I have been reading the influential book Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. The entire premise of the book is based around negotiating and how to reach a desirable outcome. While reading through the beginning of the book I came across a section titled: Negotiators and People First. It had me thinking about social media and how we are fundamentally flawed as marketers when reaching out to the desired consumer.

A basic fact about negotiation, easy to forget in corporate and international transactions, is that you are dealing not with abstract representatives of the “other side,” but with human beings. They have emotions, deeply held values, and different backgrounds and viewpoints; and they are unpredictable. So are you.(pg 19)

This first thought hit me like a ton of bricks with more of a mental pain than a physical one.. of course. If you replace negotiation with the word consumer it is easy to see where we are flawed as communication professionals. Social media is opening up the world of peer-to-peer marketing and the single customer. How can we play in this world while using strategies from the past?

They have egos that are easily threatened. They see the world from their own personal vantage point, and they frequently confuse their perceptions with reality. Routinely, they fail to interpret what you say in the way you intend and do not mean what you understand them to say. (pg 19)

We assume that our customer profiles and survey groups are defining a subset of the population. We assume that the demographic profile handed down by the marketing department is not just a generalization but absolute fact. We design multitudes of campaigns around consumer types based on personality profiles.

And then… we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns that technically work because they are driven down the throats of the public.

Shouldn’t we be examining the people problem? Customers are people first and buyers second. What is the best way to communicate? Use the tools afforded to you through the Internet to reach a desired outcome: communication.

We are truly in the age of communication. Your customers are using social media tools on a daily basis to communicate their thoughts, ideas, pains, needs, and wants. I cannot see a better way to find that perfect customer than communicating with them on their turf… their home base.

When you are building your strategy plan for 2010 or trying to fill out the end of the year ask yourself, “Am I paying enough attention to the people problem?”

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