manufacturer to get more information. Luckily, the manufacturer responds, but gives him the phone number of a dealer located one hundred miles away. At this point Bill is ready to give up, but he decides to place the call anyway. After ten minutes on hold with the dealership, Bill is passed to a waiting salesperson. The salesperson seems knowledgeable but can’t answer Bill’s specific questions about fueling stations in his area or why his social network contact was having trouble accelerating and climbing hills. The salesperson asks him to drive a hundred miles to test drive the vehicle and see for himself. But Bill’s had enough. He likes the idea of an all- electric car but he’s already spent too much time trying to get basic information. As a result, he stops in the middle of the car manufacturer’s traditional marketing funnel and doesn’t become a customer.

If the electric car manufacturer’s executive team learned about this experience, they’d be justifiably upset.

Yet this scenario plays out every day across multiple products and services both in the B2C and B2B spaces. So what’s the solution? The traditional marketing funnel needs an upgrade to support the social era by integrating adaptive, real- time feedback into what I call Darwin’s Social Funnel.

Think of Darwin’s Funnel as a series of small improvements that make the organization more effective by learning to be very efficient in adapting to its surroundings.   Adding Darwin’s Funnel allows an organization to make real-time adjustments based on real-time feedback. No longer do you need to wait months for the results to trickle in while sales pass you by; you can take a proactive, social approach that enables you to fine-tune the funnel so that it is faster and more fluid.

To illustrate how this works, let’s go back to the electric car example. Once Bill made his request for information about the car on Twitter and Google+, a company that is tuned in to certain keywords like “electric car” or “fuel economy” would be instantly alerted to a potential opportunity. At this point, it may make sense for the company to test out a few short messages (using Twitter) or a lengthier response via Google+. The key is to follow and watch Bill’s reaction. If he responds positively, then the company recognizes that this type of engagement was successful in moving Bill to the next stage. If he didn’t respond positively, then the company can either reach out to him directly to ask him a question or try another approach. These small wins and losses become institutional knowledge and make the organization more effective over time. It also prepares the company for the next prospect who displays similar needs.

So when Bill receives the bad news from one of his contacts on Google+, the company can decide if it makes sense to jump in and respond to the objection. Perhaps Bill’s contact lives in a city that doesn’t have a lot of recharging stations and has found owning a car in that city impractical. Furthermore, Bill’s source may have bought a model that was underpowered for his needs and should have bought a more powerful electric car. The point is that the company is ready to respond to objections or engage in context with a personal message for the prospect. This creates trust and desirability.

Because the company is now engaging prospects through social channels and content, it can better affect potential customers’ actions. I call this the “social impact effect.”  The benefit of this phenomenon is that you can learn right away how different methods of engagement affect your prospects. As a result, you acquire five benefits:

  1. You gain deeper insight into whether the prospect intends to buy your product.
  2. By having short conversations with prospects on social networks, you gain valuable knowledge that can help you modify your product messaging.
  3. Just engaging a prospect via social channels may be the deciding factor in whether or not he buys from you.
  4. If the prospect is charmed by your organization, he most likely will refer you to a few of his friends or relatives, thus adding prequalified prospects to the funnel without the company spending large sums of money to do so.
  5. Because the most popular social networks (especially Twitter) are open, new potential prospects may begin to inquire about your products and services because they admire how you handle existing prospects.

Of course, social business is still business, so you’ll need to measure its performance and its value to your organization. You need to prove the value of any initiative, especially an enterprise-wide transformation. Few executives will make such a move on faith.

Adapt or Die Roundup: Who Got Social Media Right and Who Got it Very Wrong in 2012

Guest post by Mark Fidelman, CEO of Evolve! Capital, Inc., and author of Socialized!  How the World’s Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.

Goodbye 2012Today’s socially savvy, constantly connected consumers expect more from brands, and organizations that rely on traditional arm’s-length relationships with customers and who try to dictate the relationship rather than participate in it will find it increasingly difficult to succeed. The increased use of social technologies over the past few years has forever changed the relationship between customer and brand. Now, individuals can create viral videos that reach millions, blog posts that embarrass corporations, and Facebook pages that organize citizens to oust dictators.

Some companies have already recognized these trends and are capitalizing on them in a big way; others haven’t figured out how to be social smartly and stumbled publicly on the social stage.  As the examples in my new book Socialized!  show, the best way for people to learn about social media is through real life examples. In that spirit, here are a handful of organizations that got social media right and those who got it wrong in 2012..

