Like it or not, the Internet has changed marketing so much that most marketing gurus are scratching their heads just trying to keep up. And if you think it doesn’t effect making cheese, you are already on your way to lose your business.
The problem is, despite what they tell you, no one really knows yet what kind of beast this thing called social media really is. People are sending emails promising to solve your social media problem, but are they worth it, is there a clear economic return?
Nowadays, business cycles that took decades, flame out in just a couple of years. In the old days someone got a new idea, they invested in building their brand with a great visual identity, a catchy slogan, and the combination of public relations and marketing to establish themselves as first in market.
You could depend on maintaining your market lead for quite a long time, as long as you remembered that consumers needed to see your visual identity on a regular basis. You looked for the influentials; got press releases in their hands, and they wrote about you. In the Sunday food pages or the glossy food magazines, consumers read about you and bought your product.
Of course, it was never really that easy, and only one or two can be market leaders, the rest fighting over, well, the rest.
Nowadays someone gets a bright idea “online,” and finds an untapped market. Being first in market in a brand new niche, the biggest problem is filling orders. Almost overnight someone copies your success and you start to have competitors. Market leaders happen in a flash, but untapped markets are flooded just as quickly and so begins a race to the bottom.
Forget everything you ever learned about marketing, sales, and promotion in the past except one thing: food is, and ever will be, a person to person business.
The market segment is just as quickly exploited, and winning by growing your market share becomes winning by aggressive discounting, and the price wars begin. It grinds down into a war of attrition, a zero sum game, with everyone slowly choking themselves over pennies in order to try to try and maintain their market share.
It took 40 years for commodity cheese to go through a similar cycle. Nowadays, driven by investment dollars and fiber optics,what used to take decades takes only a couple of years. It is dizzying, and getting faster.
Take blogs for instance, in fact, food blogs. A few years ago, all you had to do was be a clever young person with a laptop, write a blog, get thousands of followers, sell ads, and win a $1 million book contract. They would even make a movie about you. Even if rare, it happened enough to create an urban legend. And that legend was enough to ignite an investor frenzy. Have blog, will invest.
Today, there are so many food blogs from so many clever young people: thousands of them. Heck, there are thousands of people writing “information products” promising “passive” sales. A flood of ebooks, online courses, and annoying emails promising us incredible riches online, if we only buy their book/online course/social media marketing service. It seems that the only people making money online are those promising to help other people make money online. The Internet is like the back page of comic books when I was young, offering amazing things like x-ray glasses and easy ways to strike it rich.
Before social media marketing and the Internet, promotion was like an amplifier. You had to up the volume so you could be heard. In today’s fast-moving, global, 24-hour investment speculation driven, online media world, promotion needs to become the opposite: an “attenuator” not an amplifier. An attenuator is an electronic device that reduces the power of a signal without appreciably distorting it.
Forget everything you ever learned about marketing, sales, and promotion in the past except one thing: food is, and ever will be, a person to person business. Online in social media, you have to find a way to tone it down in such a way that your audience, your customer, your “tribe” can find you.
And this takes us back to good old-fashioned marketing: who is your customer, what do they need that you can make and they are willing to buy at a price you can make money on. Never before has it been so important to know who your customer is, all the way to the end user. You have to to know your tribe.
So before you start your social media strategy, or more correctly, try to salvage your social media strategy, take this simple advice: get out of the building!
Follow the trail of your product all the way to the end consumer and learn everything you can about the people who inhabit each step of the way. How can you help make their life easier or little more enjoyable? Where do they spend their time online? (And they are spending their time online, even at work, thanks to smart phones.)
Knowing this, you can tone your signal down and aim it to the right places, getting people to listen in an intimate way, a personal way. That is the promise of social media, but first you have to get your signal heard in the noise.
And to help you, in my next column, I will introduce you to a whole new tribe you may not know exists. A tribe you ignore at your own peril. A tribe that if you engage in honest dialogue, can help you sell a lot more of your cheese.
That tribe is made up of American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professionals, or as they like to call themselves, Cheesemongers. DS
Dan Strongin runs a training and consulting company focused on delivering affordable online solutions to everyday business problems, including his udemy course: Understand Your Business, Earn More Money. Dan can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at (408) 512-1086, or you can visit and blog or get discounts on his courses on his site: http://www.managenaturally.com.
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