Scaling up with Technology, and then Scaling Back Down for Relationships

On Wednesday and Thursday this week, I attended DemandCon, the first of what will hopefully be an annual show dwelling on demand creation, funnel management, marketing automation, and the many other technologies and disciplines that revolve around sales and marketing.  It was great to hear these marketers and sales thinkers mulling over the issues that are holding them back and the solutions that could let them surge ahead.

The discussions clearly delineated the factors that make the move toward social anything difficult. There was a sincere desire to connect with customers and to build real relationships; the era of one-to-one marketing is truly upon us. But at the same time, we’re being asked to do this on an industrial scale – thus, marketing automation, sales performance tracking, sales alerting and so on.

The question becomes this: how do we use these productivity enhancers to get us to the point where we have a one-to-one conversation – or, as Chris Kovac of integrated marketing firm Nicholson Kovac suggested, how do we ultimately drive the conversation off social media and onto a telephone call?

That’s a tough one – because we use social media in our businesses precisely because they are where the customers and potential customers want to communicate. The phone call you hope for as a salesperson can change the nature of your relationship with those contacts. How do you negotiate that transition?

The other aspect of scale that has me thinking is how it can be a conversation multiplier. You’ve probably heard the concept that a discussion on a social media channel appears to be a 1-to-1 conversation, but in reality it’s an 1-to-1-to-many conversation. There’s a direct communication aspect, but there’s also an aspect of broadcasting to it – which fits nicely with our ideas of scaling our efforts in an industrial way.

However, if your responses in a conversation are particularly good (or, heaven forbid, particularly bad), they can spawn an entire new set of 1-to-1 (through channels like email) and 1-to-1-to-many (through social media) conversations. Those are great – unless you lack the capacity to handle dealing with them all. Then you have a real problem. Ignoring conversations you catalyzed through other conversations is a great way to alienate people – you leave them asking, “why aren’t we worthy of your attention?”  You also miss great opportunities to get to the stage Chris Kovac described, and then you’re just leaving money on the table.

I don’t think we’re to this point yet – most social efforts are still hit-and-miss as we figure out what works and what doesn’t. But some time in the near future, a business will nail it, and then fail to plan for its success by lacking a strategy for translating 1-to-1-to many into 1-to-1-to-a-sale.

Have you thought about the ways you can transition from a social media relationship to a 1-to-1 relationship? Have you looked far enough into the future to a point where your on-line conversations may begin to place demands on your team that they can’t handle? Or will technology come to the rescue?