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The Power of Transparency in Marketing

It’s a temptation that lures almost all marketers and salespeople: the desire to limit and control information to consumers. It seems so obvious – lead with your best attributes, downplay your least. Yet in many cases, this impulse turns out to be quite wrong.

An example – online car auctions:

Common sense would suggest some information—a car’s age and mileage—is essential, but that total transparency about other things (precise details on subpar paintwork) might deter buyers, and lower auctioneer commissions.

[Two researchers] set up a trial, randomly splitting 8,000 cars into two groups. The first group were auctioned with standard information, including age and mileage. The second had a detailed report on the car’s paintwork.

The results were striking: cars in the second group had better chances of a sale and sold for higher prices. This effect was most pronounced for cars in poorer condition: the probability of a sale rose by 23%, with prices up by 5%. The extra information meant that buyers were able to spot the type of car they wanted. Competition for cars rose, even the scruffier ones.              The Economist

The example is from an article about insights that micro-economists are bringing to business, but you don’t have to be an economist to get it.  Our trust in the seller, as well as our trust in the product, is increased when we know we have access to all relevant data.

Transparency in Talent

(Many) years ago I coordinated MBA recruiting for a small consulting firm. Our competitive offers fared poorly in terms of acceptance against BCG, Bain and McKinsey. Then I had an idea.

We had a worldwide partners’ meeting scheduled in Boston during recruiting season. I arranged for a select group of MBAs from Harvard and Sloan to have cocktails and dinner with all of our partner group (about 30 people at that time). The pitch was, we were the only firm who would offer 100% access to all partners worldwide.

Now, MBA students are not nearly as risk-seeking as they’d like you to believe – not, at least, about their first job. It turns out that the promise of transparency removed lots of perceived downside risk, and our acceptance rate soared that year.

Transparency in Marketing and Sales

The biggest fear consumers have of salespeople is that the salesperson will manipulate or mislead them – so their default position going in is mistrust. The early phases of a buying decision are also the times when the buyer has the least amount of information. In other words: salesperson suspicion is highest when the customer has the least data.

The answer seems obvious: make all relevant information easily available to consumers, in a manner which they control, and which minimizes the chance of manipulation. Your website, for example.

Having self-educated, consumers will then seek out salespeople for advice that goes beyond the data (does this work with Windows XP? can you customize it for wholesale grain distributors?). And this time, the interaction is near-free of suspicion.

The success of both inbound marketing and content marketing give evidence of the increasing use, and success, of this simple insight: transparency in marketing and sales helps all parties.

Good marketing and sales are enhanced by following trust principles, not by avoiding them. What’s good for the buyer is good for the seller too.

Sample Selling Without Giving Away the Store

“I know you recommend sample selling for intangible services, Charlie,” the caller said, “but I have to tell you, I think that’s naïve.”

“I followed your advice,” he continued, “I gave them a great idea; but I didn’t get the deal. Worse, they stole my idea; now they’re making it a practice area. You can’t trust everyone; you can’t give away the store.”

The Three Myths of Giving Away Too Much

My caller is not alone in his fear of being taken. And as the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

Yet he is the architect of his own misery. He has fallen prey to three mistaken beliefs. And while you can’t think your way out of all tough situations, this one you can.

Myth 1: Ideas, Like Shoreline, are Limited. I’ve heard it said there are really only seven jokes—all others are variations. I have no doubt that’s true: but there is no end to standup comedians telling no end of those variations. Limited categories don’t preclude infinite instances.

Myth 2: Ideas are the Scarce Resource. As a consultant, I originally bought into the idea that corporate strategies were invaluable; if discovered by competitors, they could bring the company down.

This turned out to be a conceit. In truth, you could give an entire industry public access to each other’s written strategies, and due to a combination of hubris, incompetence and the inertia of culture, very little would change as a result.

As the NRA might put it, “ideas don’t change businesses—people do.”

