What a bummer.
The communications techniques, programs, media and approaches that you relied
on to perform in the past are working about as well as the Celine Dion cover
version of "Whole Lotta Love."
Have you noticed?
If you have, then we have even worse news for you, Spanky. They probably
won't work at all in the future. At least not in the same way you've
used them in the past.
The reason is deceptively simple. The world you're sending them into has
changed. Dramatically. In many ways.
They don't need you anymore
Just one example. Conventional direct marketing methods and targeting have
greatly improved over the last decade. They've allowed communicators to
send more relevant, more customized messages to individuals. Yet the average
response rate is still around two percent. Those "improved" methods
are simply balancing out the overall resistance to an out-of-whack paradigm.
A model that says that people will respond to interruptive messages if they
are personal and relevant.
They don't. And increasingly they won't. Because they don't
have to in order to get all the information they need and want to make decisions.
That's not to say that direct marketing is passé. It's not.
It simply means that how we do direct communications must change.
Because the world has changed. Shift has happened, my friend. Whether you recognize
it or not, you've stepped in it. It's all over your shoes. And things
will never be the same again.
The world takes a power shift
Somewhere between the inventions of distributed computing and the Mosaic browser,
the age of information arrived. And with it, the biggest and most important
power shift in communications control in history began. This is what you'd
call a paradigm shift. And if you fail to recognize this change in who controls
communications, you'll create a divide between your brands and your prospects
not seen in this country since Carly Simon last yawned in public.
To understand the importance of this shift, take a look at these historical
communications models developed at Northwestern University by Don Schultz of
Agora. They represent how marketers have historically operated based on the
power they held in the marketplace. Power that is a result of control over information
Historically, marketers have exercised their power of communications by controlling
information. They develop inward-looking aspirational brands. They release only
the information that is favorable to their product or service. They send that
information down a highly controlled, usually mass-media channel to customers
In reality, these messages are not communications at all. They are monologues.
Most of them are based on the premise that if you tell customers and prospects
what they should believe and repeat it enough times, they will. In other words, they
are as self-serving as an Ikea store.
Most marketing and communications techniques and approaches that are used today,
including some of the new ones, were first developed for this model. Based on
this paradigm of how communications happens.
And that's why they're not working. Because the world of business
communications doesn't look like that anymore.
Halfway through this dramatic shift in communications control, channels, dealers
and distributors have gained control from historical marketers in many industries.
They're able to do this for one simple reason. They are closer to the customer.
They have more information, knowledge and understanding of the end user, customer
and prospect needs. And they leverage that knowledge by bundling customer need-oriented
product/service offers. This consolidation results in even more power as they
play one manufacturer against the other like Pamela Anderson with a backstage
pass to the Lollapalooza festival.
The result is a war over who owns the customer. But you haven't seen anything
(If you're in the middle of one of these tug-of-wars or you'd
like to know what the heck we're talking about, go here.)
Twenty-first century marketers
Thanks chiefly to computer technology and the Internet, the power to control information and
the communications process has moved through the channel and now is directly
in the hands of your customer, end user and prospect.
As people become even more connected with businesses and the media,
we have entered the age of perfect information. A new age where customers have access
to a world of uncensored information and non-mediated conversations about your
products, your service, your prices, your competitors and your corporate doings.
And you are but a small part of this buzzing.
Guess who's in control now
The model is no longer a one-way, marketer-driven monologue. Rather, it's
made up of webs of interconnected dialogue between everyone—channels, end
users, media and marketers. All accessed and orchestrated by the customer.
The shift has hit the fan, Bucky. Your customers and prospects control
the communications process now. And things will never go back to the way they
used to be. So you can stop hoping that the next incremental change you make
in your old tried-and-no-longer-very-true methods will make a big difference
If you want to make a difference, change your paradigm.
Shift or get off the pot
The name of the game for business brand-builders and communicators in this
new world is listening and responding.
It's no longer sending monologues down the channel, repeating the
same finely edited messages over and over and over again. Pushing and shoving
and cramming the message down customers' throats until it magically imbeds
itself in their brains.
It's no longer about what you want them to believe about your brand and
product/service offerings. Now it's about what you actually are and what
they want to hear.
Can you paradigm?
It's not about what you want to tell them. It's about them having
access to more information about your company, your products, your performance
and your competitors than you do, faster than you do.
It's all about listening and responding. It's about establishing
mutual relationships based on reciprocity. Which, by the way, is being redefined in terms of value.
It's about entering into a true dialogue with customers.
It's about realizing that if what you're doing doesn't
fit into this new paradigm it will continue to not work as well as it used to,
until it doesn't work at all.