Social Networking and the Marketing Mix

This is the fourth is a series of blogs about Social Networking.

First published in 1960, E. Jerome McCarthy’s seminal text “Basic Marketing,” outlined a “marketing mix” of Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. At that time, the concepts of social networking and inbound marketing were not even a glimmer on the horizon.

Today terms such as social networks, fans, contacts and inbound marketing are discussed as major elements of the marketing mix. What is the proper ratio of these new tools to the traditional tools and elements defined by McCarthy?

The correct answer is of course, it depends.

While the new tools can be applied to all the elements of the traditional marketing mix, for this posting I focus on the “Promotion” element. Promotion means bringing your product and brand to the attention of potential buyers, convincing them that your product(s) are better than the competition and incenting them to buy yours.

Traditional activity in this area has included generating leads, converting them to prospects, and cultivating them during the sale process. Additional activity includes establishing, building and reinforcing your brand so that it assisted in the lead/sales process.

Some social networking advocates are suggesting that traditional promotion no longer works, as the buyer has become immune to advertisements and that they only way to reach him/her is by making him a fan or contact…someone who follows you because of you represent a trusted authority on this area. Two books, “jump point” and “Maverick Marketing” by two different people, both interestingly enough named Tom Hayes, suggest that the next battle for eyeballs will be inducements to visit portals or websites. Tools that can be used to establish this relationship include blogs, web and podcasts, twitter, facebook and Linkedin.

One example as to how these tools are being used today can be found on Dell’s Community page. (http://en.community.dell.com/) It is interesting to note that Dell has the plans and resources to develop and deliver content via multiple media and languages.

However, Dell is a multi-billion dollar corporation with sales around the world. What about a firm with sales under $200M, mostly in the US? Again the answer is, it depends. A consumer product company, doing business only on the Web, will probably implement blogs, twitter, ‘casts, wiki’s, etc. A B2B company with a finite number of customers is probably more interested in establishing its brand/position, and can work effectively with a blog by its CTO. Interwoven in the “it depends” answer are the channels of distribution that a company employs.

The pragmatic Marketing manager in 2009 deploys social networking tools by understanding and listening to his customer base. What resonates with them? What media are they using to gather and evaluate information…is it a trade show or an analysts blog? Is the purchase cycle long or short, and how do social networks impact on this decision process? How are the competitors reaching out to the customer base? Which is the dominant distribution channel and is it changing? Etc. etc.

How closely are you listening to your customers? What plans have you put in place to meet your customer’s purchase patterns, especially if they are changing? Do you have any plans to change your distribution channels, and how will social networking help you in this process?

RHM 7/23/2009

1 comment to Social Networking and the Marketing Mix

  • Hi Bob,

    Thanks for this post. As you point out, social media can be a very inexpensive way to do marketing research–providing the target audience is actively using social media platforms and talking about issues that are important to them. The better platforms will allow you to listen not just about what people are saying about your brand, but what they’re saying on trends and topics that are relevant to your environment.

    For more control over the conversation, consider setting up a closed community. Like a focus group, a closed community can help you get feedback on products and promotions.

    As for promotion, let me share a recent experience with you. Everyone is saying that promotion is dead–but that’s definitely not true for teenagers. They’re still consuming a lot of TV, enjoying the commercials, and commenting about them to their friends on Facebook. And, due to peer pressure at that age, many are profligate consumers. In fact, if people were really tuning out conventional promotion, advertising would have dropped much more in price. So as you say, it depends on the audience, the media, and the distribution of the message…

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