This is indeed an exciting time in the procurement world as it relates to emerging social media and social networking strategies.
In the past, organizations traditionally relied upon analyst reviews and industry pundits (re bloggers) such as yours truly, to get the coverage and subsequent connection with their target market in the hopes of distinguishing their brand.
Of course the reliance on third-parties to establish a brand presence was not cheap as analyst firms such as a Gartner would charge as much as $10K to $20K to do a review of a company – usually in the form of a white paper, while blog sponsorships could run as much as $3K to $4K a quarter. A hefty price to pay for what amounts to a logo placement and periodic coverage. However, and before the emergence of SaaS-based solutions, if said avenues led to a sale it ultimately resulted in a multi-million dollar contract so cost justification was not necessarily a problem.
Now in the old days and much like stock analysts such as Henry Blodget, both sides of the market (those selling to, as well as those buying from) were inclined to appoint a grand poohba as the oracle of universal wisdom and trending insights upon which acquisition decisions could be reliably based. In essence a logo placement and periodic coverage carried weight in that by being featured in a Blodget-type venue meant that the company would credibly emerge on the market’s radar screen thereby opening the door to sales opportunities that might not otherwise had been there beforehand.
Unfortunately, and based upon what was for many companies a price that only a select few could afford to pay, some of the most innovative firms were relegated to a somewhat obscure existence having to content themselves with a boutique-type market presence while yielding the big opportunities to the much larger ERP players who had the war chest to play in the big pond.
Fast forward to today, and with an historic ERP-centric initiative failure rate of 85% or higher and the low entry cost associated with on-demand pricing models that have replaced the heavily capitalized traditional license/maintenance fee structure, many now question the veracity of the advice that was delivered through these traditional analyst channels. However, and unlike any time in the recent past, the advent of social media means the smaller players can now capitalize on the gap in creditability and establish the same influential market reach through self-directed blogging, social network forums and even Internet Radio and TV. The key of course is for these firms to remember that the linchpin rule of success in the self-directed virtual realms is to avoid “broadcasting” or talking at the market instead of engaging them through gently-branded conversational exchanges that deliver objective value and real insight.
Without a doubt this is a difficult balancing act that requires a deft touch so as not to descend into the largely ineffectual and forgotten infomercial abyss of a chest pounding, aren’t we great proclamation. Nothing will turn off an audience more than the distribution of what is in reality a seemingly contrived, self-serving dissertation that masquerades as real news.
In fact, this is one of the main reasons, along with a disconnected understanding of how a non or gently-branded approach in which the company name isn’t front and center can lead to sales, that have kept organizations from entering the social media waters. This, and an abject fear of the unknown at the executive suite level, which is why the IBM Blue Box social media platform is interesting. But that is a discussion for another day.
Suffice to say, it was only a matter of time before companies would clue in to the fact that taking their properly crafted message to the streets represented a far more effective means of getting the word out to an increasingly wired-in global audience, versus their risking being left out of the conversation by clinging to the side of the pool which is the analyst websites and blogs.
This presents a daunting challenge to analyst firms who’s pricing models had restricted them to a limited number of client information sources leading many to ask why one would pay $10K or $20K to a Gartner when, for the same money you can establish you own strategically focused presence in the market.
Think about it for just a minute. In June 2009, I launched the PI Window on Business Blog as an adjunct to the Blog Talk Radio Show of the same name. The total number of unique views/downloads for the entire month was an appreciated but paltry 217.
In December 2009, the total number of unique visits/downloads for the month was more than 6,000, while July 2010 saw us surpass the 16,000 mark. In August we more than doubled the July number with 35,000 unique views and downloads. What I am saying here is that gently-branded, community serving information is a powerful means by which companies can connect directly with their chosen market. So why pay a hefty sponsorship fee to someone else when you can and will ultimately have to do it yourself? Something along the lines of the the “if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day . . . but if you teach that man to fish, he will feed himself for a lifetime!” analogy.
Obviously and at this stage, many companies do not possess the social media skill sets to develop and execute a strategy that will produce similar results to the example provided above. At least not at this point in time, as many are just now creating positions such as Senior Director of Online and Social Media or New Media Specialist I. But to reiterate, it is just a matter of time. And as more organizations realize that they are indeed the best ones to carry their value message to the market, analyst firms and industry bloggers will find themselves operating in a heavily fragmented world in which old pricing models will have to be adjusted downward as a reflection of the growing internally-driven reach of both new and existing clients.
Another of what are many emerging signs that this monumental shift is well under way is the launch of Corporate United’s new Pressitt-based blog – although the Pressit site refers to itself as being a Social Media News Release service. Putting aside for the moment both the semantical as well as feature differences between a Pressitt and say a WordPress site, reflecting the true spirit of the Pressit tagline, Corporate United is indeed “creating, publishing and sharing their news to an online, socially-connected audience.”
And even though services like Pressitt are now being utilized with increasing frequency to enable companies to establish their own communities of shared interest, we are not likely to see a total abandonment of a Gartner service offering . . . at least not right away. What we will begin seeing is a steady decline in rate schedules.
Sadly, and despite rate decreases, the Gartner’s and Aberdeen’s, along with blogs that are still charging sponsorship fees of several thousand dollars will be facing a very difficult future similar to the carriage’s future when the automobile burst onto the scene. For this reason, 2011 promises to be a very exciting year.