I’m hearing from a lot of businesses that don’t really want to use Twitter, Facebook communities, blogging, SEO and all the shiny new online social media tools for marketing, but feel that they must take the plunge to “keep up.” A few of these folks are marketing newbies, but most have solid, successful backgrounds in traditional marketing programs.
Let’s look at it this way: If you were a standout basketball or soccer player, would you suddenly want to devote all your energies to learning extreme mountain climbing? Not only is it the latest fad, but, because it is a fad, the mountains are now crowded with other newbies. They’re slowing down the paths and often plummeting to bad endings in crevasses. The sherpas are now charging premium prices to guide you (and schlep your expensive stuff) up the slopes.
Instead of putting all your energy into trying to catch up with the current fad, take the cross-training approach. Get into it strategically and make sure what you do is strongly integrated with and complements your current exercise (or marketing) program. In other words, what you do online should mesh with your existing, successful, use of brochures, ads, trade shows, signage, white papers, and other marketing channels. (This not only conserves your resources, it will make sense to your customer base.)
Consider this: If your competitors are sweating their way up the slopes of online marketing like lemmings, chance are they aren’t paying as much attention as they should to traditional marketing channels. What areas of opportunity are they now leaving wide open for you to take advantage of?
This is a great time to take a look at your users, buyers, and decision makers. It may be the time to do more speaking at conferences, take out a series of eye-catching magazine ads, sponsor events, ramp up sales calls, or use good old email to offer prospects a nice, substantive white paper. The point, after all, is to show customers that you do more for them and do it better (rather than you do pretty much the same thing as the other guys). Plus, those real-world activities will give you plenty to blog or tweet about as you ease your way into social media.
You can’t afford to ignore the impact of online marketing tools — but, like cross training, your forays into social media should be designed to enhance rather than undermine your overall performance.