Traditionally, especially in the technology, engineering, and science fields, companies have been used to having all the answers. Yet, I am often reminded that we practice medicine, we don't know it, as we practice law, etc. It is quite uncomfortable for many organizations to base their marketing more on questions rather than answers, yet that is where the growth is.
Questions are opportunities. Where to start?
As Jonas Riddestråle and Kjell Nordström wrote in Karaoke Capitalism, corporations exist for the simple reason of continuously and creatively crushing competition. They can do that by innovating constantly.
To achieve competitive advantage, organizations need to (1) employ creativity to overcome narrowness in resources and scope; (2) find newness, which lasts less than it used to; (3) go to the extreme, and that means you've got to find your own competitive value proposition at the edge. In the words of Thornton May, "Technology doesn't make you less stupid; it just makes you stupid faster."
Technology, Global Presence, New Solutions are No Longer Enough
Riddestråle and Nordström say that to make sense of what is going on today, we need to go back to nature and Darwin. Survival and success is either a question of adaptation or one of attraction - fit & sexy. Organizations that want to build sustainable competitiveness today need to exploit either market imperfections or the imperfection of people - supply-side and demand-side innovation respectively. In other words, they need to move away from the middle.
I Don't Know About You, I'd Rather be Sexy
Just a couple of days ago we were talking about living in an age where demand creation is our daily bread. Especially as we think of the move from collectivism to individualism - yes, I know, open source and community are important, yet the "show me the money" moment resides with individual decision paths and actions.
Rational purchases are usually made at the low end of the economic spectrum. It's the emotional connection that leads to the high end. This is where the companies that are master storytellers build solid brands.
Where Should Marketing Focus?
Marketing should own the questions. Starting with product and service value propositions. Are there many more options to go to market than there were before? Truly? Think about it, not really. Sure, you can go digital instead of print - that is a channel. What we're talking about is still advertising. In B2B, we use advertising because by and large it works to generate inquiries. Especially when integrated with a cohesive direct marketing program.
Yet the kind of information that gets traction in the new advertising is quite different. It tells more of a story, it can be edutainment, it can be mashable-ready, or slippy - in other words ready to be reused and spread by others.
Are there better ways to mix marketing communications to encourage participation? You bet. You need to be mindful of something before we talk about that - the first step in participation is yours, and it begins with a product and service that works and provides value. Doing rather than talking is the same advice I give agencies. We should take it to heart.
Any other thoughts?