Bridging between the web and the real world

Soviralnetbusworks and all that jaz

How do you find the longest way form a to b. Well here’s a good contender, call the guy in the next room on his mobile.  That message will go into space bounce off a satellite and return to your pal next door.

In a world of 7000,000,000, in a country of 60,000,000 in a town of 30,000 people, how do you find 100 clients for your new accountancy business?
Why you search the 7 billion of course via the internet until you find some who happen to be near you and need an accountant, or at least like you enough to pay you anyhow. OK got that thanks.

Here’s the official theory, in so far as there is one:

You build as big a network as you can and you keep sending emails and publishing tweets and blogs so they all wake every morning wondering what you have to say to them today.

You keep asking what you can do to help and trying to get them business, or worrying about their personal lifes, until eventually they give in and say I know you don’t really want to be my accountant, but if I begged you, would you do my accounts?

Sales and marketing theory

This is one of the times when I can speak as an authority and indeed the principals are so widely taught and so well understood that it takes little effort to make the points successfully. Here goes.

You start with a product for which there is a defined market, i.e. You know that  they have  a need and that they are accessible and that it is possible to service this need profitably Product, Place, Price Promotion etc.(Common sense stuff)

Next you design your messages to position your offering so that people can understand it and can hang it on their mental notice board as close to the top of the list as possible. E.G. “The guy to call when you want straight talking and common sense solutions”   “Mr No Bull …”

Now you need to target this market so you are delivering  the messages to the right people, not the whole 7 billion, or even the 65 million, but maybe a few  thousand. If you’re an accountant you might time this with a pressing annual need and you wouldn’t send it to too many Non-Doms. With me so far.

Now you give them an opportunity to put their hand up and say, I’m possibly in the market. E.G.  A free booklet on setting up offshore trusts might attract them.

Next you need permission to pitch a few of these and permission to stay in touch with the others in case they need your products at some future time. The relationship building begins now, but most business people are strapped for time, so references and case studies, professional memberships and guarantees are a very important part of the mix.   2, or 3 out of every four who meet you will be unsure about some aspect of you, or the product, or their need and not do business this time, but most can remain in contact and maybe do business in future.


How I approached this confuddle

I have been planning this series for a while and always reluctant to make a start because there just seemed to be more to learn and new angles to consider.

I was faced with an agonising choice between methods of presenting the information. E.G. taking all the new information and then comparing it to what I already knew, superimposing it on this framework and presenting the differences.  This is a great way to assimilate new knowledge and skills, but sometimes it blinds you to the whole concept so that you just miss the point.
 Imagine introducing wine for the first time to a 10 pints a day man and having him approach the subject in this way?

As a natural born cynic  (survivor) I am not good at the other method, E.G. suspending disbelief while you listen intently and even in the cinema, it had better be good or I’ll probably leave early, so I was not about to immerse myself in the” religion” of the thing in the hope that at some point I’d have a divine revelation.

What I have done is adapted a sort of midway approach that considers all viewpoints without extending the blog to book length.  I hope you find it as useful, as I did.

 Coming next week …

Making sense of Soviralnetbusworks

Why is it there? Is anybody really making any money form it? Why would it work as a way of winning customers? Why would anybody give up so much time for this when they could do it much more effectively by other means?

Bridging the gap between the web and the real world part 3

Bridging between the web and the real world
Bridging the gap between the web and the real world part 2

Are there really clear parallels between Soviralnetbusworks and Sales and Marketing theory?

This is bound to be  an area of some contention, for the reasons mentioned previously. Most networkers, especially online, are motivated by a need to be out and about finding customers combined paradoxically with their powerful fear of and resistance to actually selling their services.

If you draw parallels then you have to face the big purple elephant again I.E.  Why are you in a business that you are afraid to sell to customers? If you don’t believe in it, who will?

There is a fairly popular and utterly flawed theory that underlies most networking activity, which supports the latter folly and it goes something like this:
 If you meet the same 60 people every month for a year and you tell them what you do and then you are nice to them every time you meet and if you pass a few scraps of leads to a few of them, eventually one of them will order from you.
The reasons it’s flawed are simply these:

1.   I won’t, and neither will you, wait for the next meeting to place an order with somebody who said hello to me. When I need a widget today, I’ll either call someone I used before, or turn to Google.

2.   If I need something very complex and very reliant on the person supplying it, e.g.  Interior design, or a management consultant, then I will turn to people I trust, who can make recommendations, but the recommendation will only be as strong as the trust attached to it. Again the chances are not good , though admittedly better, that I will turn to my networking for a supplier.

3.  The 60 or so people I know though networking are only likely to contain one or two potential clients, unless I’m an accountant, marketer, or lawyer  etc and plain mathematics would tell any sensible person that it is never gong to produce much of value for me. Above all, it is never going to produce anything proportionate to the time put in.

