And, honestly, eleven isn't the real number. The real number is something closer to infinity.
This is the problem with where we've been, and where we are going.
Back in the day (or today), we bellied-up to the poker table, and we bet $60,000 in chips on an "affinity model", or whatever neat name has been created for algorithmically-derived prospects. Even if we had hardly any money left, we were willing to go "all-in", because we knew that we'd get $50,000 to $70,000 back, with the potential for another $20,000 in future value.
It was(is) too easy. You only need one analyst to communicate to a co-op analyst and a merge/purge analyst, and an entire business suddenly scales. Toss Google into the mix, and your one analyst can work with a search vendor analyst. You hire one person, and that one person delivers 85% of the new names acquired by your business each year.
Think about that for a moment ... one analyst (ok, at big companies it's maybe 3-4 analysts, but so what), 85% of the new names, and 90% of your future profit ... let me say that again ... one analyst and 85% of your new customers and 90% of your future profit.
What's not to like about that? That "scales", doesn't it?
Social Media doesn't work, for a LOT of reasons (it also, by the way, is the reason for most of the sales for many business models catering to a non-catalog audience ... customers under the age of 30).
I spoke with the Social Media manager at a large business. This person described her day to me:
- Responding to hundreds of fans on Facebook.
- Posting daily content on Facebook.
- Responding to hundreds of followers on Twitter, linking many of them with the Customer Service department due to problems with recent orders.
- Writing 2-3 articles for the company blog, each week.
- Answering a half-dozen blog comments each day.
- Attending four hours of meetings each day, and, often, getting jeers from co-workers who feel that the individual is not generating sales.
- Creating Foresquare promotions that will be accepted by the retail marketing team.
- Trying to get the analytics team to measure the value she brings to the company, having the analytics team say that her initiatives are not a "high priority".
- Making sure that all channels will accept promotions she offers on Twitter.
- Having to tweet promotions from all other channels in order to create multi-channel "synergy".
- Research new social media channels.
- "Join the conversation" with other marketing executives chatting via social media.
Doesn't sound like much fun, does it?
Now, you could hand off the responsibility for all social media activities to your call center, that makes logical sense, but that doesn't help social media become part of the "fabric of your brand", does it?
And it's only going to get more complicated than this. No wonder the social media elite want for you to find ways to get your "brand advocates" to evangelize for you!
It's like we're trying to leap the Grand Canyon by getting a 40 yard running start and then jumping up in the air as we run out of real estate ... the task is hopeless.
In 2012, we need to begin the process of getting from one side of the canyon to the other, without taking a running start that renders a mathematical certainty (plunging to the bottom of the canyon).
The reality is that there is a mix of old-school / online / mobile / social that works for all customers ... the problem is that the mix is different for every single customer! Do it all, and you'll be unprofitable. Do only pieces of it, and you are stuck in a no-growth environment.
The traditional label of "multichannel" simply doesn't scale anymore, does it? Each new channel either completely cannibalizes an old channel (catalog --> e-commerce --> mobile), or there are literally an infinite combination of new channels (social) that do not appear to have any short-term impact on sales. And if you want a new channel to work (flash sales), you have to give merchandise away in order to "prove" that the new channel works ... which, of course, means that the new channel truly "doesn't work"!
I'm not trying to put coal in your stocking.
Instead, I'm trying to agree with you. All of this stuff has become complicated, hard, and not directly measurable. And the "success stories" that we read about aren't portable, in other words, you can't cut and past what somebody else did, and expect success.
I do believe that various methods for "emerging from the chaos" will become apparent, not necessarily in 2012, but in 2013 - 2015. As the USPS slowly kills off cataloging, catalogers will move online. And as mobile slowly kills off e-commerce (for some), folks will make the jump to mobile. And somewhere in that mix social will play a yet-to-be-determined role.
That's at a macro-level.
At an individual customer level, you throw out all rules, don't you? Our job is to categorize customers (Traditionals, Transitionals, Transformationals), then either push marketing at them as we always have (Traditionals) or figure out how relate to customers who pull personalized content to them (Transformationals).
No answers, yet.
But we will get there, we always do.