One of the most forward-thinking actions a large entity can take in 2013 is designing programs through which small and medium sized entities may become affiliates. To say this again: see your prospect list as a list of networks, NOT as a list of individuals. And begin now to study these networks, to segment the individuals within these networks and to devise scripts, business plans and strategic alliances with each and every one (where it makes sense).
Seeing individuals as networks is perhaps the most important mind change for the C-Suite. In a world of social networks and social business, such a leap is how large corporations will stay alive. As Peter Economides, a leading market strategist, has said, “Mass is the aberration, one-to-one is the convention.” We have to get back to the mindset of the neighborhood shop, the hyper-local one-to-one way of business. This is how economies will flourish again, and why large businesses should begin to invest cash into lucrative local pools of affiliates.
When a corporation receives access to social networks through its staff, when the C-Suite is introduced into these networks, the initial questions have to do with practical application. An employee seeking to demonstrate the practical application of social business need only pick up the old rolodex on the desk of his/her CEO. That rolodex, that little black book, IS the central symbol for clueing the C-Suite into the practical application of social networks. And the entity that started in 2007 to build online rolodexes, to segment these into lists of prospects, future employees, affiliates, vendors, and competitors, has already streaked out ahead of the entity just entering social networks.
Eleftherios Hatziioannou, Principal at Peopleizers, captures the dilemma for corporate leaders: “Marketers and the organizations behind them need to stop thinking in quantitative metrics only and add some deeper/relationship-based success factors to their strategies. However, these are more difficult to scale, because it takes one relationship at a time. This puts many businesses off. They think: How am I supposed to answer every single question out there? Isn’t it more efficient to just keep interrupting people with our messages the way we did in the past decades?”
Corporations wishing to succeed in social networks will have to divert a percentage of advertising & media spending towards a new “Relationship Marketing” Department, populated with customer-service minded folks — the mindset in this department ought to be more like the real estate agent vs. the call center “cold caller” who has to get through a specific number of calls before lunch. In this new Relationship Marketing Department, it’s about quality contacts and quality networks derived from research followed up with highly customized customer-service flavored sales — solutions-oriented sales leading to a long-term relationship.