ROI vs. ROE -I did not do a good enough job selling social media.

I had my biggest challenge of trying to sell ROI for a social media project this past week and I lost. Passion lost. Clarity of message lost, and the power of the conversation lost out to the following unspoken sentiment, “I can’t pay for something where I can not see a clear 1:1 ratio of money spent and money earned.

I’ll be honest, my my own private little thought cloud right then and there was,”Oh yea? What did I spend? Hours of work, sweat equity if you will, on learning everything I could on why social media would make sense for you, mister client, and the irrefutable argument that went with it, and you can’t see it?”

On a side note: There is not a social media practitioner, marketer or evangelist out there, who would not agree that this person and their current business model would not have benefited from a solid injection of web 2.0 sensibilities.

Not only did I do my homework but I also spent hours on the phone with the conduit/project manager, who not only had bought my vision, but had also in the same process, drank the social media Kool-ade. I educated him to the extent that he totally got what I was saying. He GOT IT. Which to a lesser degree is a huge win. Why? Because we met through a 140 character conversation on Twitter. That’s right, this whole process and opportunity came about because of Twitter. The conduit in Austin, me in Naples, and the client in Phoenix.

At the end of the day though, after the nearly 2 hour Saturday conference call with the prospect, it became painfully obvious that he was not willing to spend what it would take to transform his personal brand and what he does for a living, into something more viable, accessible, and transparent- he wanted solid ROI. Not the hope of notion or perceived ROI. His thing was, “lets sell something that makes money, and I’ll pay you if I make money”.

All was not lost. First, I made a friend in Austin, who has passion, vision, and Get’s it. And whenever you meet someone who gets it- the potential for more opportunities like the one mentioned above will always exist.

Second, I learned some more lessons. I say more because I’ve been learning a lot of them lately. Failing forward if you will. I’ve been given some great indirect lessons from my peers through blog comments and tweets, individuals like Jim Storer, Paul Chaney, Valeria Maltoni and Jason Breed. Some lessons that are human and tangible. Lessons learned on the client side and lessons learned from the community. A win win..

So here’s the thing- Ultimately, I have to ask myself, did I do a good enough job of presenting tangible proof on why social media makes sense? I don’t know. I may be too close to the subject to answer that objectively. But The question does arise and will arise again; and this was a concern Friday night when I had completed the proposal and had attached a dollar value to it. Did I show enough proof? A proof of concept to justify the cost that would eventually increase ROI through engagement?

The bottom line is I guess not. Because the bottom line right now is very prominent, very front and center. Managers want to see ROI. They need ROI. I think what they don’t understand, is that if I’m going to embark on a social media campaign for a client, it involves a time suck and a commitment from the client and the person rolling out the project- the cost is labor and time, both of which I think are measurable and ultimately can be charged for. I’m sorry but I value my knowledge and my time and I’m going to charge for it. Ok… I’m starting to get a little fired up again so I’m going to stop here. But here are my parting words-

When you pitch the social media project of any scope and scale, Be thorough, and understand that all managers are going to really, really focus on the investment and the return, no matter how well YOU get the big picture. But you know what? One loss does not define a season. They’ll be more and I’ll do better.

Apologies to the social media community

Here’s the thing, yesterday I posted a snarky, bitter, pessimistic post about how I didn’t want to talk about marketing in a bad economy using social media. And that was wrong. really wrong. In fact you know sometimes when you think you nailed a post and you feel all happy and proud. Well I actually did feel that way yesterday, and man that was wrong too. I used the wrong language, the wrong approach and the wrong forum. I even engaged some of my peers in the social media community on Twitter to read my greatest latest post. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I’m so very sorry.

You see the deal is we need to fail forward right now. we need to try anything and everything right now and we need to share it, we need to keep trying and tweaking how we utilize social media marketing in a bad economy. Its funny, all it took was a simple question for me to see the light and to that I want to thank Jim  Storer of Mzinga for asking me-“Do you want us to wait till it’s figured out before using social media”? Touche Jim, and thanks for helping me see the light. I also want to apologize to Adam Cohen. I value Adams opinion and went to him like a proud puppy happy because of the crap I just produced. I’m sorry Adam, that was not something I should have shown you. It was poorly written, and It ignored the spirirt of social media and social media marketing. The spirit to try and communicate and take chances and be willing to share those experiences with the community. If we preach about the conversation, and about being transparent and authentic- in a bad economy you do ALL of that and more, and you keep trying and you listen. In my previous post, I basically said, stop listening.  and that couldn’t be more wrong. We need to be listening now, more than ever before. And that my friends is how we use social media marketing in a bad economy.