I had an interesting morning yesterday. A prospect came to the office to determine if we are able to address his business needs. He had a fascinating perspective since over the past two to three weeks be has met about ten companies with online community building solutions. Here was a company that has been researching available software solutions and his take on what he’s learned so far, “it’s so hard for a business person to figure out the marketing value in an online community. All the vendors do is talk about technology and features. I think I know the value and it’s ability to support my goals, but you guys are making me connect the dots”. He said that it reminded him of the pre-2000 era of selling software, where the people selling the product had little sense of communicating the business value. But, it was cool and new.

I think he is dead on. The social media software market has done a poor job at talking business value. You hear analysts and leading industry bloggers talking about companies “testing and experimenting”. This is a clear sign that businesses are struggling to “connect the dots”. You have to wonder why we make this so hard for marketers. Marketers love to buy things and we hide the good reasons for them to buy.

This is really a very simple value proposition. Here’s a question for you marketers out there… would you spend a dollar a year to improve your engagement and communications to some of your best customers? Remember the 80/20 rule? Isn’t it worth a dollar a year for you to have a stronger, more educated relationship with the top 20% of your customers? Customer engagement is about an ongoing relationship. Relationships are not campaigns. And that is the sad state of how many are being “advised”. Wrong. Agencies love campaigns because that means greater client spend. A campaign approach overly complicates the value proposition. And more importantly, prevents the business case to get started with minimal risk. Ha, be pragmatic. Please stop over complicating the effort. This stuff really is simple.

Social media marketing needs to start connecting the dots of business benefit- for both you and your customers. Adding social media marketing to your mix has a simple value proposition. Start by focusing your online marketing spend around the high-value customers you want to retain and the high-potential customers you want to grow. This is about micro segmented marketing. And in today’s economy, target marketing is a requirement, not just a good thing to do.