What do Soviralnetbusworks offer that might be different

The bits we have discussed so far are networking, but of course there is more to soviralnetbusworks than networking.   When Trout and Reis announced “marketing “ to us, they made a few hints at an aspect of human behaviour which back then, they had very little influence over.  The need to “be part of a gang”, to “ conform”, to “be accepted”.  Good marketers have always known how to give the impression that “all the in crowd are wearing this fragrance” or “ hanging around on social networks”, but in the past the ability to influence this stopped at traditional advertising.

Facebook, Linkedin and especially Twitter have begun to provide a new type of influencer. It shortens the message to almost subliminal levels and delivers it like hail stones. The result is that users are bombarded with a sense of what “the gang” is doing and thinking  and it provides powerful potential to really influence huge volumes of people to blindly go where you want to send them.

The best parallel in the natural world is a flock of starlings in Northern Europe doing acrobatics in the sky before settling in for the evening.  They gesture to each other and in an instance either conform or influence their surrounding group. Quickly the group automatically selects a few who seem to be more influential via the timing or style of their gestures, who knows and the whole flock attempts to ape them as they free fly around the evening sky creating incredible shapes and patterns. 

Learning how to influence the social scene in the same way will undoubtedly deliver massive dividends for savvy marketers going forward, but just like TV advertising quickly ran into traffic problems, so too will this format. What we should be doing is looking  for the next big thing.

What do they have in common? And what is different?

Marketing and selling is first of all a debate in itself that often gets heated.  My own favourite take having spent a lot of time close to direct marketing is that marketing is predominantly about generating enquiries and creating the right environment in which to generate enquiries. Where I disagree  with some traditionalists is that I don’t believe you should do it if you can’t measure it.

Marketing and sales is there to generate potential leads, generate leads from those, qualify the leads, build and maintain relationships and convert some leads into orders in sufficient numbers to run a profitable business. How well you do this affects the cost and value of your product as much as anything else does and has a direct impact on customer experience.

The order in which I described this is not all that important, because in truth things happen in all kinds of orders in the real world, but generally, all of the various switches have been pushed before you end up with a customer.

In a social networking environment, the trust building may start the ball rolling and the product enquiry come later, in the traditional environment the  product enquiry may come first, or in between.

People like CRM vendors often have a blind spot about process and struggle to see how things can wander safely and securely via their own paths and yet arrive in the same place. This is just a human failing and nothing more and they shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with how people work.

There have always been weak sales people often described as the “ personality salesman” who believes that his amazing charm is all that matters and pays no attention to the product, the customers need etc.  There is also the “technical salesman” who thinks that all that matters is features and benefits and mathematics and fails to consider the customer’s need to trust him and the supplier and the emotional drivers.
 Neither of these is typical, but both failings are very noticeable in the flawed theory often put forward by networking gurus and ecommerce gurus.

What the internet has changed forever about marketing and selling is that it allows the sales process to begin much earlier and it greatly extends the “Tyre Kicking” phase.

When a new customer enters your showroom now, he has kicked your tryes many times, talked to your friends and knows you intimately. He has downloaded all the datasheets and knows the products as well as you do. He may well have talked to previous users or even your previous customers.  This process goes on all the time and all happens earlier in the buying process than where we used to begin when Trout and Reis were teaching us their tricks.

The big mistakes you can make are:

  1. To assume every tyre kicker is a potential customer and pounce on him. Most will run away and never return.
  2. To ignore the need to support this tyre kicking process sufficiently to be on his list of maybes when he is ready to talk business.
  3. Hang around the car lot waiting for tyre kickers instead of focusing on the ones who are ready to buy, or the ones who did and need support


What can shrewd marketers learn from traditional marketing to make their networking more productive?

What is critical going forward is to understand the importance of the  website,  social networking and traditional marketing and how they interact, how they  satisfy tyre kicking, attract a halo of  interested parties, build a funnel of leads, qualify leads, build relationships, support the buying process and generate orders without making your product too expensive to be saleable.

It is vital to apportion the right amount of time and financial investment at each level so as not to put your self out of business.
 A typical example of getting this wrong is spending vast sums on website traffic only to find that they don’t buy anything. Why?  Because they are not at that stage yet.
Better to use different search terms and target people who have done their tyre kicking and want a better deal. Positioning is still everything. The rues have not changed, just the tools.

  1. The next time you are drawing your sales funnel, or configuring your CRM, add another slice 50 times wider than the biggest one. In here you will put all the” tyre kicking, just looking, maybe some day” people. The ones you’ve been networking with go in here too.
  2. Create a manageable strategy to understand the information and contact needs of this big slice and provide it with minimal effort and expense
  3. Test and establish a way to qualify your people from the tyre kicking slice into the lead slice and back out again without losing them altogether.  This upper slice becomes an ecosystem like the halo over a glass of water. And you need an inexpensive way to keep it in place and growing.


Coming next:


How can Soviralnetbusworks become a key part of the marketing mix as opposed to an alternative lifestyle?


What is the right strategy for me?