Myth 3: They’re Out to Take My Stuff. Yeah, some are. And they are the people who believe that ideas are limited and that access to ideas alone is valuable. See myths 1 and 2 above.

Those who are out to take your stuff are co-conspirators in a joint exercise of self-delusion. They’re like thieves bent on stealing counterfeit cash. Go find some fresh air to breathe.

Sample Selling without Giving Away the Store

Let me acknowledge that there are certain businesses where idea theft is quite real. Chemical formulae in the pharmaceutical industry, novels in the publishing industry, code in the software business—I’m not talking about these cases. They are covered by patent, trademark and copyright laws. There are still lawsuits, but by and large the rules and case law are very well developed.

I’m talking about marketing, change management, business strategy, process change methodologies, sales processes, communications, systems implementation—the world of complex, intangible services. Like jokes, there may be a limited number of categories—but there is an unlimited number of applications.

How do you avoid falling prey to the myths? How do you not give away the store? Here are three tips to remember.

Sample Selling Tip 1: Present Ideas Collaboratively. The context in which you present an idea is critical. Don’t waltz in and dump an idea on your client’s desk; first they’ll reject it, then they’ll tweak it, then come to believe it’s theirs—leaving you to stew in your own juices. (That’s best case; most likely, they’ll ignore it.)

Instead, go back three steps and engage your client in a general conversation; let the idea emerge in context, between the two of you. Don’t be obsessed with ‘ownership’ of the idea unless you already have a patent.

You might say something like:

“Susan, I was thinking about the XYZ problem we discussed Monday. Does that situation ever arise in other divisions? I’m wondering if it’s really a process problem, or a people problem; can we bounce this around for a while?”

If you’re really smart—and evolved; see Tip 3 below—you’ll let your client discover the idea.

Sample Selling Tip 2: The Real Sample is Problem Definition. The idea of ‘sample selling’ is a bit of a misnomer. The real sample you’re giving the client is not a sample answer, but a sampling of how it feels to work with you.

You do this by continually asking—with the client—“what problem are we trying to solve?” You might say something like:

“Joe, we’ve come up with some great ideas in the business process arena. As we’ve talked, some related issues have arisen in the talent side of the business. Could we schedule some time to work those issues together?”

Then repeat Tip 1 above.

Sample Selling Tip 3: Rebalance Humility and Confidence. You need humility. Not humility about your ability—humility about your uniqueness. You are not Einstein (unless you are); you aren’t the only one with ideas. And frankly, your ideas are probably not unique either.

You need confidence. Not confidence in your ideas—confidence in your ability to spot an infinite number of problem areas in your client, and confidence in your ability to generate more ideas to address each problem. It starts simply with seeing opportunities for improvement.

Above all, you are the one with the client relationship; in that, you are unique. So—go define problems, and generate ideas collaboratively.

You’ll get credit—but more importantly, you’ll get repeat business.

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers: Customer Trust is the Next Big Thing (Trust Quotes #12)

We are delighted to have with us Martha Rogers and Don Peppers, the dynamic duo of the business guru business. Business 2.0 ranked them as two of top business gurus of all time. They’ve written one of the most influential business books in several decades, The One to One Future, and several others, including Return on Customer.

They’ve always had a healthy respect for the role of trust in marketing, but it’s their latest book that particularly makes them timely for the Trust Quotes series: Rules to Break & Laws to Follow: How Your Business Can Beat the Crisis of Short-Termism.

As they put it, “We believe customer trust is probably the ‘next big thing’ in business competition.” Let’s find out why they believe that.

CHG: Martha and Don, thanks so much for joining the dialogue. We’ve known each other for some years now, and you’ve always had a good sense of the power of trust—but it sounds like you’re increasing the focus more lately. What’s up with trust?