Who Got it Right in 2012

The jump heard round the world:  Red Bull. Red Bull brought new meaning to its tagline, “Red Bull gives you wings,” when, on October 14, the company sponsored Felix Baumgartner’s sound-barrier breaking, record-breaking free fall from space. Using social media, the company successfully built up huge buzz around the event and weeks before the jump, Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels were ablaze with interest.  Traditional media chimed in just days prior to the jump and covered it live.

What companies should take away from Red Bull’s space jump is the magic of choosing the perfect event for their brand, making it easy for people to connect with it.  Of course, not every company can afford to sponsor someone’s jump from space, but you can as a brand sponsor something related to your product or service and see a huge impact.

The twist: Oreo. To celebrate Oreo’s 100th anniversary, Nabisco launched a brilliant social media campaign called the 100-Day “Daily Twist” in which a different Oreo cookie design was featured every day for 100 days. It kicked off the campaign with a seven-layered, rainbow cookie in honor of gay pride, which quickly went viral. Other cookies included designs commemorating the Mars rover landing, Elvis Week, the Dark Knight premier, tennis, and so on, brilliantly providing the company with a way to target a wide variety of consumers they hadn’t been able to reasonably directly approach in the past.

This campaign was a great way for Nabisco to turn their Oreo cookie into a brand that really stood for something meaningful.  It was a great way to help many different groups of people create an emotional connection with the product. As a result, the company saw a significant increase in fan interaction via social media.

The bright idea: Domino’s ThinkOven. Domino’s ThinkOven was an effort to encourage customers to submit their “best Domino’s ideas” to the company. Whether it was an idea for a new uniform, a new dish or something for the restaurant, Domino’s opened the door wide to its customers’ ideas. Domino’s then rewarded their best idea-generators.

The more you involve your customers in the development of a product or service, the more emotionally invested they’ll be in your company.   And also, the more likely you are to get that product or service exactly right. Before social media, it was much more costly and difficult to get customer input using focus groups.  With social media, research can be ongoing.

The Wrong Way

Not that “Happy”: McDonald’s. In mid-January, McDonalds launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag, #McDStories, asking users to post nostalgic stories about Happy Meals. However, this campaign quickly took on a whole different meaning, as Tweets using the hashtag came pouring in about horror experiences and shocking tales.   From poor work conditions to appalling food quality, McDonald’s campaign turned negative attention back to itself.

McDonald’s should have been more careful about groups like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) that would react negatively. They also showed a lack of knowledge about what the best social medium to use for this type of campaign was. McDonald’s chose to use Twitter, but really Twitter is far too wide open for a campaign where this kind of feedback is likely. Next time, they should use a moderated forum such as Facebook.

Not that into you: Toyota. During the Super Bowl, Toyota planned a major Twitter campaign meant to promote the Camry.   But instead of creating their own hashtag, the Camry Twitter accounts started tweeting at anyone using the #Giants or #Patriots hashtags. As you may have guessed, even with a potential prize in play, not everyone cheering for a team wanted to be spammed by a Toyota Camry.

Toyota intended to engage users by directly tweeting them.  However, this had the opposite effect: users accused Toyota of bombarding and spamming them with unsolicited messages.

Toyota made the mistake of focusing too much on themselves rather than the Super Bowl and fans, and while they quickly suspended the accounts, this campaign still resonates as an example of a failed, large-scale endeavor.   The key in these social campaigns is to promote the initiative, not to talk about yourself.  When you try to make it all about you from the get go, you’ll only succeed at alienating people.

Not that smooth: Belvedere Vodka. A picture says a thousand words, and as Belvedere Vodka discovered, sometimes pictures insinuate far too much. The company would often put up cute and/or humorous ads on its Facebook and Twitter pages. It hit a snag; however, when it put up an ad that seemed to promote sexual violence.  The company received a significant amount of negative feedback, had to apologize for the ad, and made a hefty donation to RAINN (an anti-sexual violence organization).

With social media campaigns, because the messaging can spread so quickly and there’s no censorship board to screen it, you have to be very careful about what image or message you put out there. Especially if you’re trying to convey humor or use an overly aggressive visual, you better be certain that it cannot be misconstrued. The message needs to be crystal clear, and you need to make sure that it is absolutely the message you want to be sending. Sometimes companies want to just throw up a message or an image because social media makes it so easy to put content out quickly. But you must carefully vet these messages. Rest assured, they will live on forever. Case and point, Belvedere took the ad down from its social networking pages, but with a simple Google search, you can still easily find the ad and learn about the controversy that surrounded it.

