The “Law of Unintended Consequences” often rears its ugly head when our best plans result in side effects we never anticipated…and often really didn’t want.
While it’s bothersome and even harmful when it happens in your personal life, it can be devastating when unintended consequences in your content marketing and social selling actually hurt your company’s profitability.
At the heart of content marketing and social selling is the basic premise that to get closer to your customers’ hearts and wallets, you should align your content and social strategies with what you see and read on social media. Social listening, monitoring blog comments, and tracking analyst reports are all good tactics to stay aware of trends and topics that are top of mind with your customers and prospects. Unfortunately, the unintended consequences come when you count on those customer comments and analyst reports to drive profitable sales.
Classic economic studies point to customer “declared preference” versus “revealed preference” as a real-life buying trend. The idea is that people will say one thing when nothing is on the line, and then behave in a completely opposite way when money and personal reputation are at stake. That principle applies to social media. Sure, customers may hint at certain thoughts and ideas on social networking sites and collaboration portals, but when it comes right down to it, they’ll only buy if you present a compelling value.
The other exposure to social listening comes from the influx of data and information that show up in 140-character headlines and sleek infographics. Don’t be fooled: Most of these data points are based on analyst surveys, news headlines, and Google searches. So while they’re interesting data points, they’re essentially worthless without greater context and analysis. Even worse—they’re the same data points your competitors have access to.
The result of basing your messaging and content on well-thumbed analyst reports and buzzy topics? A lack of differentiation, leaving you in a competitive bake-off that does nothing but commoditize your product and force a combative negotiation for your sellers that could end in excessive discounting and eventually hurt your bottom line.
How can you create content marketing and social selling strategies that can fuel profitable engagements? Focus your stories and content around the unconsidered needs of your customers—the challenges or missed opportunities they didn’t know about and didn’t realize could hurt them. Speak to these needs to show them they’re focusing on lower-order, tactical issues instead of the ones that will definitely impact them down the road.
The best way to do that? Assemble a cross-functional team to dig deeper into finding new, emerging threats, challenges, obligations, and opportunities that your prospect may not realize exist, or whose size and speed of impact on her business she’s underappreciated.
Your job isn’t necessarily to tell them they’re focusing too much time, money or effort on the wrong problem. Rather, it’s to use the conversation to point out how their problem is really just a symptom of a different and larger problem. That’s the conversation that will make you truly different, helping you drive buying decisions and avoid the unintended consequence of a commoditized message.