DP/MR: The basic ethos governing all human social interaction contains a very strong requirement for trustability. The simple trustworthiness of your statements and actions, as an individual (or as a company or governmental organization), is a key attribute – probably the key attribute – in how your interactions will be interpreted, understood, and acted on by others.   The social bond that connects us with others – the fuel that generates our collective intelligence and powers all our cultural and technological development – is based on trustability.  As a result, probably the biggest single driver of the increased demand for trustability is today’s rapid increase in the capability of interactive technology, leading to a more and more connected and interactive human race.

CHG: One of the four Trust Principles that I developed in my work (medium-to-long term perspective, relationships not transactions)  is built right into your title: “the crisis of short-termism.”  First of all, what’s wrong with short-termism?

DP/MR: When we talk about short-termism as a crisis issue, what we are talking about is the business world’s self-destructive, almost maniacal focus on short-term financial results. Obviously, a profit-making business should be cognizant of the short-term results of its actions, but this should not come at the expense of completely ignoring the long-term results. The long term counts, also – the interests of shareholders and other stakeholders are clearly harmed by obsessively short-term thinking. 

CHG: Is short-termism on the increase these days? And what does that say about trust?

DP/MR: Unfortunately yes, our verdict would be that short-termism is on the rise. It definitely undermines trust, because one of the central essences of trustability, as you’ve stated so well in your own work on the subject, is self-orientation. That is, the more selfish you think I am, the less willing you will be to trust me. And short-termism is a big flag for most people of self-orientation. 

CHG: What is driving all that toxic short-termism? What can be done about it, and who in particular can do it?

DP/MR: Do you know what “IBGYBG” means? 

CHG: The Wall Street euphemism?

DP/MR: Yes. It perfectly illustrates what we’re talking about here. Interestingly, during the financial frenzy that constituted the run-up to the mortgage meltdown and panic of 2008, traders and investment bankers were being paid bigger and bigger commissions and bonuses for doing bigger and bigger deals. Cash commissions and bonuses were the short-term compensation banks were paying their people for doing these deals – deals that had significant long-term implications. Many of the bankers and traders themselves knew that some of these deals posed significant long-term risks. But they had immense short-term motivations for doing them anyway. 

IBGYBG is a text message, a kind of short-hand like LOL or OMG. If a trader expressed doubt about the long-term consequences of a deal, he might get a message back from one of his colleagues to the effect that he shouldn’t worry about the long term, because in the long term IBGYBG – I’ll be gone you’ll be gone.

CHG: And what’s to be done?

Two things: First, tie compensation more closely to long-term consequences. We have no problem with paying people a piece of the action to do a deal – a business transaction can be immensely complex, and creativity and innovation should definitely be rewarded. But make it a true “piece of the action” rather than an upfront bonus in cash. 

And second, with respect to compensation in general, recognize that people work much more enthusiastically for the intrinsic benefits involved – recognition, credibility, self-reliance, accomplishment. No business should treat its people as if they are solely interested in money – unless they want them to be.

CHG: I’ve always felt that short-termism is inherently less profitable than taking a longer-run strategic vision. You’d think it would be obvious to CEOs; you’d also think it’d be obvious to Wall Street analysts. Someone said the real problem is in the compensation structure for mutual fund managers. Where do you think the key lies for fixing it?

DP/MR:  That’s why the opening chapter of our 2005 book Return on Customer: Creating Maximum Value From Your Scarcest Resource, was titled “An Open Letter to Wall Street.” Investors are in fact very interested in understanding a company’s long-term value, but at present there is no better or more reliable indicator of long-term value creation than, well, short-term financial performance. 

The discounted-cash-flow (DCF) method for valuing a business is based on forecasting the firm’s future cash flows, but in the end even the most sophisticated predictions rely mostly on aggregate business trends, projections of market growth, and competitor activity, and in any case all such projections begin with today’s numbers. So, like the butterfly whose wings cause a tornado a continent away, small fluctuations in current earnings or revenues wreak massive changes in projected company valuations and share prices, as their effects are extrapolated and magnified years into a company’s financial future. 