Bottom line:  adapt or die

We’re drawing ever closer to a business environment where simply relying on traditional media and one-way communications to reach customers is going to leave you well-behind your socialized competition.  Like it or not, the moment of truth is upon us.  Adapt or die. 

Socialized!Win a free copy of Socialized!

Head over to Social: IRL’s Facebook page for a chance to win your free copy of Socialized!

Two winners will be drawn at random. Deadline for entry is 8pm CST on January 4, 2013.


Note – If you entered last week’s drawing, you’re automatically re-entered this week, no need to enter again.

Successful Social Business Starts From Within

Guest post by Mark Fidelman, CEO of Evolve! Capital, Inc., and author of Socialized!  How the World’s Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.

History is littered with innumerable organizations that failed to adapt to changing market conditions. Industry leaders Polaroid, Kodak, Commodore International, F.W. Woolworth Company, Montgomery Ward, Tower Records, Tribune Media, Circuit City, Blockbuster Inc., and Borders Group did not adequately respond to changing market conditions and either filed for bankruptcy or went out of business. Each had a different reason for its demise, but each failed to adapt to circumstances despite having superior financial and human capital.

To make matters worse, the business dynamics in play today are far more difficult to navigate.

Markets are incredibly fluid, dissatisfied customers can disrupt any business on the planet, and executives who build shrines to themselves are far less powerful.  That’s why the popular command-and-control culture, with a top-down information control and little tolerance for contrarian views, is dead.  It’s well suited for yesterday’s business climate, where customers had little broadcast influence, and executives became powerful by building walled gardens around themselves.  Today, it’s a surefire path to employee demotivation and, I would argue, a threat to a company’s very survival.

The most successful social businesses like IBM, Salesforce.com, and Yammer (now Microsoft), are highly adaptive and hypercompetitive because they’ve adopted the philosophy and strategy of using social tools to create more adaptive businesses.  Their business cultures encourage new ideas and feedback, leverage the wisdom of crowds and operate with a great deal of transparency.  In each of these examples, innovation is connected to every facet of the business. From product development, customer support, and marketing to employee career development, these empowered workers care less about the financial impacts of failed innovation experiments (while of course learning from them) and more about developing high-performing cultures that drive customer value over time.

According to a McKinsey & Company study, the value of creating a digital village is a 20 percent increase in customer satisfaction, a 20 percent decrease in the time it takes to bring products to market, a 30 percent cost reduction in talent management, and a 30 percent reduction in the time it takes to find knowledge experts. From my experience, this is just a short list of the benefits.

In Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social, I elaborate on the infrastructure for a digital village, or internal social network, where employees can go to connect, share, collaborate and receive help from colleagues within the company.  The village metaphor is appropriate because you’re creating an online location that over time will become a rich, vibrant community that will be the core of your social business.  I also lay out eight internal social business requirements that executives can follow to both build and jump-start their company’s internal growth engines.  For example:

Get the Right Team and Budget in Place.  It’s difficult to create a social business with executive support. It’s nearly impossible without it. Find the directors who really wanted us to become more social, and ask them to pay for the social platform.  Then identify stakeholders with the greatest support, influence, and need to get the big picture on the rest of the organization. Don’t wait for your mid-level and frontline employees to push for change. Find the right team and change agents to build and carry out a program of change. I’ve never met an executive who thought social business was not a priority, but I’ve met many who limit the budget and restrict their involvement to seeing that it happens. Worse, most of them were not monitoring progress against a set of objectives set by the team.

Create a Digital Village Code of Conduct.  In any township or city, the citizens are governed by a set of laws and rights. In your digital township, you will create the same— but yours will be better suited to a digital environment.  For example: read and abide by the company’s social computing policy; endeavor to contribute quality content or participate in quality discussions; and be interesting or be invisible.  Create your own code of conduct, but remember to update it as the village evolves.

Realign the village to create a social environment.  Knock down silos to make way for cross-department employee communications.  It can be difficult to knock down entrenched interests, but you have to do so.  Recruit early adopters in each to shape the organization’s future technology platform.  They’ll begin collaborating on the new platform and invite others to do the same.

Senior leaders who have implemented these policies, systems, and workflows have created opportunities for growth that were never before possible given the constraints of a command-and-control business model. In my experience, companies can surpass the benefits identified by McKinsey, while preparing the business to adapt to future challenges.

What do you think? Can a business be smart socially on the outside, without being social on the inside?  Why are why not.

Win a free copy of Socialized!

Head over to Social: IRL’s Facebook page for a chance to win your free copy of Socialized!

Two winners will be drawn at random. Deadline for entry is 8pm CST on December 27, 2012.