Stop Chasing Shiny Objects, Invest in the ‘Classics’

by Mack Collier

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A few years ago an agency approached me and said they had figured out a plan to get ahead.  They were seeing at the time that Twitter was growing like a weed in the South in August, so they were going to hire a ‘Twitter person’.  This person would be an expert at using Twitter, and she would train the entire agency on how to use Twitter, so that they would have an agency full of Twitter experts.

She concluded by asking ‘what do you think?’ with a confident tone that told me that she fully believed she had just cracked the code on successfully propelling her agency into the next decade.

I told her the same thing that day that I will tell you today: Stop trying to understand the tools, and instead invest in learning how your customers are using the tools.  Earlier this month it felt like every marketer in the world was jumping on Jelly.  Marketers were infatuated by a new social tool and more importantly, a new sales opportunity.  These marketers had no clue who was using Jelly or if it would ever be relevant to their customers.  They rushed in at the promise of finding a hot new social channel to sell their wares via.

The true sales opportunity lies in figuring out where the customer is headed and then clearing a path to help them reach their destination.  The customer will eventually reach her destination with or without us, but the value we bring to the equation is to help the customer reach her destination as effortlessly as possible.  Helping the customer do this IS the sales opportunity.

There are two areas you need to focus on in 2014:

1 – Understanding how your customers are using these tools

2 – Understanding how customer behavior is changing because of emerging tools and technology

Over a decade ago, The Cluetrain Manifesto was published, and the work is perhaps best known for presenting the idea of markets as conversations.  The idea that the markets that companies sell to are actually made up of human beings having conversations with each other, and if you wanted to connect with these markets, you needed to understand the conversations they were having, and even participate in those conversations.

Marketers heard the ‘participate’ part, but they missed the ‘understand’ portion.  No matter how many shiny tools you master, none of that will help you if you don’t understand your customers.

BTW anyone notice that all the talk about Jelly died down as soon as it started up?  That’s because marketers got there, spent a few days with it and didn’t see an immediate sales opportunity, and left.  Agency folks camped out there long enough to see if they could sell their clients on ‘Jelly Management’ projects, and left when they realized everyone else was.

Which leads to another classic: There are no silver bullets.  Roll your sleeves up, invest in understanding your customers.  Do the work.

Pic via Flickr user dylan garton

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