Ironically, the key to fixing this short-term-only perspective probably lies in applying better customer analytics. That’s why we coined the term “return on customer” and created the financial metric itself. Every value-creating activity of a business involves a customer at some point, but customers create value in two ways: they buy things immediately, in the current period, but they also have memories, which means how they are treated today will effect how much they are likely to buy in the future. A business that understands its customers lifetime values, and makes an effort to track how those lifetime values are impacted by current-period activities will be less likely to make self-destructive, short-term decisions.

CHG: What do you think about new social media and trust? Is it making trust harder to create? Or easier?

DP/MR: Trustability will become even more important as a social and economic norm in coming years, largely because of social media technologies, and the increasingly interactive world they are creating for everyone. This will have effects that reverberate throughout not just our business and economic system, but our society and culture as well. 

For one thing, better and more efficient interactive technologies will increase the demand for trustability on the part of people and organizations, including businesses and governments. Organizations, particularly, will need to respond to this demand by implementing policies and taking actions that are more worthy of trust from the beginning – that is, more transparently honest, less self-interested, less controlling, and more responsive to others’ inputs. It won’t be easy because it might be difficult for a business even to understand what kinds of policies improve trustability – from marketing and customer service, to production, distribution and financial reporting. Moreover, the clash between trustability and a company’s own short-term financial interest is real, and will represent a serious and continuing obstacle.

But second, the increase in demand for trustability will inevitably generate an increase in its supply. As a result, we believe that society will benefit from a “virtuous cycle” of increasing trustability, over time, leading to more rapid economic progress, which will lead to even more trustability, and so forth. This will have the effect of “raising the bar” for trustability, meaning that some previously acceptable business and government activities will become less acceptable, as consumer and citizen expectations rise. We can already see this happening with the influence that highly trustable, online businesses are having on the business practices of more traditional, offline businesses. 

And third, the dominant role of trustability in human interaction cannot be explained by applying straightforward economic thinking.   There are many subtle motivations for human behavior other than rational economic self-interest, and as technology reduces the barriers to interacting, these other, non-economic motivations will become more and more important. Rather than the kind of neoclassical economics still taught in business schools, the relatively new field of behavioral economics is more likely to play a dominant role in explaining how the trustability ethos actually works. 

CHG: What are some of the implications for marketing, broadly, of an increasing role of trust in the world?

DP/MR: We don’t trust advertising and marketing messages coming from companies because they epitomize “self interest.” We know these communications are designed with a particular, self-oriented purpose in mind: to improve the bottom line of the companies doing the communicating. Companies are always transmitting their self-interested messages to customers and potential customers, and these messages have bounced off each of us enough by now that we know what to expect. 

One survey showed that a scant 12% of people trust “big companies.” Even within companies themselves, just a third of employees believe “their leaders act with honesty and integrity.” Nor do investors trust the companies whose shares they own. Only 2% of investors believe the CEOs of large companies are “very trustworthy.” And 80% of consumers believe businesses are too concerned about making a profit and don’t care enough about their workers, the environment, or consumers. 

And the news is full of surveys showing that consumers’ mistrust of business is on the rise. But we think what’s really happening is that consumer expectations are increasing, as they experience best practices by some companies, and as they become increasingly interactive among themselves.

CHG: Interesting; declining trust metrics may be masking a rising standard of trustability. So, what must marketers change?

DP/MR: The primary thing marketers need to realize is that they are facing a trustability standard that is constantly on the rise now. The old “command and control” mechanisms don’t apply as easily to a world where customers can talk back, and also talk to other customers. It used to be that the marketing message was in the sole control of the marketer. Today, that’s no longer the case.

CHG: That’s a huge conclusion right there. 

Martha and Don, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. As always, they are innovative, yet grounded in deep commonsense and an intuitive feel for the customer. 

[If you are looking for earlier installments of the Trust Quotes: Interviews with Experts in Trust series, you can always find them in the dedicated Trust Quotes Index.]

