Why do consumers buy through one channel to the exclusion of others? It is all about relationships, however built. Consumers are more likely to purchase through a company whose ethic and temperament most closely matches their own. This is another way of indicating that we do business with companies we like and with which we have a relationship. Therein is the role for social media – to condition the sales environment. Note this is a step removed from “making sales.” Actually, however, as a commenter to a relatively recent Wired article points out, the premise social media marketing influences buying decisions is not really so anecdotal.
It’s social media marketing
- Firstly, it’s social media marketing, not social media sales. Marketing drives sales and generates leads. But for some inexplicable reason, social media marketing takes the brunt force of a lot of misplaced expectations. In a correctly understood marketing campaign, tactical sales is not primarily the role of social media marketing. Public relations doesn’t make “sales” either, but few would diminish its importance.
- A written business plan encompassing each marketing tactic is important. Too often marketing departments work without clearly defined goals, powering their efforts through sheer determination and hope. Sometimes a defined success results, but more often without a plan the expectations are skewed and the results remain in the realm of anecdote rather than benchmark. The strategies and tactics you use are important, but without a plan are likely to be so poorly implemented as to be ineffective. This is the most fundamental of business basics, but a principle we continually ignore.
- Each effort in a marketing campaign has its place. Websites and social media marketing are not interchangeable. Your Facebook page may be easier and less expensive to maintain than a website, but they have vastly different roles in your marketing mix. Certainly measuring as precisely as possible the ROI for any component in a campaign is both necessary and important. But marketers also must understand each effort in its proper context. Use emails to make tactical sales and secondarily to build brand. Use social media to build relationships so people will subscribe to emails and to fine-tune your sales efforts. Tactics are not interchangeable and each has a purpose in the context of a coherent marketing strategy.
- Think in terms of campaigns rather than disjointed marketing efforts. Perhaps at one time it was fairly easy to trace back the causative factors resulting in a buying decision. The complexity of the media landscape now, however, makes such simple analysis nearly impossible. It’s difficult to draw a straight line between any one contact point and a buying decision. The difficulty, moreover, sometimes leads to the wrong conclusion. Most often it is the cumulative impact of the total exposure to all of the marketing efforts to which the consumer is exposed that result in a final buying decision, not a single marketing effort by any one company. That means the travel professional must remain top of mind and in an engaged relationship with the client.
We do business with companies we like and with which we have a relationship. Therein is the role for social media – to condition the sales environment.
Staying Top of Mind
Staying top of mind is the travel marketer’s challenge. Your corporate image rides as much on your efforts as the social media manager as it does on the quality of your company’s product. It is up to you to mold and shape that image and to create for the marketing department goals and benchmarks in the most intentional of manners. The buying decision may happen in close proximity to a tactical sales effort or long thereafter. The buying decision is a matrix, not a straight line. But every point of contact, every engagement, builds the relationship finally culminating in the purchasing decision through one company or another.