It's been a long time since I last talked about the books I am reading. I can explain: life's been happening. And.
Not all the books I read are specific to genealogy, of course. It only seems like I eat, drink, sleep, and breathe genealogy. In reality, I do other stuff, too. With a caveat, of course. Remember those old get-into-college word analogy tests from high school years, the kind that has you wrestle with a sentence like "this is to that as the other is to..." and then you pick a fourth item to fill in the blank?
Ever since high school, my brain has learned to work like that. So, the caveat is that even the books I do read will invariably trigger some genealogy-related thought. If not specific to pure genealogy, you can be sure it will be related to at least some aspect of coordinating a genealogical society. Those are the not-so-rose-colored glasses I'm seeing through right now.
So, while my mind was trying to concentrate on marketing while reading this book, Killing Marketing, by authors Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, I couldn't help but notice how well their advice would apply to those of us wishing to support group efforts in the pursuit of our family history.
For instance, Pulizzi and Rose compare traditional advertising to the child in the back seat during a family road trip, asking, "Are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet?" The goal of old-style sales departments was to get the word "out there" in every channel they could, in the hopes that the right set of eyeballs would light upon the right ad at just the right, buyable moment. Which meant that ads saturated the environment. One never knew when would be just the right moment to catch the potential customer. Thus, the continual harangue.
It doesn't take long, in thumbing through this book, to realize that the authors are advocates of a more content-driven approach to marketing. Perhaps we can call this a more holistic approach, at least from the point of view of what the customer needs, not what the company would like to sell. The book is full of mini case studies of companies with approaches which seem more respectful of the customer's needs.
In telling of an online resource acquired by Johnson & Johnson—BabyCenter.com, where mothers can share insights, observations, or questions—the authors quoted a Johnson & Johnson executive who revealed the value of the website to the company. Basically, the data gained from the thousands of consumers who participated in the online site provided the company with insight on what their potential customers preferred, needed, or would love to have, if it were a new type of product or service to make their life easier. The authors' conclusion from this example?
If we can begin to gather more valuable data from our audience, we can become a more competent company—and enable much better business decisions across the sales and marketing spectrum.
In another example—one far removed from the type of daily business most of us would conduct—the authors mentioned a company in business to provide various chemicals for electronics companies, a very specific niche market, to be sure. One strategy employed by the company was to set up a blog on engineering topics which would be useful for their core constituency. Having given a tech-sounding example of the type of content shared in this blog, the authors commented,
Even if you don't know what that means, you can appreciate what they are striving for: to bring ideas to life through interactive conversations.
That's when the connectivity light bulb went off in my head: bringing "ideas to life through interactive conversations." Remember those old genealogy forums where some of us used to post our queries about our brick wall ancestors, or where we hoped to find distant cousins to collaborate with us in pushing back further through the generations? At one point in the early years of online genealogy, that multitude of conversations produced an impressive mass of data.
Think of that resource for a moment, not from the viewpoint of a family historian, but from the point of view of the company who missed their opportunity to trawl through all that information to assess trends and where their customers would be headed in the future.
Now, of course, the company more likely to benefit from all that genealogy researchers' data is Facebook, not Ancestry.com. Perhaps Ancestry already knows what all their customers would like to buy from them next, and doesn't bemoan such a loss of information. Or perhaps they will wryly nod and agree with the authors' observation:
An audience that you are delivering value to today may not be in the market for your product or service. But the audience members will be more than happy to tell you when they are in the market for your product or service, and you will be top of mind when they are.
Not that this only has to do with genealogy niche giants such as Ancestry. Those of us running far smaller organizations like Your County Genealogy Society Dot Com can take such advice to heart, as well. I don't know about your local society, but when our board brainstorms on how to attract additional potential members, invariably there is someone who pops up with a suggestion which has more of the "are we there yet, are we there yet" flavor than our twenty-first century opportunities merit.
Even as small "companies," our organizations need to take on a future-minded approach to outreach. We need to envision the "typical" member of our future and speak to those people's needs. One bit of advice shared by the authors of this content-marketing book will serve us well, even as nonprofit organizations—and especially as we craft our social media outreach plans or upgrade our website design to draw in potential new members.
One of the critical things to understand about the investment in an audience is that it is made of up people who want to hear from [us]—continually.... These are people who are willingly sharing their personal data, interacting with our tools and giving us permission to converse with them because we are delivering value through the content-driven experience.
You are "delivering value," aren't you? It's that value you provide which will encourage others to increasingly interact with you until they realize they may as well become a part of your organization, not just as visitor, but as member. In exchange, the information you glean from these future members will reveal just what your potential "customers" would like to receive from your organization—a mutually beneficial feedback resource to help you remain pertinent to others well into your future.