March 30, 2009 7 Comments
This is a “part 2” post, growing out of the principles outlined here in part 1, where we enjoyed a lively discussion about how, in business, social media (or Community Networking/Networked Communications) is part of the larger category of Communications, along with a lot of other traditionally silo’ed disciplines such as PR, Marketing, and Advertising. We also discussed how the usage of two-way communication networks in business will lead to a more relational, rather than transactional, approach to gaining and keeping customers.
Now let’s turn to another fundamental perspective. This one has a lot of tentacles so we’ll try to outline a general principle here, and then we can carry on in the Comments. I believe that healthy business<–>customer relationships will increasingly be marked by a matchmaking approach. That is, we can steadily shift from a view of the potential customer world as a mass of demographics, and the potential supplier world as a bunch of faceless commodity providers. The first questions in a provider’s mind should no longer be, “How can I get MORE customers?” “How can I reach MORE of my target audience?” “How can I get my numbers up?” We should shift to, “How can we use networked communications to find the right people for whom we are the right fit (and vice-versa)?”
Let’s take a simple analogy, from the social media world. You can use Twitter as a “follower accumulation engine”, and in a few month’s time have thousands of subscribers, but how many of those are really a “match” for your interests, perspectives, business direction, resource needs, etc.? In social media, as in life and business, you’ll find that a relatively small number of folks are a “fit”, and when you spend time cultivating them, they will help you find others who fit. Some business owners pursue anything or anyone that will be a revenue producer, but I’ve learned over the years that “not all business is good business.”
Customers, too, are overwhelmed by choices, and gladly latch onto for providers of goods and services that are a good “match” – companies that make them feel like they’re getting consistent value, and that make life simpler by taking one more decision off the table. And now, with great social networking tools, many of these winning companies can have a “face” and carry on a dialogue with potential and existing customers, which strengthens the sense of relationship. If I have found a great “match” for, say, an on-line bookkeeping service, then I don’t have to think about who to use next time – and, I very readily pass on my recommendations through my network, especially if I feel like I’ve come to know the supplier more personally.
Of course, all of this has been going on before the era of web-enabled social networking – but the importance is much greater now, and the capacity to weave matchmaking into the equation (from both sides) is wonderfully expanded. There are one-time buyers, there are occasional customers, and there are matches. Businesses should be aggressively using networked communications to identify and invest in the latter, rather than constantly trolling for any new revenue that can be found. The customer network thus built will, in the long term, generate far more new and repeat business. It will even give you the luxury of “firing” unprofitable and troublesome customers (b-to-b or b-to-c).
What do you think? How do you weave a matchmaking perspective (and practices) into your business model?
Matchmaking is not merely employing a set of business tactics and tools. It’s a mindset. It can also be the foundation for an entire business model, which will be the subject of my final post (part 3) in this series, on Marketing Profs DailyFix.