The wind can blow out the candle and brighten up the bonfire. The same happens with the randomness, uncertainty and chaos: we must learn to use them, instead of keeping themselves away. We must learn to be fire and hope that you get up in the wind. [N. Taleb in il Sole 24 ore]
We need to benefit from shocks, thrive and grow in this time of crisis, and we can make it if we start looking at consumers as our most valuable stakeholders, if we engage with them a relationship that, in addition of being value for them is also an emotional one. We can do this, thanks to the channels of social communication that the internet makes available to us. Harvard Business Review tells us that there are only three rules for success:
- Better before cheaper; in other words, compete on differentiators other than price.
- Revenue before cost; that is, prioritize increasing revenue over reducing costs.
- There are no other rules; so change anything you must to follow Rules 1 and 2.
However, in Italy…
Recently, a company of which I knew the owner has being sold (for approximately € 3 million) because he can no longer sustain loss accumulated because of the crisis. Two years ago, the owner had entered € 3 million of fresh capital for revamping. Shortly before the recapitalization, I suggested to renovate the brand through the development of an app (a few tens of thousands of Euros of investment) to recover the original emotion to users. The choice of management, however, was not to make investment, but proceed with the usual reduction of costs.
This is the typical approach. Even more stringent in small and medium-sized enterprises strangled in their growth by the Italian banking system. It is clear that first thing to cut is marketing. No wonder then in the third edition of “The SocialMediAbility of Italian companies”, promoted by the Executive Master in Social Media Marketing & Web Communication, the results, which have been presented by Professor Guido Di Fraia, scientific director of the Master, at IULM University, have provided a rather difficult situation for SMEs. Among the numerous data presented, the main are:
- companies that use at least one social network for marketing and communication activities grow up (from 49.9 % in 2011 to 63.8% in 2013) ;
- the gap between big companies (where 57.3% ran at least one social media in 2011, go to 81,1% in 2013) and small and medium enterprises (where growth was only 7%) widen up;
- open a social channel does not necessarily means manage it in an optimal manner. This is particularly true for all sizes of enterprise (although on average, the bigger the firm size the better is the “quality” of social network use), as is demonstrated by the SocialMediAbility index that, on a scale from 1 to 10, in 2011 amounted to an average of 1, 16 and in 2013 came to only 1.91.
Yet consumers have changed. Eurisko tells us that Italians believe less and less to large companies and their advertising messages. Consumers buy branded products only in front of radical price cut that make the offer more convenient. Customer satisfaction alone is not enough to create brand loyalty.
Recent studies told us that what we need is engagement, or an emotional bond between consumer and brand or between consumer and product. Eurisko tells us “in these situations the brand must be able to intercept and interpret needs that we just called the second type or the second level. Summarized in pathways such as traceability, transparency, efficiency, accountability, naturalness, of lightness. Only brands able to listen to the community, trying to provide full attention to the signals that come from all touch points will survive. Hence to value more the contact points of the experience, results into a culture of products/services drawn (or perceived) on a personal basis.”
In short, to succeed, it is necessary to build a social relationship with consumers. It is important:
- to provide value, with communication, to consumers;
- to intercept their needs, that have changed, asking for innovative product and relationship.
Is it time for our managers, not just for the marketing manager, to undertake a master’s in social media and exploit the opportunities that the new consumption patterns provide those who know how to seize them. What Berto Salotti, Caffè Carbonelli, Omega Impianti snc and many other SMEs have shown already: be social, becoming antifragile and win the crisis.