Understanding Your Customers Comes Before “The Five P’s of Social Media”3 min read

In his posting The Five P’s of Social Media–Where Do You Start? on the Fast Company site, Lon Safko writes about where to get started in social media that:  “The Five P’s are; Profiles, Propagate, Produce, Participate, and Progress”. His discussion is worth a review. ((Thanks to Brendan McLaughlin at Westglow Technology Consulting for pointing this article out to me.))

I might add a preface to to these “Five P’s” that is a fundamental precursor to success in web social media (as well as all other marketing).

Focus on your customers, clients, and prospects first – what is your value to them?

Focus on your customers, clients, and prospects first. What is it that they are interested in? What is the value they desire from you? What language do they use to talk and think about the problems you might solve for them? Use the proven tools of FABing to keep your focus on what your customers are actually interested in. Don’t fill up your web space with content that they are not interested in and which is not presented in their language.

FAB refers to Features and Benefits (some say Features, Advantages, and Benefits). This is a simple, powerful axiom of marketing (and sales) that proves elusive even to seasoned practitioners. Simply put: Customers buy Benefits not Features. Features are the physical, functional attributes of a product or service. Benefits are the values, as perceived by the customer, of using a product or service.

For instance, I use a PaperMate PhD pen without fail.  Papermate PhD penIt has all of the usual features of a ballpoint pen: writes well on most media, retractable point, clip to hold on to my shirt pocket, cushioned grip, various colors (mine is black). It has mid range price of around $8. But none of these features interest me. I have been using this series for years because it is large diameter, impressive in size (especially compared to the cheap stick pens common to almost every office and store), has a PhD (something I never earned despite years at Cornell grad school) and you can see it in the hand of Jim Lehrer on the PBS News Hour every night.Jim Lehrer with PhD Pen

An example of speaking in your customer’s language is the use of “low fare” vs. “cheap” in key word searches by customers of Southwest Airlines (this example comes from a presentation by Greg Jarboe at a Boston Social Media Club event in February 2008). A head-to-head test of online marketing for air flights between Philadelphia and Atlanta showed that customers searched for “cheap” airfares not “low fares”. The lesson for Southwest was that, despite a corporate policy of never referring to themselves as a source of “cheap” transportation, if they want to reach their customers they have to use “cheap” in their web media because that is actually how their customers think.

So, before you undertake any marketing, perhaps espeically in the social web sphere where attention spans are very brief and sensitivity to authenticity is high, understand your clients, talk with them in their own language and then take on the Five P’s of Social media.