"A lot of the current marketing shtick is about imposing something that isn’t there. Which is what makes so much of it false, shallow and objectionable in the real world. Maybe the job of marketers in the future will be to “articulate what’s already there”." [Mark Earls in Hugh & the Rabbi, episode 3]
Marketing is about expressing what a product and service already is in a way that invites those who are attuned to that conversation to join in. You are talking to those people who share that worldview. I am reminded that you can't give away what you don't have. In other words, you've got to have and be what you say you are.
When we talked about how leading brands lead, part of the discussion touched upon the marketing model changing (or needing to) from demand fulfillment to demand creation. How do you create demand? How do you attract people who do not know that your product and service can help them? Is advertising still viable? Before you jump up and down this question, I am aware that people don't buy this way anymore. Instead, every interaction with you and your company offers an opportunity to verify if you keep your promises. Are you worth the energy?
1440. This is the number of minutes we have available to us in a day. And the truth is that nobody needs companies anymore to help them collaborate, share, or create. The most important element that underlies how work gets done and bought is social. You need alignment behind what employees think matters on the inside and alignment to what customers want on the outside. Are you worth the time?
Time and energy. Anything that asks for attention needs to deserve that attention. Context building is built in human behavior. We look for points of reference. When we perceive the points of reference as not ours, we either disengage or try to change them. Change is easier to initiate than it is to be forced into. And since change happens anyway, your customers will make it happen somewhere else. They will build their own piazza, so to speak.
This past week I offered two potential examples of marketing as context building. Here are five ideas to get you started:
- Usability - how approachable, enchanting, interesting, easy to learn with is your product and service? A year ago, Kathy Sierra posted her last contribution (for a while) on Creating Passionate Users. Her blog is filled with information on usability and community. Use it as a launching pad for deeper engagement with those who use your product and service.
- Fulfillment of desire - this goes way beyond the basic needs. Think about providing the right information, the right way, in the right amount and leaving a dash of mystery to let your customers improvise with you what that context means to them.
- Peer-to-peer value - the more thought you put into offering a space that allows for collaboration, the more value you allow peers to contribute to the conversation. You may be used to dictating the terms, timing, and scope of key conversations. And you want to have those at your place. How about thinking in terms of facilitating peer-to-peer instead?
- Learning by building - this could be a subset of the peer-to-peer value, except for I think that the tactile and overall sensory information we gain through building deserves its own idea. Russell Davies posted an example of that from a Cambridge science festival recently.
- Being in beta - information sharing is easier to do when everyone is collaborating to the conversation. We had this discussion recently on Twitter. It was Sam Lawrence who brought up the question of why software is perpetually in beta. Your customers are in beta, too. Looking to improve, experiment, connect, or find a moment of peace.
One of the questions asked at the MIMA event recently:
"What qualities and skills should students acquire and cultivate in preparation for the challenges and opportunities facing us in advertising and marketing?" [Lester]
My response was - focus on people. I majored in Liberal Arts, linguistics. I am partial to human expression, in my case in many languages. Marketing as context building favors the prepared in human interaction - with others and with things. Over the years, I've had a deep interest in anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, art. Even economics is an expression of the movements of markets that is very much dependent on human emotion.
Bottom line - you cannot make people do something they don't want to do. And if they need something you've got, today there are plenty of alternatives to you if you don't play nice. The answer resides more and more with facilitating the conversations customers already have in their heads.
[Modena Piazza Grande during Festival di Filosofia. Image Flickr by Truus, Bob & Jan too]