The Marketer’s New Clothes

June 29th, 2010
by Johna Burke
Flickr Image: gfpeck
Flickr Image: gfpeck

First appeared on Social Media Marketing Magazine, June 24, 2010.

My friends and I have joked over the years about CEOs (who will remain nameless) taking on the persona of the “Emperor” in the Hans Christian Anderson tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. It was all fun and games until we let a CFO friend in on the joke, who suggested that, perhaps, marketing and public relations professionals are the scoundrels in this analogy. Ouch! This seemed harsh, but it gave me pause to reflect and better educate my CFO friend on why we are not the scoundrels.

In the spirit of his DNA, the CFO only responded to the numbers. Not just any numbers, but those that impacted the bottom line of the business. Certainly, this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. He opened my eyes to the importance of every activity driving the bottom line, and I opened his eyes to the importance of the customer experience. Without evaluation and measurement, it was hard to know where you’ve been, where you are, where you’re going, and the most efficient way to get there.

While he appreciated the metrics I was using to manage the department (the outputs and the outtakes) and pointed out that perhaps those were simply the bolts of invisible fabric, clothing my CEO (and organization) with those metrics would be just like sending him out into the crowd naked. This was a pointed lesson that took hold and has stayed with me throughout the years.

In this analogy, is social media the cloth, the crowd, or the golden thread?

Social media is the golden thread. It’s real and it’s quantifiable. It’s how you use it in the weave of your fabric that makes it an effective cover of your efforts.

In social media, one of the easiest metrics to quantify is the conversion of an unknown to a qualified prospect. While this is an important metric to the marketing department to understand how your campaigns are performing, it’s only when the conversion becomes a sale (or outcome equivalent) that it really matters to the organization as a whole. The same stands true with engagement. While engagement is important, we should all look for opportunities to listen and learn from our customers. Until there’s a marriage or the deal is closed, it’s really all ceremony.

The moral of the story?

  • Know the difference between metrics necessary to manage your department and those important to the business objectives of your organization.
  • Don’t allow your organization or CEO to be naked while pretending to be clothed.
  • As a matter of strategy, make sure your organization’s “suit” is made of only the finest fabric, woven with solid metrics that are visible to the crowds (investors and stakeholders).
  • Don’t invest your time or resources in anything—including and perhaps especially, social media—that doesn’t cover your organization as you venture out into the crowds.

In the final analysis, trust your eyes, and if something doesn’t look right, say so. Even if it isn’t a popular thing to do.

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