The Demand Solutions Blog

The Most Effective Marketing (and Other Lessons from AIM)

Posted by Donald Davidoff on May 06, 2013

At AIM last week, I was up early for breakfast and wandered into the roundtable Lisa Trosien was leading, called “Talk Nerdy To Me.” If you’ve never experienced Lisa, you’re missing out on a true force of nature. I’ve barely woken up, and she’s already full of energy and just moving the discussion along—presenting interesting websites, asking the group questions and just generally always pushing forward.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this blog. About a third of the way through, she asked a senior marketing person (someone I’ve known for years and always watched what she’s doing as a bit of a bellwether for the industry) what she’s found to be the most effective marketing tactics these days. After a pause, the answer came back, “Well, I hate to say it, but it’s still the traditional stuff—driveby, website, referrals, …” [note: I would add ILS although this executive said they'’ve really cut back on ILS without any pain —maybe a good topic for a future blog].

I found that response incredibly interesting on two levels.

  1. It resonates with my experience that this industry has still not demonstrated that social media has a significant share of Lead Generation results. It’s still “for communication with residents,” or “just a tool…” or some such other handwave that tries to justify a level of effort that continues to appear to be disproportionate to the results [note: I’m not saying spend zero effort on social media; I’m just saying if it’s 10% of your results, don’t spend 50% of your time on it] 
  2. The context of “I hate to say…” continues to give insight into why we spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy on it. We want it to be more effective. We want to find the magic elixir that will justify it. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s sexy, maybe it’s new, maybe it’s just more fun than digging more deeply into SEO, figuring out PPC spend or grinding out analysis on ILS? Maybe we’ve already got our ILS and website strategies nailed, so we don’t have to spend as much time on those?

Or maybe we just want to be more like other verticals where social media appears to work (caution: the Liminal study by Razorfish I’ve written on before has shown that customers of all ages still prefer to interact with businesses through email and corporate websites rather than Facebook, Twitter, et al., so maybe it’s not as effective elsewhere as we think)? The fact is that we live in a unique business space—a very infrequently purchased, very high cost sale. There are very few other verticals like us. The more we focus on who our customer is, why they buy from and most importantly, HOW THEY BUY from us, the more effective we’ll be.

I don’t “hate to say” traditional channels still work the best, I celebrate it. What a great thing that we, as marketers, actually know what works. And think about this. If traditional channels bring us 100 leases while a new thing like social brings us say 5 leases, then a simple (and small) 5% improvement in the traditional channel would get you the same benefit as DOUBLING the effectiveness of the new channel.

I’m not saying to stop all your social media activities. But I am asking you whether you could find a way to get just a 5% improvement from your core marketing activities. And I’m suggesting do that first—then take the money and time you get from that success to continue to experiment with social media.