——– 

This is number 12 in the Trust Quotes series.

The entire series can be found in our Trust Quotes section on TrustedAdvisor.com

Recent posts in this series include:

Trust Quotes #11: Jim Peterson
Trust Quotes #10: David Gebler

Trust Quotes #9: Chris Brogan

A Cautionary Tale for Marketers: Do’s and Don’t’s from the Perspective of the Marketed-To

Story 1: Don’t Do This

I got one of those broadcast email solicitations from a very reputable organization that hosts executive roundtables. Brian (a stranger to me) wanted me to attend an informational meeting. To his credit, he “had me at hello” with the very first lines of his email, which were both personal and complimentary: “Andrea, let me first say I LOVE the name of your company and the genesis of it…the ‘new beat’ story. Outstanding!”

“Wow,” I thought, “He’s taken the time to find out about BossaNova and make a personal connection to me. He gets me! He likes me! I like this guy!”

What followed was a directive to “Read on” with a photo of a jubilant baseball team and the assertion that “There are lessons you learn in Baseball that can apply to business leaders like YOU once you understand their importance and their impact” (with a bulleted list of those very lessons). His call to action at the end of the email was aggressive and impersonal.

Brian had me right off the bat and lost me soon after. I have nothing against baseball—not at all. I’m just not much of a sports enthusiast and, truthfully, get tired of the male-oriented metaphors. Brian’s very personal appeal followed by his very impersonal (and misaligned) form letter was a particularly lethal combo. Now, not only am I a “no” for the information session I was invited to, but I have an attitude about both Brian and his organization to boot. Three strikes, you’re out.

Story 2: An Approach to Emulate

A few weeks ago I was surprised by a knock at the door—an unexpected delivery of baked goods from a local sweet shop. The package included a hand-written note from Kacy, the office organizer I had hired exactly one year before. The sweets were to commemorate my first anniversary in my new home office, with a reminder that she was available should any lingering piles be in my way, and a request to tell others about her services if I was so inclined.

I immediately logged onto Facebook (well, by “immediately” I mean right after I had a cookie) and posted kudos for Kacy, along with a link to her web site. I sent her an email to thank her for the unexpected treat, alert her to the free Facebook advertising, and acknowledge her for the lesson in great marketing. She wrote me right back to thank me, saying, “I’m so glad you like them! I never know if someone’s going to be out of town or unavailable, but it always works out. In my client list, I have a column where I note the dates of our last sessions. Once a month or so I run through those and send the goodies out!”

The sweets hit the sweet spot, for sure, far more so than being hit over the head with a baseball bat. Maybe Kacy got lucky with her choice. Although it seems to me she could have sent me anything (even one of those giant foam fingers) and the good feelings from the unexpected personal acknowledgement would have prevailed.

A Plea to Marketers

The two anecdotes aren’t apples to apples—different relationship histories, different communication media, different calls to action. That said, I find them both illuminating.

To all marketers out there (including myself), here’s my plea:

  •         DO make it personal
  •         DON’T use a personal tactic to get someone’s attention and then switch to a more generic approach
  •         DO find creative ways to appreciate the people who have given you business in the past
  •         DO use the element of surprise
  •         DON’T be afraid to ask for more work or for referrals.

The moral of the stories: Intimacy is a powerful tool in business. Use it wisely, especially with strangers. Mix it in with a little unexpected generosity and you’ll hit a home run.

Is Your Marketing Poisoning the Well?

I met Joan at a group dinner the other night. When she found out what I did, she said:

The other day I got a call from the local Ford dealership—I had bought my car from them several years ago. They wanted to know if I’d be willing to refer several of my friends to them.

“Refer my friends!” I said. “You’ve got to be kidding! Your dealership behaved very badly towards me twice in the last six months—unethically, even—and despite my complaining about it, I have yet to hear anyone there apologize, or even take responsibility for it.

