Social Media and the Emperor’s New Clothes

From Wikipedia:

"The Emperor's New Clothes" (DanishKejserens nye Klæder) is a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that are invisible to those unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!" The tale has been translated into over a hundred languages.[1]

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Recently, on days ending with a “y,” I feel that many B2B Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are like the Emperor, and that social media vendors and supporters are the weavers.  They conjure up out of thin air meaningful tapestries of “hits” “bounces” “likes” “followers” “re-tweets” “viewed” and cover them with a cloak of viral.  If I were a B2B CMO and dressed with all this finery I would indeed feel proud and assured when meeting my peers…for they will be able to see how well-dressed I am.

For the B2B CMO who believes this, he will rapidly undressed when the CEO says, “You do look nice today, but tell me how you have helped to generate revenue”  Responses relating to building the Brand, and Brand recognition, along with success with key demographics tend to get tossed aside like dirty clothes thrown in the hamper.  Comments about selective pruning of leads, enhancing the quality of the pipeline, resulting in a large group of potential customers being nurtured via the new marketing automation system tend to appear like clothes that you slept in.  In short, from the point of view of contributing to revenue, “you aren’t wearing anything at all.”

What the B2B CEO wants is increased revenue.  To this end he has his foot on the neck of the VP of Sales, who in turn is saying one of two things; (1) I could close more business, but my team has to spend most of their time prospecting, or (2) Most of the leads we get are old, tired or not qualified. This leaves the B2B CEO with an impression that Marketing is not doing its job.  In this scenario the only solution is for Marketing to deliver an increasing number of qualified leads to the sales organization, month after month.  (This assumes that Sales and Marketing agree upon what is a qualified lead.)

Any other metric beyond a Month-Over-Month increase in qualified leads is like the Emperor’s new clothes, i.e. invisible.  The B2B CMO can, and should, request that he be copied on all lost sales reports so that he can judge the quality of the leads and establish a feedback loop to success.  However, in my experience the sales organization that has the time to focus on writing lost sales reports has one foot out the door.

The bottom line of most businesses in America is profitability.  There are millions of way this can be achieved, but they all boil down to selling your product for more than it costs you to make, distribute and service it.  Selling it requires finding buyers who have a need, and convincing them that your product/service fills that need.  Growth comes from finding more buyers.  Profitability comes from controlling your costs as you grow, or cutting them if your revenue is flat.   One of Marketing’s roles is to find new buyers and pass this information along to sales.

Great marketing organizations provide month-over-month increases in qualified leads.  Good ones do so most of the time.  We need not worry about the ones that don’t, as they a finely dressed in today’s new clothes.

What are you wearing today?

RHM  2/4/2011

5 comments to Social Media and the Emperor’s New Clothes

  • Marty Dugan

    You couldn’t be more correct! B2B CMO’s have to start realizing that there customers are not likely to be engaging in internet activity around their vendors products unless the B2B customer is purchasing your online product (such as SaaS services Etc.) If your business is selling hardware or services or enterprise software there is only a remote possibility that your customers are trying to engage you on-line. Social media although it will support B2B goals over time, it is not now a key driver of revenue in anyway that I can see for the near future for B2B.

  • Perfectly summarizes the dance that marketing and sales do. And wonderfully written.

  • Jim Matorin

    Excellent fun post. I agree, but maybe I am being myopic based on the industry I market in, but growth also comes from retaining customers and educating them how do increase the usage of your products/services over time. Too many people take their eye off the ball looking for new business all the time.

  • James Craig

    More qualified leads as a key to success? Of course. No news there. The question that is not answered is, “How DO you generate a greater quantity of qualified leads?”

    Social media is over-hyped and over-sold. But if it is being misused, what’s the solution?

  • Robert Mannal


    I think the key to a greater quantity of qualified leads is the “right” mixture of new and old tools. Right being shaped by your company, industry and market. Old tools include trade shows, email campaigns, cultivating your installed base, direct mail, etc. The new tools are the social media ones, including listening, participating in group discussions, blogging. etc.

    One goal should be establishing a position of thought leadership in the industry, achieved through the use of new and old
    tools. From this position, generating leads becomes easier, as you are not fighting to establish name or brand recognition at the same time.


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