I had some interesting conversations this past month about ROI. Working in the FinServ market, you will never escape the return on investment conversation regardless of the topic at hand. As a marketer, I’m always open to having these discussions and quite often take away new ways to think about the world we must market within today. Recently, a very good friend of mine reminded me when I initially got into social media marketing the end goal was never the ROI, but the reputational risk of being or becoming irrelevant. That made me sit up in my seat.
A moment of deja vu
As I walked around my office listening to my friend chat, I was immediately taken back to Newark, New Jersey. Five years ago I had been invited to the Association of National Advertiser’s meeting held in a random conference room with representatives of many different financial service organizations when a VP from WalMart who was the speaker for that part of the program said, “Either learn to adapt and embrace change within your organization or understand in as little as five years you will be irrelevant.” The context of the comment had to do with social and digital marketing efforts among financial service organization, which traditionally are very slow and behind more hip products like beverages, tennis shoes, and headphones, but of all the wonderful conversations held that day, that sentence was my driving force over the next four and half years – – to keep the organization I worked for relevant.
How do you stay relevant?
Relevance can be somewhat aloof and is definitely unique to every industry and community of professionals. What works for one may not work for another, so discovering your element of relevance can be like throwing darts at a target. You keep trying until you hit the bull’s eye…but practice does make perfect.
And let me be very clear – relevance and awareness are not the same. I can make you aware of anything – why you should care about education, why keeping our streams clean are important, etc. But until I make it relevant to your life in some way, awareness and the messaging are pretty useless.
The main ingredients of relevance remain pretty much the same in the sense that you must know what you are selling, understand your customers and influencers, and stay on top of changes with social media and marketing platforms. That will never change today or in the future. However, I quickly learned other additives such as employee advocacy, social selling, and strategically thinking about how to communicate and engage were important parts of the recipe, too.
Does anyone really care about relevance?
This was the magical question! Let me ask it in a different way. When you think about ROI – many think of how do you tie a follower’s “like” of your post to an actual sale, right? Nobody ever thinks or even really questions nontangibles such as trust, confidence, likeability, etc. they just want to tie ‘this’ to ‘that’ and make a buck? So…
When you want to check out a band playing at a bar in your area, do you go to their Facebook page or website to hear a clip of them playing? When you want to check out a new restaurant, do you go to Yelp and read someone’s review or go to Google and see how they’ve been rated? When you go to Amazon to buy a new organizer do you read the reviews of how easy it was to install or the quality of the product? None of those things could happen without relevance…and money is tied to those transactions even if you cannot exactly tie them together all the time.
If those businesses hadn’t been online to have a clip of their music, a review of their food, a note about the quality of their product – – the sale may not have ever happened. In each situation, the band created relevance by having an online presence and showcasing their music. The restaurant created relevance by having pictures of their food on their website and allowing customers to rate their experience. The Amazon seller created relevance when they added pictures of the organizers and included notes about the installation and product.
So do people need you to be relevant in order to buy from you? Absolutely.
Maybe I don’t want to be online!
I fair warn you – this is a marketing hazard in 2017. Reputational risk is a very real and scary thing for businesses who are not online (who want to go “old school” in a world of smartphones), have poor website SEO (search engine optimization helps people find you), and do not provide an experience for the end-user (testimonials, reviews, pictures, video clips, etc.) When you do not have a strong online presence, I go back to the WalMart VP and ask, “Are you ok with being irrelevant?” You might have created awareness, but did you create relevance? You may have successfully removed you and your business from today’s shoppers and buyers without even realizing it.
Be a person of action – It’s a new day. You have the ability to change the way you market your practice and the good news is every day we have a little more flexibility, even in a regulated industry. Ask a friend to review your website and be brutally honest in their feedback. Ask your kids to review your social media profiles and be brutally honest in what they see. You don’t need to create more awareness, you just need to be more relevant.