Relationship Marketing

There’s a great piece that’s been percolating around the Enterprise/Social space right now, based around ‘Why Every Company Needs a Robert Scoble‘ –

With free sexy infographic!

Written by Mark Fidelman, Social Business Strategist over on SeekOmega, he talks about brand evangelists and how awesome they are at –

‘…creating exceptional buzz around their brands that was once the domain of the world’s largest media powerhouses’.

He’s not wrong.

But, like everything else in the fast-moving world of digital and social, this too shall pass. Scoble is a purple cow in this area, a unique being amongst others who’s clout klout alone can help make or break a business. At least, you’d hope so. One only has to look at his immense activity on new web darling ‘Quora‘ to see the kind of dedication he puts into something he likes. One would imagine that he also quite likes his employer, Rackspace.

And it’s here that we find the rub.

This morning things got even more interesting when renowned analyst and commenter Dennis Howlett weighed in with his well thought out analysis over on ZDNet. CFO and investor commentary aside, Dennis’ experience in this area is second to none and he provides some excellent counter-points to Fidelman’s post.

However, when talking about Rackspace and their rather fantastic reputation in the Enterprise space, this quote in particular stood out for me:

“Whenever I have discussions with customers about their IT landscape and data center thoughts, Rackspace’s name is never very far from the conversation. Why? The company has established a solid reputation that customers are happy to talk about. As we have all known in this industry for a very long time, relationships drive enterprise sales harder than anything else. Get customers talking to one another and you’re off to the races. Tick them off and you are in deep trouble.”

I’ve bolded the bit I’m really focusing on here. Howlett has been writing about enterprise software for the best part of 20 years and provides some great extra analysis on top of Mark’s initial conjectural piece around the value of a true, brand evangelist. Seriously, go read it.

The point he makes above is neither new thinking or any kind of rocket science, but what it is is exactly what we, as word of mouth practitioners believe in through and through; if you have a kick-ass service and can deliver on your promises – then get your customers talking. It’s that simple.

The brand evangelist can help facilitate those conversations but, as Dennis quite rightly points out, that is only one piece of a much larger marketing pie*.

Scoble himself is naturally self-depreciating (and completely on point) –

Shouting about a product is easy. Creating meaningful relationships over a sustained period of time which consistently deliver against fundamental key business critical metrics? Well, that’s something else entirely.

Relationships. Matter.

It’s that simple.

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Author: James Whatley

Experienced advertising and communications strategist working in brand, games, and entertainment. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

12 thoughts on “Relationship Marketing”

  1. Great post and important debate. There's another element here too: nearly all the brand evangelists mentioned in the article and of course Scoble himself work in *technology*. This means that things spread fast and impactfully in a specific community but how much does any of this effect the man on the street?

    Is a brand evangelist with loads of followers and fans really going to make much difference to a brand that wants to reach 65 year old whisky fans? I can guarantee none of my friends and family outside this industry have heard of Robert Scoble. Yes, you can always find an evangelist where the fish are – an influential mod in mumsnet, say – but quite frankly the social media evangelist will only ever reach a certain type of person who seeks out and follows 'leaders' on these sites. Lots of people just don't care.

    Have a read of Martin Vejlgaard's 'Anatomy of a Trend'. As he points out, we are still too much in thrall to Everett's 'Diffusion of Innovations' model – an influencer pushes information directly down his network – which works well for industry-specific ideas and technology, but less well for things and cultural trends.

    sytaylor Reply:

    I look at how well Addidas have done ambient, consumer led marketing events over the years through WOM, and relationship building. Celebrity endorsement has always been effective when you marry it to a community. The evolution here, is the tech geeks didn't really have a community or celebrities before.

    When a new technology breaks, it's inevitable that the tech companies themselves are the first to embrace it, but for me the idea of a Social Media evangelist has crossed the chasm with brands on Facebook & Celebrities on twitter.

    Granted I think it needs to evolve some way before it becomes every day, but over the course of a decade, we're going to see old habits like email die, and relationship based communication become the norm.

    I was talking with a colleague who works for the same company as me in our Internal Marketing team. We sell business to business financial products, & aren't market leading when it comes to innovation. We're the safe bet, the old IBM of the space. This is someone who has built a career out of amazing inter-personal skills, and relationship building. She was scared of Social Media, and not coming across as professional or official.

    To me, that hit the nail on the head. The culture of business still values cold, steely, industrial professionalism over a human relationship at the middle tier. Whilst at the Senior tier, it has always been about relationship.

    I see Social Media as a way to expose our latent humanity in business. This will be a slow transition. Old habits die hard… but they do eventually die.

    James Whatley Reply:


    “I see social media as a way to expose our latent humanity in business”

    100% in agreement with you there. Good words.

    Scott Gould Reply:

    Molly thanks for the heads up on 'Anatomy of a Trend' – have found a wikisummary of it and will read later 🙂

    Molly Flatt Reply:

    It's awesome – I'd recommend getting a copy off Amazon or if you drop by the office you can borrow mine! Reminds you how we *truly* get influenced in reality – in a very complex, amorphous, multisensory way…

    Scott Gould Reply:

    Thanks – I see it's £70 to buy online… lol

    Robert Scoble Reply:

    Molly: I think you're totally missing one important thing here, though. I've been on CNN, FOX, BBC, in the NYT and many other media outlets and many companies have told me that they've gotten into main stream press due to being on my show. Why? Because many of those journalists watch my show and are looking for new things to push to their audiences.

    Also, I don't talk about whisky much, so why would a whisky fan care about me? But if he searches Google for interesting new iPad apps, there's a good chance he'll come across something I've done and might not even care about who wrote it.

    As to the main point about what I do, build and keep relationships, absolutely true. That's the bulk of what I do for Rackspace.

    Molly Flatt Reply:

    Hi Robert, good points all, and I love the point about relationships: they're always at the heart of this, no doubt.

    However, I'm talking about peer to peer WOM, not broadcast media / journalism: so it;'s great that you've given journalists more fuel to spread to their audiences, but that doesn't put those audiences in contact with peer opinion, but paid journalism.

    And yes, as I said, a whisky fan might well find out lots about technology by searching online and in that field you may well be influential to them, because one glance will show you're an expert in the field. But they may well not be on social media at all. And they may not even know how to search for a whisky blog, or be comfortable doing so.

    My point is not that online advocates are not useful, but that it is a model with its limits, and brands need to look at other ways of developing relationships (offline and on); and other ways of stimulating word of mouth for those who aren't necessarily interested in a deep relationship with a brand, but would be influenced by a low barrier trigger or experience – multiple engagement opportunities, not rigid adherence to an influencer model.

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