Today’s post is from Rusty Speidel, vice president of marketing at Encell Technologies. Rusty is a 20-year veteran of the internet/online marketing space, specializing in alternative energy marketing and user experiences.
I’m a one-man Marketing department for an alternative energy startup. As such, I rely on a lot of consulting assistance to set and execute against my company’s marketing objectives. We use services from all types of vendors; IT consultants, software developers, web design firms, PR firms, even procurement and manufacturing firms. It’s part of being a startup and I actually relish the freedom it gives us to act quickly on ideas. I come from a user-experience background, so I like staying connected to the latest trends in marketing from the customer’s point of view, including social media tools, customer-controlled communication and transparency. In a former life I actually built an entire social network about auto racing, so I appreciate the philosophies and processes of connection and sharing.
But lately, I’ve been feeling a little fatigued. OK, a LOT fatigued. Suddenly everywhere I go there are “opportunities to connect.” Whether it’s loyalty programs like the CVS Card, Cardagin, and Groupon, location –based social tools like Foursquare or Places, any one of thousands of social media “experts” that claim to have all the answers for this new marketing paradigm (like Google+), or the hair-trigger salesmen that react to any request for online information with four phone calls and seven emails within 30 minutes, it’s all just getting exhausting. It feels like if I don’t react to all these “opportunities” it’s me that’s missing out, not plugged in, not up to speed. I can’t even order lunch or buy a quart of oil without being asked if I’ve joined this or that rewards program, or if I’ll go online to take a survey. I’m actually starting to get angry with these poor cashiers.
At work, it’s not a lot better. We make batteries. Large batteries. We are not a consumer brand, we are a large-scale energy wholesaler. While I agree that using the social platforms to create thought leadership in the alternative energy space online is appropriate, I am not particularly worried about reaching fans on Facebook. I don’t need a Twitter-based customer service department yet. And yet every PR and marketing assistance proposal I receive suggests I need just that. Everyone’s climbing on the social media bandwagon so aggressively that I just shut down.
Everyone just STOP. Stop now.
I don’t WANT to find my service station on Facebook. I don’t NEED a rewards program for toothpaste. I don’t feel particularly stressed over the fact that our company is not completely plugged in to every social network available RIGHT NOW. I do not need to share every little detail of my personal or professional life on YouTube. I DEFINITELY don’t need another lecture on “how to create a social presence online.” What I NEED is expertise in mapping my company’s needs to strategies that reach my customers where they are, not where the expertise is headed. None of our competitors rely much on social platforms and 70% of our customers still make buying decisions at trade shows. Why doesn’t that matter?
It feels like the old snake oil days, when gypsies roamed the west on covered wagons hawking the latest solution to whatever ailed folks back then. Today’s sarsparilla is SEO, social media monitoring, blogging advice, video production services, reputation management, letting the customer tell you what he wants, etc. It’s totally, completely overwhelming. Sometimes I think the industry likes to keep it that way so they can make a living explaining it.
I am sure I am not alone. Communications professionals take note: there are other disciplines out there besides communications. They don’t all see the world the same way you do, and the overload is starting to hurt the head. Soon it will start to hurt your bottom line.