So, if you're in marketing you think you know your customers, do you? Sure, your sales team may have a CRM system that tracks all the internal communications, and back and forths between you and your customers. And you may even have access to this, so you can track them, too.
But who else is talking to your customers? That's right, the media. And analysts. And bloggers. And associations, trade show organizers, and events speakers. These and other "Industry Influencers" all have your customers' ears, too -- and are influencing the same buying decision that sales-oriented CRM systems are targeting.
So, how well are you doing talking to the Influencers? Are your most current logo and product specs in their databases? Do they have your webinars and seminars listed in their upcoming events pages? Are you on their list to contact for expert opinions on stories? Are you on their notification listing for speaker openings and awards program judge opportunities? Do they even have your up-to-date contact info? Do you have theirs?
We find we usually stump marketing departments with these questions. Marketing is late to the CRM game, largely because traditional CRM isn't thinking this way. Most of the CRM systems today are largely focused on known, ongoing, and direct relationships -- current customers, specific lists gathered from promotions, and partner programs. Marketing to the Influencers so they can influence the Buyers entails a different approach because many of these relationships can unknown, fleeting, and indirect.
Think of the reporter who visits your Web site for information for a story and never calls, or the events organizer who builds an agenda in your space without consulting your company, or the association that asks the engineer in your firm who attends the standards body meetings for any marketing materials that he/she wants to post to their site. Is Marketing in control of this?
Influencers create a broad range of buyer-affecting output -- from reviews of products, to listings of "Cool Tools" to buy for the Holidays, to awards that honor industry leaders. All of this requires data, processes, and relationships to pull off. And up to now, this has been done with a lot of rote manpower and few systems.
Enter a new class of relationship management that is quite different from CRM -- Media and Marketing Relationship Management (MMRM). Where CRM is more unidirectional -- from the seller to the buyer -- MMRM is necessarily bidirectional and relies on mutual interaction to gain full benefit. Indeed, MMRM systems are effectively creating marketing ecosystems that involve sellers and their PR firms, on the one hand, and reporters, editors, analysts, event organizers, awards program managers, associations, standards bodies, publishers, and other such interested parties, on the other.
The goal of MMRM is simple: Make your marketing content broadly and widely available to those databases, systems, and people who require it, at their point of consumption by the Influencers, so they can properly represent the company's message in Influencer output. Where human relationships were enough for years to handle Influencer relationships, the Internet, Search, RSS, XML, and other technologies have created an environment where machines are talking to machines and creating buyer-affecting output. You need data relationships, too.
Have you recently read a story about your firm online? Did you notice hyperlinks in those articles? Where did they come from? Often these are automatically added to articles based on keyword processes in the post-authorship process. Now think about the associated content to that story -- white papers, upcoming events, photos, movies, press releases, reviews listings, and more. Who is creating all this content and how is it getting on this site?
Now ask yourself how often do you see Web-based content that is dated, wrong, or otherwise inappropriate? All the time. You cannot blame the Influencers -- they are working with what they can often find given their deadlines. Putting yourself in the role of a reporter who has to create a chart comparing 15 companies' products against one another, how easy do you think it is today to go to 15 different sites and easily find detailed technical specifications that all match up to each other to fill out a nice looking matrix, and how much time will that take?
MMRM systems are supporting this process by normalizing more than 20 different types of marketing content to facilitate its spread across the Web. By retaining logical tethers to this information, marketers are in a better position to update that information later as products are retired, CEOs fired, white papers updated, user group meeting dates changed, and so on.
On the influencer side of the equation, influencers finally get access to meaningful feeds that they can use to drive new ways to track, filter, view, edit, and publish content. What's more, by having common processes, the sellers and influencers can appropriately and quickly and efficiently interact to exchange content not part of the normal info streams, like to get awards submissions, event speaker applications, and ideas for upcoming stories.
Up to now, systems supporting sellers and Influencers individually have failed to establish true relationships -- serving more as glorified mailing list programs and contact management programs. MMRM systems finally pick up where CRM leaves off.
About the Author
Danny Briere is the founder and CEO of mBLAST, and also a highly regarded consultant, author, speaker and journalist. For more than 20 years he has advised companies on product and marketing strategies.