relationship economics

March 13th, 2012

Optimizing Your Company’s Social Media Return On Impact


This blog is written by a member of our expert blogging community and expresses that expert’s views alone.

David Nour, author of “Return on Impact: Leadership Strategies for the Age of Connected Relationships,” offers tips on becoming a more social company.

My friend David Nour has just released his fourth book, Return on Impact: Leadership Strategies for the Age of Connected Relationships (ASAE, 2012), and not a moment too soon. In this resource-rich book, David elevates social from “doing”–networking, media, and collaboration–to “becoming” a more socially enabled organization through social market leadership.

I find David’s point of view refreshing. He proffers a fundamental mindset shift, provoking us to become more customer-centric in an age where empowered customers have far greater access to real-time information, connections, and company advocates. We must make the shift because governance in most organizations is outdated as social media and networks force us to think and lead differently.

Here are some highlights from my conversation with David:

LISA NIRELL: You interviewed over 100 association and corporate senior executives for this book. What led you to the conclusion that the impact of social media is more than just picking the right tools and sending out e-blasts, contests, and announcements?

DAVID NOUR: One of the questions I asked in my interviews was “Do you have a social strategy?” The resounding response was “YES,” but after further discussions, it turned out to be a very tactical approach using much of the current social media tools, primarily for marketing purposes. I equate that to the tail wagging the dog!

Visionary leaders see social as a business accelerant in their organizations. They are putting their customers, shareholders, and employees at the center. They are developing a robust social strategy, attracting world-class social talent, changing their governance policies, and leveraging social analytics to become more agile and nimble and tell great stories. They’re learning from intentional failures to move their people, teams, and organization forward.

How is social media affecting the growth planning among your B2B clients? Why is Porter’s Five Forces model being challenged?

Social is a great “signal scout,” and brings faint signals to any organization. If the organization is savvy and agile enough to listen louder and apply those faint signals to their products or services, it can take advantage of key market opportunities faster than its competitors. That’s where profitable B2B growth comes from. I have a lot of respect for Michael Porter and his Five Forces model as a strong asset to the field of strategy.  What Porter didn’t have decades ago were social networks, media, or engagement. He couldn’t have predicted the dramatic effect that a more holistic customer lifecycle, influencer marketing, and unique buyer types would have on the bargaining power of buyers. Many of his definitions of buyer concentration, buyer volume, switching costs, buyer information, buyer input, the ability to backward integrate, and decision-makers’ incentives were myopic given the information and resources he had at the time. Porter wasn’t challenged with the relationship between social influencers, brand affinity, and purchase decisions across different industry verticals. In essence, social influence positioning hadn’t been invented yet. Equate this to turbo charging Ford’s Model T.

Give us a high-level summary of your IMPACT model.

Immerse-Member-Participate-Accredit-Community-Transform. Immerse as broad of a market into your unique value-add and focus on how they’re better off because of you. Those who get it and matter will seek you out and will want to become members with exclusive privileges. Create world-class engagement opportunities for them to participate and get even more value from their investment of time, effort and resources. Accredit them through personal and professional growth so their knowledge, talent, skills, and access to influential relationships makes them more valuable in their markets. Develop a community of like-minded individuals who grow still through their interaction with one another. Finally, transform their situation. Only when they are truly transformed will they become evangelists for you.

You provide a comprehensive IMPACT scorecard to help leaders assess their social networking effectiveness. Who is using this today, and what are they learning from it?

The IMPACT Scorecard is more than an assessment tool for social networking effectiveness; it really is a benchmark mechanism against your competitive peers. We are currently implementing it and tracking our progress against it among a dozen global clients.They range from global account teams at a Fortune 50 client to a 40 year old trade association desperately trying to evolve beyond its legacy to its future.

How will social networking inform B2B marketing planning in 5 years?

I think marketing is going to continue to evolve from one-to-many, to one-to-one. Back in the late ’90s, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers were the parents of 1-to-1 marketing. I think in many ways, they were 20 years ahead of themselves. What social networking is doing to marketing is really elevating and validating 1-to-1 marketing.

Organizations who are savvy enough to learn from the social networking dialogue (vs. the monologue many practice today) to understand an individual’s needs, wants, and tastes will benefit from what socioligists refer to as being “ambient aware.” The more they learn about their customer’s digital footprints, the more they can cater to that individual’s experience. It’s thinking and leading differently because of social. It’s return on impact!

March 1st, 2012

Associations and Membership Models – MUST Reinvent!

A great discussion going on below in the ASAE Collaborate community if you’re a member or would like to learn more.  Much of the same ideas apply to corporate clients!


Robert – You’re right in that “membership” can be a big and complex topic but I also believe it to be a real opportunity in the evolution of the association business model.  Let me try to answer you questions directly:

Q. Can a dues-based membership business model exist in this environment?

A. I believe Assoc. have to start thinking very differently about how they define membership and dues.  Start by building a great deal of value for anyone who is interested in your space.  Put up a blog with a ton of content and articles, videos, a free newsletter subscription – all on your website for everyone, as sources of credibility, knowledge and intellectual depth.  Tell them the “what,” not the “how” - if they get value from the “what” you share, they’ll seek out and will be wiling to pay a premium for the “how.”  There lies the value of membership.  Anyone can attend one of your webinars, but if they want access to the digital recording as a download or access to the community to discuss the topic with the member or thought leader you invited after the event, they’ll need to become members.  They can download all the articles they want for free.  But if they want to really grow, personally and professionally, they’ll need to become members to participate in your various paid events.  Bottom line – Immerse the entire market in your value add and build such a strong market gravity / pull, that they see value in paying for premium products and services.

Q. Should dues paying, member-based associations accept the reality a greater percentage of companies or professionals will decide not to join now than in the recent past (say 10 years ago) no matter how much you improve the membership value?

A. Yes.  Break up the “membership value.”  Instead of an annual fee, give them options – all inclusive or a la carte!  Members are customers and customers want choices.  Option one – you get X; option two – you get X+Y; option three – you get X+Y+Z.  Member-based associations also have to get a lot savvier about segmenting and targeting current and future audiences.  Not everyone is a right fit for you at any point in time.  Associations must create an accelerant curve of valuefrom competitive offerings, to distinct, to breakthrough – which elevate an individual’s intimate relationship with the association, perceived value, and premium.

Q. Where does the association draw the line between its use for members only, as ASAE is doing with Collaborate, and include everyone, both members and nonmembers, for the industry or profession that your association represents?

A. The options I outlined in the previous question are NOT more of the same, but a deeper value add. 
The only way you’ll be able to distinguish truly differentiated value between what individuals or organizations get access to for free vs. a premium is to understand their needs (vs. wants) and gain conceptual agreement on THEIR objectives, measures and value.  If I can meet others in my industry through social media and gain similar education that you offer through other resources, why do I need your association?  Conversely, if you provide so much great content that a) I see you as the undisputed source of credible info, b) you get me – really understand my challenges and opportunities, and c) you become a purveyor of relationships between like-minded people (hence the Collaborate community by ASAE), I will be much more open to paying for your unique value-add.

Associations MUST change their lens from being internally focused on themselves, what they offer, their internal capabilities, which are all INPUT, to how are individuals, teams, and organizations better off because of them, i.e. how are their situations improved, enhanced, or otherwise elevated which is OUTPUT or outcome!  They must become an expert in all things their products: their member profiles!

One last comment I want to reinforce from the Thursday breakfast session: when the rate of change external to to the organization is faster than the rate of change inside it, the end is near!

Otherwise, I have no opinions about this matter! :-)

As always, welcome comments, push back, dissent by others.