Notes From the Road to Marketing Nirvana - Part 11

Posted by Joe Aragona on July 8, 2020
Joe Aragona
Find me on:
There’s More to Social Media Marketing Than Social Media

There’s More to Social Media Marketing Than Social Media

True story.

Stan, the vice president of marketing, was obviously disappointed. The smile that was stretched across his face faltered. The sparkle in his deep brown eyes seemed to dim slightly. And the quick glance he shot at the director of human resources revealed much more than he probably wanted it to. But he recovered quickly from these almost imperceptible, telltale signs of his uneasiness and returned his attention to the matter at hand, glancing at the resume in front of him and scribbling a note in the leather-bound notebook beside it.

“That’s an interesting perspective on social media marketing,” Stan scoffed with a knowing smile at Lisa.

“That’s an interesting perspective on social media marketing,” Stan scoffed with a knowing smile at Lisa. “But, it seems to have worked for Widget Software,” he added, naming a local startup that had launched into the market with amazing fanfare enabled by a very visible social media program. “I guess they got it wrong?”

As if on cue, Lisa, the HR director made a note in her notebook. She was also still smiling, but it was obvious from the determined stroke of her pen and the urgent sound of the ink being spread across the page that we had crossed from the realm of definite possibility to the land of we’ll think about it and get back to you. The way she absently moved the resume closer to her notebook, as if preparing to conclude the interview, made it obvious that they both hadn’t heard what they wanted to hear in answer to their last question.

This particular interview happened at a point in my career when I thought it would be interesting to move back into the corporate world as a marketing director. I had been lucky enough in my journey as a marketer until that point to have had the opportunity to work on both sides of the agency-client desk. After 10 great years on the agency side, I was once again considering a move back to the other side of the desk. The lure was the opportunity to take on the challenge of creating and executing marketing strategies for one of the newly minted high-tech startups that seemed to be popping up almost weekly around the city. This particular start-up was preparing to launch a software product that promised to revolutionize daily business management operations.

Stan was very bullish about the company’s prospects. Lisa was laser-focused on finding a marketing director that would see eye-to-eye with Stan’s vision for a new way to market software in the business-to-business marketing process.

“Social media marketing,” he explained, “is going to be our major focus and the bulk of our marketing spend. We’re going to leverage all the social channels to push prospective buyers to our trade show booth at six key shows that are happening over the next 12 months. If we can create the right buzz, we should be able to increase booth traffic and generate the level of interest we need to get sales kick-started.”

“Do you have any thoughts you can share with us about this approach based on your previous experience with social media marketing?” Lisa asked, looking up from the resume with a smile.

“Do you have any thoughts you can share with us about this approach based on your previous experience with social media marketing?” Lisa asked, looking up from the resume with a smile.

Having had similar conversations with clients in the past, I hesitated for a split-second before answering. Based on all the attention social media was getting as the silver bullet marketing solution at that time, many marketing departments were shifting more funds in search of that elusive buzz. Everybody wanted to go viral and misconceptions about what social media could and couldn’t do were regular staples of marketing blogs appearing in my weekly news feed.

At that moment, I had two options: I could answer honestly and explain what I knew based on experience, or I could tell them what they wanted to hear. In that split-second I opted for honesty, thinking that there was no sense stating something I couldn’t back up with conviction.

“Well, for most tech companies, social media marketing by itself isn’t an effective approach,” I answered.

“Well, for most tech companies, social media marketing by itself isn’t an effective approach,” I answered. “It should definitely be part of an integrated marketing process, but it shouldn’t be the only focus. To be effective, it should be considered within the context of a larger program and supported with other digital marketing tactics, and content marketing.”

Considering Stan’s reaction, I quietly scolded myself for having been too honest. Maybe I should have tempered my response with what I knew they wanted to hear, even if it was something I didn’t believe. But having worked the same issue with multiple clients, I had learned that the direct, honest answer was always the shortest route to the right solution to a marketing problem. There was no sense telling clients exactly what they wanted to hear if it wouldn’t work.

I could have let Stan’s response go and moved on, but even though it was obvious that the interview was over, I felt that I had to explain. Keeping my tone as even as possible, I outlined the role of social media in an integrated business-to-business marketing program. I explained how the different channels could be used to support, enhance, and strengthen delivery of key messages, bolster brand positioning, and promote thought leadership. I explained how specific channels could be used as hooks for programs and campaigns structured to promote trade shows, webinars, and events. I tied in the integration with email marketing, digital advertising, and media and analyst relations. And I concluded with the importance of content marketing as the foundation for a truly effective program that delivered the right message, with the right piece of rich content, to the right audience at the right time in the business-to-business buyer’s journey.

“You’ve hit on a few points that are definitely worth considering,” Stan said with an insincere smile on his face when I was done.

“You’ve hit on a few points that are definitely worth considering,” Stan said with an insincere smile on his face when I was done. “I guess there’s more to social media marketing than social media.” He glanced at Lisa and nodded as an obvious sign that the interview was over. “We have a few more interviews to do before we make our decision. Lisa will get back to you in a few days.”

Obviously, I didn’t get the job.

Lisa hired a social media manager to create the program Stan envisioned.

The company launched a few months later with a heavy social media presence focused on promoting trade show appearances. The launch did not go as expected.

Three months into the social media strategy, Stan reached out to see if I would be interested in consulting on a new content marketing program. I declined.

Six months later, the social media manager was let go and the company was recruiting for a new director of marketing with experience in integrated business-to-business marketing programs.

Stan is still with the company.

The director of marketing at Widget Software has published several blogs about the role of social media as part of an integrated marketing program, citing his company’s market launch as an example.

And I’m still somewhere on the road to marketing nirvana.

But that’s another story.

This blog is based on a true story from my notes on the road to marketing nirvana. The names of the companies and people involved have been eliminated or changed to protect the guilty.

Topics: Marketing Insights, Notes From the Road to Marketing Nirvana, Marketing Strategy, Social Media