You know, back in 2010, when the Ford Motor Company announced their social media campaign for the new Fiesta, I knew this was going to be interesting. At the time, social media was this new, mysterious buzz word that everyone was finding so intriguing. What got my attention was, the company’s marketing head, Jim Farley publicly dumped the Super Bowl for Facebook in a media interview. He said that Super Bowl ads were great for unknown brands. Okay…interesting.
Instead of an auto show which is the place where every auto manufacturer unveils its new babies, Ford unleashed a Facebook campaign for its new Fiesta. Of course the campaign got attention! If you’re a good hawker and squawker, you get people’s attention. Next, the company dug itself deeper into the social media scene and came up with the “Ford Focus Global Test Drive” campaign. Once again, using Facebook, the company was calling out to “bloggers, social media mavens and Facebook friends”. These “friends” had to send in video applications to be selected among a 100 individuals who would be able to test drive the 2012 Focus around southern France or Spain before the car’s official launch. They had that silly sock puppet, Doug and his lackey John telling people all about the new Ford Focus through Facebook updates, tweets and YouTube videos.
Nice reels and many enjoyed them. Now let’s hear the real story.
Forbes and other leading media houses reported the Fiesta fiasco. By April of 2012, Fiesta had seen a drop in sales of 44% compared with the previous year. By early May, the company said their year-to-date sales for Fiesta compared with 2011 had dropped by 30% and were not expected to move up for the rest of the year. Did they say it was a “ground-breaking social media marketing campaign”? How big was the hole in their bottom line? I suppose this is what happens when your social media leaders are only “platform specialists” rather than marketing experts.
(By the way, in case you’re wondering why I’m telling you a story from the B2C world, be patient; I have a good reason and you’ll see why.)
Ford blamed everything from gas prices to the economy to competition. It’s a good thing poor Doug was only a sock puppet. Maybe he was to blame too. And John and Jim, and everyone else who thought finding friends on Facebook and tweeting all day would bring continued sales growth. How naive, what else can I say?
Marketing Out of Focus—Can B2B aFORD A Social Media Fiesta?
There’s a lesson here for B2B marketers. (See, I said I had a good reason for my story!)
- Firstly, even in the B2C world, spike marketing is not a sustainable strategy. And as I have said before, in the B2B marketplace, this is especially true. An attention-grabbing campaign, even on social media channels can bring you short term numbers. You should not regard this as an opportunity to simply hawk your wares. Hawking and shouting on social media cannot be a substitute for building engagement. That can only come from a balanced approach of integrated marketing—traditional, proven methods alongside newer ones.
- Secondly, customers, whether they are in B2B or B2C markets, are looking for unique, repeatable experiences. Did Ford manage to do that? Were they really listening or making an effort to find out what customers wanted? Obviously not, that’s why they are blaming everything and everyone after the fact. What should they have done? Why should every B2B organization aim to deliver the ultimate customer experience? I wrote recently about the 3 magic words of customer experience.
- And last, but not the least, a B2B lead generation funnel is a complex structure. Social media marketing can help to get a relationship started. But if you don’t nurture each one carefully, strategically managing your sales funnel, it’s going to fall through. You cannot rely on social media to close sales. When buyers are “socializing”, they are open to being engaged through value; they don’t want to be sold to. So please, stop shouting and start engaging. This is the real world, not a show reel.
Remember the story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp? It was one of my favorites. (I used to dream about riding a flying carpet to save a beautiful princess from an evil Sultan.) In our hunger and greed for shiny new things, we tend to ignore the old tried and true ones. If only we had more faith in that old, dusty lamp that organizations so easily dismiss as old-world marketing. If only we rubbed it and brought to the surface the strong, sturdy, shining metal of good, solid marketing common sense, we would see the marketing Genie and ask for all our wishes to come true.
And yet, we chase numbers. We hanker after glitzy, glamorous, sexy tactical approaches like social media campaigns. Sales and marketing continue to function in silos in a majority of B2B organizations. In the absence of aligned demand generation strategy, quantity rather than quality of leads becomes the notorious goal.
This has got to stop. We need to observe, analyze and learn from the mistakes of giants like Ford. Can we afford to lose marketing focus in the hocus-pocus of social media? What are your thoughts? If you have questions about social media and lead generation for your B2B business, email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.