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A dreamer to the core. A thinker. A writer. A marketer. A poet. A management guru in the making! A keen observer of business, organizations, leaders, society, economic environment, consumers, and innovation. A confirmed maverick who loves to turn conventional wisdom upside down!

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Friday, November 02, 2007

The New Marketing Agenda

We have always been trained to hard-sell to customers through various marketing vehicles. This worked well in the old economy. But the big question is - will it work in web 2.0 world? I predict it will not. In the last 10 years, world has witnessed a shift from scattered islands of civilization to a highly sophisticated network of seamless human interaction. Suddenly, we are finding ourselves at the center of the universe with ability to tap into endless choices and resources. In this networked era, hard-sell sounds like a pre-historic concept. When the reach of customer was limited and choices few, hard-sell made sense. But with endless options to choose from and virtually entire universe to tap into, hard-sell makes no sense at all. Everyone is hard-selling and creating noise resulting in a cacophony which only irritates customers.

In this changed equation between customers and marketers, the rule of hard-sell is giving way to the rule of being found. The essence of this rule is to strive to generate that 'aha' moment we feel when we discover something amazing. The new marketing challenge is how to play the game of treasure hunt and help customers discover products and services and let them feel the 'aha' moment more often.

There are four factors driving this shift to the concept of findability.

Suspicious customers
Today's customer is suspicious. She thinks that all marketers are liars. From the time she wakes to the time she sleeps, she is bombarded with sales pitch to buy something. Naturally, not everything she is pitched with is good for her. Some may be good and some totally harmful. How can she trust? How can she decide? Suspicion, as a result, is at the highest level and every sales pitch is viewed with utter distrust. The problem is that the confidence level of customers in products or marketers is at its lowest ebb. The only way to engage such a customer, who is high on distrust and low on confidence, is to help her find what is best for her without active sales pitch or hard-sell.

Miracle of network
World has become a highly connected network, thanks to the internet. An average customer has access to information across culture and geography which her forefathers could not have even dreamt of. Network has jettisoned her to a world of plentitude where she may not like 99.9% of what she encounters. But 0.1% is something that can fill her with a sense of joy and satisfaction that only she can feel and understand. And, this joy of discovering that 0.1% is hardly related to satisfaction of her basic need. It is something higher. Her ecstasy is because of the satisfaction derived from her ability to serendipitously discover a fish, she could relate with, from a vast ocean. It’s a joy of discovery; no less than the joy of discovery Euclid felt in the bathtub which made him run on the street shouting "Eureka, eureka."

Virtual neighbour
Customers may love their neighbour or hate them but they indeed hear them. Since ages neighbours have played a role of adviser and influencer in purchase decision, apart from being the agents of "neighbour's envy, owner's pride" syndrome. Earlier, neighbour was a localized phenomenon confined to surrounding households. But now, thanks to the power of network, concept of neighbour has acquired a global status. Today, we have 'virtual neighbours'. These days customers find the neighbourly advice on internet all too often in the form of recommendations, user feedback, rants, blogs, discussion boards, groups, forums, et al. The challenge before marketers is to find ways to use the 'virtual neighbour' syndrome to their advantage.

I am what I am
Every customer is part of a larger group yet she is also an individual. The individual aspect is increasingly making its presence felt in decision making. It doesn't mean the end of mass production or mass marketing rather it means a new challenge for marketers to include individuality to mass marketing campaign. It's like designing a marketing program to appeal to the masses yet emanate some subtle individualistic theme with which the customer can connect. Here, the essence of the brand remains same though how an individual customer experiences it may be different. It's like conveying "there is something for everyone to relate to."

In light of the above, the new challenge before a marketer is to devise ways in which his brand can get discovered by the customers and in such circumstances that they feel an 'aha' moment and emotionally relate to it.

Building an "architecture of discovery" can be the solution to this challenge. But that is going to be the subject of another blogpost.

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