In 2010, the changing dynamics in buyer behavior will force many organizations to engage and influence their current and prospective customers very differently in the “new norm” of 2010 and beyond. Marketing will have to focus much more proactively on one-on-one relationships (as advocated by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers of Peppers & Rogers Group in the early 90s – talk about being ahead of your time!), whether on the corporate website/blog, or a multitude of social networks.
The organizations of 2010 and beyond must become much more astute in how they identify and respond to the ever-fluid market dynamics. In short, they have to learn to engage and influence more and mass broadcast less, participate in communities, set up LinkedIn groups and Facebook fan pages, read blogs and respond to tweets, create conversations, and share photos – in short, to Listen Louder! In many ways, social networks are changing the rules of influence and engagement.
A Strong Customer Lifetime Value
Lead ranking, the exponential value of listening (often an art) in a dialogue vs. mass broadcasting, and a quantifiable output in supporting the sales pipeline will point to the marketing organization’s true efficiency and effectiveness. This will be far more “hands-on” and at the edge of the business (read: a contact sport) than many marketers are comfortable with (read: a spectator sport today). Furthermore, marketing’s role must expand from dealing exclusively with finding and motivating prospects to encompassing the entire buying lifecycle, including the post-sale customer experience. We believe marketing has an even longer-term accountability in the retention and profitable mindshare and wallet-share growth of a strong customer lifetime value (LTV).
The Weight of Word of Mouth
Sales organizations must focus on a greater education across a wide audience, where the recommendations of a fellow user / participant far outweigh the value of traditional advertising. The buyers are doing a great deal of their research prior to engaging a vendor – if you’re not on their radar in the research phase, you certainly won’t be there in the decision process. You’re now working in a Social CRM (customer relationship management) ecosystem where:
Advocacy / evangelism leads to lead ranking, which leads to social engagement, which defines the customer experience!
In 2010 and beyond, organizations will suffer from this disruption in their broader markets and individual companies. As my co-authors David Ryback, PhD, and Jim Cathcart have captured in ConnectAbility, a range of emotions are also at work from prospects and customers alike: fear, skepticism, frustration, doubt, disdain and even elation.
As the third leg of this stool, traditional customer “no-service” must die. In a TiVo / Twitter world, customer opinions and perceptions will determine the consensus to buy – or not, and the overall impulse to remain loyal is formed in an instant. Brand loyalty itself is getting defined and re-defined daily and without the organization’s finger on the pulse of that real-time brand equity, the organization will struggle to remain relevant.
In a recent personal experience, I felt an enormous sense of frustration in making a web-based software application work with the latest Apple operating system. Within minutes of using TweetDeck to share my frustration and express interest in exploring alternative options, this small software company was proactively engaged to try to help. They provided a tweet and a link to resolve the conflict and underlying dissatisfaction. But they didn’t stop there; they followed up with a phone call (did I mention that this was a FREE utility?!) and ensured that I was up and running again. The scenario was unparalleled to anything I had experienced in the past.
Can you imagine anything remotely similar from say one of the airlines or car companies? I’m not sure they could even spell Twitter! At every opportunity to deliver an exceptional experience, on- or offline, they tend to stumble upon themselves with lack of accountability, caring, competence, or any understanding that in any industry, the net new customer acquisition cost is substantially higher than the existing and satisfied customer retention cost. Furthermore, satisfied customer experiences now share those frustration experiences in real time online, which can make a marketer’s job that much easier or more difficult in reinforcing the brand value or trying to repair it!
The Power of Engagement
Customers in 2010 certainly don’t want to be sold to – they want to be engaged, to be given options, and they want their decision to buy to be reinforced by others who have experienced similar positive reinforcement – hence a consensus to mitigate the risk. They will want education much earlier in the buying process and astute organizations of 2010 and beyond will more appropriately align the way they sell to the specific manner in which their clients buy, on- or offline.
In 2010 and beyond, functional models of marketing, sales, and customer service must evolve into ones that capitalize on customer evangelism and the buying experience. Personal and team-based accountability must improve if they are in fact focused on achieving the same goals, strategies, tactics and objectives (GSOT). The roles and realms of responsibilities must become more fluid and the level of expertise must go deeper and wider – not just in products or services, but in the intimate understanding of the customer requirements, buying preferences, and how to engage and influence – often without authority.
To engage the customer; to influence what they’re thinking, reading, and doing; to discover what they consider to be of interest and value; to contemplate how you can identify, build, and nurture a consistent and value-based relationship with them, not as a mass audience, but as individual consumers with unique needs and requirements that can be met using your products and services – these will be the marketing imperatives of 2010 and beyond.
So, how will you evolve? Here are three recommendations for your consideration:
1. Independently access your sales, marketing, and customer service bench! Are they appropriately aligned, empowered, and trained with the right measurements and compensation in place to move their needle to caring about the customer experience?
2. Reevaluate your perception of brand promise and brand equity – how well are you testing new market opportunities and tracking the results of every touch point, every interaction, and every opportunity to engage current and prospective customers?
3. Do you have the right tools and internal support for one-on-one relationships? It will certainly be more expensive, but in 2010, the stakes are higher. What are you willing to do that your competitors aren’t? Will you take a leadership position in the social networking landscape? Will you lead the learn-dialogue-spark-support-innovate-and-learn-again evolution?
Will you remain relevant?