Digital communication is “many-to-many.”

Dump any marketing book written in the 20th century. Traditional marketing tactics and strategies based on “one- to-many” communication are obsolete. Common acronyms such as ROI, USP and CRM are headed for the alphabet graveyard. The Internet has revolutionized the way people communicate. Mobile technologies and the explosion of social media exacerbated the level and pace of change.

Today, everyone can produce and distribute content cheaply and easily . Internet users develop their own distribution networks via social media such as Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn; through blogs and e-newsletters; on microblogging sites such as Twitter; or by using mobile-phone apps, such as Instagram or Vine. Companies speak directly to customers, and customers give feedback in ways not previously possible. Customers talk to each other in peer-to-peer conversations that bear weight and yield influence. “Today, everyone is a marketer.”

Traditional marketing resembled a funnel with the narrow spout at the bottom. Marketers shouted advertisements through a variety of media to attract as many people at the tip of the funnel as possible. This model benefited suppliers more than customers. Today’s empowered consumers render the old funnel obsolete.

“Relationship marketing,” which focused on building relationships with customers to retain their loyalty, also focused on transactions. Businesses worked to understand their clients only enough to sell them more products and services. The word “relationship” is misleading, because the connection wasn’t reciprocal. Today, businesses must form true client relationships by giving consumers something they deem worthy of their investment of time and money. Gaining consumers’ attention now is more important than conducting transactions. Your company’s goal is to draw potential customers and keep them engaged so when they decide to make a purchase, they come to you. The funnel has been flipped, putting its wide base at the bottom. This new “engagement” model replaces the “transaction” model. “Return on engagement” (ROE) has usurped “return on investment” (ROI).

To produce communications that provide real value, think in terms of your customers’ problems. Instead of delineating benefits, focus on clients’ problems that your goods or services can solve.

Experience and Engagement

The web has commoditized most products and services. Competitors quickly duplicate features that once gave your product an advantage, so now you must deliver a unique experience.

Use your Problem Map to create a “customer engagement strategy” that responds to the challenges facing your potential customers. Identify “customer engagement points” (CEPs) in four capacities: “partnerships, content, market positioning” and “emotional selling proposition” (ESP). Narrow your target market down to customers for whom you provide the best experience. Become a “big fish in a small pond” by thoroughly understanding your market niche.

Convert to Conversations

Consumers no longer passively receive messages. Today, they’re active participants in conversations. They post comments, opinions and reactions. Consumers use blogs, social- media platforms and mobile-phone technology to send out their ideas. Marketers don’t control these conversations, but they can facilitate them.

Become a careful listener . Knowing what people say about your brand enables you to identify opportunities to provide something of value and to engage prospects.

Participate and Collaborate

In the pre-Internet age, companies competed with similar providers in their geographical area. Businesses sought advantages by protecting their innovations, strategy, services and promotions. This thinking prevailed when consumers had fewer choices, but it has become outmoded. Today, you compete with hundreds and thousands of businesses and people around the world who offer similar products or services.

Connect Through Content

Appealing content engages consumers. “Content marketing” means presenting relevant, interesting material through various channels that your clients find valuable. Such marketing positions your company as an expert and go-to source and reference in your field.

The online and physical worlds now routinely merge. Location-based interactions let you offer customers promotions and discounts while they shop. “SoLoMo,” the intersection of “social, local and mobile,” enables tailoring on-site experiences in real time. Consumers can wave their phone over an object to access a virtual display of digital information. This “augmented reality” demonstrates the consolidating of online and offline spheres.

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