Here we go again.
Another round of price adjustments. Another round of new
product intros. Another round of promotions. Another round and around and around.
Round after round
Around and around and around you go, but you get nowhere. At least, nowhere
you haven't been before.
You're caught in the old revolving door of marketing's
"4 P's," my friend. That ancient system that's pretty much
defined business marketing actions since 1957.
And it goes something like this: Companies are segmented
into groups and become part of the market set. You influence and control the
market's actions through product, price, place and promotion.
The problem is, using the "4 Ps" to guide your
relationship marketing efforts in this new paradigm is like having Kevorkian
teach you the Heimlich maneuver.
The methods haven't changed
Given the preoccupation with constant rounds of tactical adjustments to product,
price, place and promotion, it's not hard to see why a lot of people have
lost sight of the fact that customer relationships, not market relationships,
are the only things that generate direct business value.
And whether you like it or not, you can't manipulate
customers with product, price, place and promotion like you used to.
Because customers themselves are seizing control of these
levers faster than Heavy D seizing control of the burger machine at McDonalds.
But the world has moved on
Price is no longer determined by the seller based on cost-plus. Instead, customers
can name their own price based on new definitions of what is of value to them.
Products are no longer made in batches and pushed to customers.
Now they are integrated with services to form unique value offers made-to-order
in part through customer feedback.
They're in control now, Scooter
The promotional monologue of advertising at your largess and under your conditions
is being replaced by dialogue at the customer's convenience. (Go here
to see why we believe this is happening.)
And in case you've been visiting Anne Heche in some
parallel universe somewhere and haven't noticed, even your old marketplace
is being supplemented, and in some cases, replaced with a "market space"
where customers determine the time, place and conditions of doing business.
(Check out "The Web changes everything, the
Web changes nothing" and "Products
are bought, not sold" in the Change section for more information on
this fundamental shift in how goods and services are exchanged.)
You're in a new place now
We happen to think it's a better place. But whether it's a better
place or just a different place, it's your place now, Bucky. You're
in it whether you want to be or not.
And in this new place, if you're as deeply entrenched
in the "4 P's" paradigm as Rush Limbaugh in a hammock, you've
got a problem.
For one thing, it's probably forcing you to consider
the communications process complete when a prospect makes a purchase. Under
the old "4 Ps" model, at that point the new customer returns to
being lumped back into a market demographic or segment of the market. And the
marketing process begins again.
Conventions don't work here
Neither of those conventions works anymore.
Once a company makes a purchase from you they are no longer
part of the market. They are your customers.
And we believe you need to treat them differently than you
do the market. And you need to communicate with them differently.
In fact, the communications imperative should shift to migrating
them along a relationship path that moves them from a buyer to a brand advocate.
Become a migrator
To do that, you'll have to plan and integrate your communications to customers
in a way that moves them down a migration path to become loyalists or advocates.
In other words, just as prospects need to receive information
and incentives (we call them "gooses") to move them through the purchase
path from awareness through repurchase, occasional buyers need to be enticed
to move them through the retention path to become loyalists and advocates of
Those enticements include special information, special status,
special offers or special membership in a community that they value and to which
they can make a contribution. Essentially, they include whatever it takes to
make customers advocates.
And that, we believe, requires two things. First, dialogue
communications. And second, a totally different perspective on what customers
Shift your relationship
Both of these disciplines can help you shift the nature of your relationship
from buying and selling to empowering customers around your brand. In other
words, helping them do business better. Giving them information, tools and support
(much of it emotional) to do their jobs better.
Put in a more philosophical way: "Give someone a fish
and they'll eat for a day. Teach someone not to run a bass lure through
their testicle and you'll have a deep and abiding relationship with them
for the rest of their life."
If you do it right, advocates will not only generate more
revenue from their own transactions, but they can be turned into some of your
best salespeople. Actually bringing in new prospects and referrals and giving
them highly relevant and credible reasons for buying and using your offerings.