“In fact, I’ve already told a number of my friends to never do business with you. And you call me and ask me to refer business? Do you know what ‘fat chance’ means?”

Ouch, Mr. Ford Dealer.

In the “olden” days, it was lore that a good customer service story might be retold a dozen times, while a bad customer service story would be told a hundred times or more.

Nowadays: make that a hundred thousand times—or more. And within days. The now-classic example: the United Airlines broken guitar video , which garnered 3 million views in seven days. (It’s a pretty catchy song, if you haven’t heard it).

Reputation Marketing 2.0

Industry after industry has historically made an implicit assumption in their marketing: that the supply of new customers is endless, and endlessly renewable. Don Peppers and Martha Rogers took a head-on shot at this fallacy in their under-appreciated 2005 book "Return on Customer," stating that customers are, in fact, the scarcest resource.

In other words, the very common slash and burn marketing tactics that most companies use to churn through leads—massive emailing, lead culling, indifferent customer service reps—are now poisoning the well.

They were right in 2005, and they’re about 100 times more right in 2009.

How many of the 3,000,000 YouTube views made in one week were of people who were potential customers of United? Existing customers of United? Employees of United? It’s a hard number to calculate, but let’s agree on three things:

  • it’s big
  • it’s bigger than it used to be
  • it’s very not good for United.

Is Your Marketing Poisoning Your Well?

Back to Joan and her local Ford dealer. Can you imagine the impact on that dealerships’ local market if Joan had access to local media? Well guess what, she does. And since all media is local in this age of Craigslist and YouTube, Ford itself could and should be concerned about such things.

The biggest impact of all this bad-news-traveling-faster world is that Darwinian selection can act a lot faster. Businesses using anti-customer tactics are subject to being outed on a massive, nearly real-time basis. Customers can make up their own minds, and increasingly trust surveys show that we trust others like us more than we do nearly all other institutions.

Which means users of classic anti-consumer bad marketing tactics are now more likely to have the gun pointed right back at them.

I’m going to give the Ford dealership a break and not name them by name. But rest assured I’ll send them a link to this blog. They dodged a bullet this time; but bullet-dodging is not a good strategy going forward.

When Service Companies Shouldn’t Talk about Products

I like Continental Airlines. If you have to fly in the US, they’re best of breed. I go out of my way to fly them, and I fly a lot.

Which means I get many chances to hear Larry Kellner, Continental’s CEO and Chairman, do his recorded schtick on the drop-down TV screen at flight’s outset. I still miss Gordon Bethune (what a shame about the silliness that drove him away), but it seems like Kellner’s doing a good job.

Except for one thing. In his spiel, he talks about Continental’s fine “products and services.” And that just rubs me the wrong way.

I do get it, of course. If I were consulting to Kellner, I’d use those words too—in my conversations with him, that is. The abstraction that “P&S” provides is valuable for seeing patterns. Such abstractions are a consultant’s bread and butter, and I dished out a lot of that over my consulting career. I do get it.

But I’m not consulting to Kellner.  And while I am a million-miler, a platinum frequent-flyer for years, a President’s Club member since the days of Eastern and the shuttle, as far as I’m concerned, my main identity is–I’m a passenger on their planes.

I’m not a “frequent-flyer” first—I’m a flyer. I’m not a “customer,” much less a “consumer”—I’m a passenger.  I’m not buying services (and I’m sure as hell not buying a “product,” despite what I might say with my consulting hat on).  When I’m a flyer, I’m buying a plane flight.  And while I’m certainly buying an “experience,” I don’t want you to call it that—I want you to call it a flight.

I trust my life to the insane belief that tons of metal can hang in the sky.  And when Newton’s law of gravity asserts itself, as it inevitably must, I want to believe in Sully, that guy who can float me down onto the Hudson River just like he was landing on a pillow. (And hey Larry–Sully works for that fershlugginer airline affectionately known as Useless Air—heir of predecessors Agony Airlines and SloHawk.  So Larry, I know you guys at my airline, Continental, must have dozens like him–even better!)

