We are the 5th P: People

Part 4 in a series introducing my new book, The End of Business as Usual

It seems that adding the word “social” to any category escalates its importance. From the Social Customer to Social Commerce and from Social Business to Social CRM, the common thread that weaves everything together is people. It is people after all that are responsible for placing the social in social media. Everything else is just technology. So why is it that businesses still approach social media and the services and channels that connect this very human network as it has traditional media in the past? Just as in the emergence of connected customers, this inherent behavior is simply part of the DNA. This DNA where perhaps the “D” stands for disconnected represents the very fabric of business and the very essence that requires evolution in order to genuinely connect with tomorrow’s customer, today. Operating with a business as usual mindset no longer cuts it.

Regardless of media, good business comes down to a simple process of identifying customers, learning what they want or need, feeling their challenges, learning how they communicate with one another, and observing how they discover and share information. Yet, many businesses approach what is a natural bottom-up occurrence through a top-down system of pushing information, pulling would-be customers through funnels, and confining them to artificial feedback loops. To put it simply, if we visit the traditional 4P’s of marketing of Price, Place, Promotion and Product, the key ingredient of favorable engagement and business outcomes is the very thing that’s been missing all along, People – you, me and the individuals who invest in products and sometimes the brands behind them.

Even though businesses are experimenting with engagement in Facebook, Twitter, forums, comments, et al., I’m not convinced they see us beyond our avatars. Nor do they view our communities as influential cliques, but rather as rudimentary clicks. Many businesses don’t take the time to get to know us, yet they invest in new media as an attempt to build relationships without understanding why we engage.

The bottom line is that customers are not necessarily looking to build relationships with brands. They’re, we’re, looking for solutions, direction, insights, and value. Information, contests, and clever videos are now commodities that contribute to the already clogged arteries of new media. But every day, companies ask customers to “Like” them on Facebook and “follow” them on Twitter weighing the extent of their efforts on the quantity of the 3F’s (friends, fans and followers) in addition to traffic, clickthroughs, and views. It’s no wonder why so many pundits debate the value of ROI when businesses are still not defining the “R” or the return we seek nor are brands defining outcomes.

We’re not driving experiences, we’re reacting to them.

We’re not introducing meaningful value, we’re pushing content and creative.

We’re not designing programs around intelligence, we’re focused on monitoring.

It’s time we had a click to action!

I Think We Need Some Time Apart

A few years ago, Microsoft released a video that to this day personifies the disconnect between brands and their customers.

Customer: “I want a divorce.”

Brand: “What now?”

Customer, “We don’t talk anymore.”

Brand: “I just put down a mil on a TV commercial just to talk to you.” OR sub that with, “I just invested time and resources on Facebook and Twitter just to talk to you.”

Customer: “Exactly, you do all the talking, I never get a chance to…[cut off by brand.]”

Brand: “You can talk on our web site can’t you?” OR sub that with, “you can comment, Like, RT, or interact with us in social networks.”

Customer: “Sure, if I want to say, ‘order this product.’”

Brand, “See…!”

Customer: “This isn’t exactly dialogue.”

Even in any examples of today’s social media best practices, even the dialogue isn’t representative of the dialogue customers are seeking or that they find enough value in to continue to return or interact with brands. The first step in the in a journey that lead brands and customers down discontinuous paths is the lack of understanding, context, or desire to better understand customers and the virtual and real worlds in which they dwell.

Again, customers are not on social networks seeking relationships with business. You know that better than anyone. That’s not why you’re there. You’re there to interact with friends, family, peers and everyone else who matters to you. In many ways, you are the very person you’re trying to reach and it’s that perspective that should factor into any business, marketing, service, or product development cycle moving forward. We are the 5th P of marketing and business and this is the end of business as usual

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