I don’t want a high net worth credit product, I want my Platinum Card. I don’t want the best value in the mid-size performance vehicle segment—I want my Ultimate Driving Machine, 5-series please. I don’t want to see the sausage made—I want my Jimmy Dean telling me how great it is, and sounding like Jimmy Dean when he says so.

Larry, I’m sure that when you and Gordon used to kick it back at the crib, you both talked about “product.” But I don’t recall Gordon using the p-word in public. If you’re going to seduce someone, you don’t do it by reading aloud to them from the book “How to Seduce Someone.”

If you’re going to sell me a “product,” just don’t call it that. Talk dirty to me, Larry; tell me about flying, the glory of sitting alone in the front of the bus at 30,000 feet, and about how I’m so, so special. Use your marketing MBA on me–just don’t tell me you’re doing it.

Unless, of course, you want to hire me as a consultant.

In which case, here’s some free consulting.  When the Friendly Skies get wired, treat cell-phone talking just like you treat smoking.  Smoking is not a "product" you choose not to offer.  Ditto cell phone calls.  

Call them both a sin against the glory of flying, and tell us you’re having none of it.   That’s marketing I can believe in.

 

Digital and Analogue Social Networks and Pharma

Here are two big trends in marketing:

Trend 1. Companies organize programs around the customer. This is often called customer-centricity.

Trend 2. Customers are in charge of interactions. This also gets called customer-centricity.

When two phenomena get called by the same name—opportunities for merriment—and suffering—ensue.

Case 1—the occasionally obtuse but always interesting Harvard Business School Working Knowledge series.  In Authenticity over Exaggeration: The New Rule in Advertising,  Julia Hannah explores HBS professor John Deighton and Leora Kornfeld’s "Digital Interactivity: Unanticipated Consequences for Markets, Marketing, and Consumers."  An extract:

5 new rules of digital interactivity:

• Thought tracing. Firms infer states of mind from the content of a Web search and serve up relevant advertising; a market born of search terms develops.

• Ubiquitous connectivity. As people become increasingly "plugged in" through cell phones and other devices, marketing opportunities become more frequent as well—and technology develops to protect users from unwanted intrusions. A market in access and identity results.

• Property exchanges. As with Napster, Craigslist, and eBay, people participate in the anonymous exchange of goods and services. Firms compete with these exchanges, and a market in service, reputation, and reliability develops.

• Social exchanges. People build identities in virtual communities like Korea’s Cyworld (90 percent of Koreans in their 20s are members). Firms may then sponsor or co-opt communities. A market in community develops that competes on functionality and status.

• Cultural exchanges. While advertising has always been part of popular culture, technology has increased the rate of exchange and competition for buzz. In addition to Dove’s campaign, Deighton cites BMW’s initiative to hire Hollywood directors and actors to create short, Web-only films featuring BMWs. In the summer of 2001, the company recorded 9 million downloads.

These 5 aspects show increasing levels of effective engagement in creating social meaning and identity, Deighton suggests, noting that the first 2 (thought tracing and ubiquitous connectivity) change the rules of marketing but don’t alter the traditional paradigm of predator and prey.

In the last 3 (property, social, and cultural exchanges), the marketer has to become someone who is invited into the exchange or is even pursued (as in the case of the BMW films) as an entity possessing cultural capital.

Exactly.

This is Trend 2 type customer-centricity-recognizing that the consumer is actually in charge.  It means moving away from a “predator and prey” model of control and one-way monologue, to a genuinely interactive two-way model of dialogue.  In this model, the role of centralized control drops drastically, because the marketer and customer collaborate—even blend.

Hmmm.  D’ya think that model might work in the analogue world too?

Case 2. Pharma Voice Magazine, The Forum for the Industry Executive: The Salesforce of the Future  quoting Bill Pollock, CEO of Pharmagistics:  An excerpt:

In the future [of pharma], salesforces will be much more focused, and they will have the ability to look at each touch point, determine what’s the most effective way of communicating with a practitioner, and do so in a personalized way.

As a result, marketers will have to integrate their sales and marketing efforts into everything they do, treating each and every touch point as part of their total sales and marketing mix. This includes their e-portals, inside telesales efforts, Internet-based virtual sales reps, literature, and direct-mail programs—all of these tactics will be considered a part of the entire salesforce effort and must be integrated via the entire marketing program.

Such a trend would mean that pharma companies will need the ability to track everything that is done and monitor the impact of their efforts on their prescribing customers.

This is Trend 1 type customer-centricity.  It retains the predator-prey model and focuses on making sure all the guns are pointed in the right direction—at the customer.  The problem is perceived as one of alignment and control.  The new world isn’t qualitatively different, this model says, just quantitatively more complex.  It retains the focus on centralized control because it’s still an us-vs.-them view of the world.   It is restricted to the first two levels in the HBS piece—there is no conception of becoming "someone who is invited into the exchange or is even pursued…" much less of becoming "an entity possessing cultural capital."   This kind of  "customer-centricity" is not collaborative.  It is customer-centric  in the way a vulture is customer-centric—laser-focused on its prey.

The confusion around the term “customer-centric” isn’t just a matter of definition or market power.  Marketing is only one  battlefield in a much larger contest between a network-driven commerce-based view of the world and a command-and-control-driven competition-based view of the world.

Life imitates art.  Sometimes we learn more about the analogue world by observing pale avatars in the digital realm.
 

Blogging vs. Podcasting

Some time ago, Suzanne Lowe published a posting called The Myth of Intellectual Capital.  In it, she commented on a talk by Paul Dunay  , Bearingpoint’s Director of Global Field Marketing.

According to Lowe, Dunay sang the praises of podcasting over blogging, on the grounds that it required less time.

According to Dunay, who then commented, he was merely pointing out the higher return on investment of publicizing content.

Alan Weiss also chimed in, saying “First, it’s blogging, then podcasting, then video, then something else, with each one expected to take over the world.”

But it’s not a he-said she-said thing.  And contrary to Weiss, much more is at stake here than the latest fad and flavor of the day.

There are distinct parts of the human decision making process; and different media drop into different slots in that process. That’s true for old media, and for new as well.

Podcasts are aptly named. Like their cousins “broad-“ and “narrow-“, they are one-to-many media—non-interactive even in audiences of one.
Podcasts are also consumed in very constrained time limits—a 120-second podcast is going to take—approximately—120-seconds for someone to listen to.

Blogs are more interactive—you can hit “comment” right now in response to this blog, and get the instant gratification associated with seeing “you moron Charlie!” pop up and knowing it can be read in Thailand—right now!

We can also read at varying speeds, including—frequently—a whole lot faster than listening.  And the reader controls the speed.

Over to buyers.  Buyers want many many things, and at different times in their decision-making process. Sometimes they want to interact; sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they want information; sometimes they want visual and aural assurance.

If you’re selling to someone with a buying process more complex than getting a #4 at Burger King, you’ll want to match distinct parts of the buyer’s decision-making process with access to distinct media that help the buyer decide.

It’s not a trivial exercise, anymore than is a decision to buy billboards or broadcast TV or newspaper is for an ad agency serving any client.

Politicians are still sorting this out too. Watching on television as sound-bite based politicians “respond” to blown-up computer screens showing YouTube clips is a crazy mash-up.  Enough to make you agree with Alan Weiss that it’s all a popularity contest.

Except it’s not.  Smart politicians—and other sellers—will integrate media, using each for what it’s best at.

Kennedy didn’t beat Nixon just because Nixon looked bad on TV; TV was part of the package.  And people distrust the absence of a coherent package more than any particular package per se.