Traditional marketing – including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications – is dead. Organisations and many people in traditional marketing roles may not realise they’re operating within a dead paradigm. But they are. The evidence is clear.
First, buyers are no longer paying much attention. Several studies have confirmed that in the ”buyer’s decision journey”, traditional marketing communications just aren’t particularly relevant. Buyers are checking out product and service information on their own, often using the internet or other outside sources such as word-of-mouth or customer reviews.
Second, CEOs have lost all patience. In a devastating 2011 study of 600 CEOs and decision-makers from around the world by the London-based Fournaise Marketing Group, 73% of them said that chief marketing officers lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognised financial metric.
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Third, in today’s increasingly social media-infused environment, traditional marketing and sales not only doesn’t work so well, it doesn’t make sense. Think about it: an organisation hires people who don’t come from the buyer’s world and whose interests aren’t necessarily aligned with that world, and yet it still expects these people to persuade consumers to spend their hard-earned money. Huh? When you try to extend traditional marketing logic into the world of social media, it simply doesn’t work.
There’s a lot of speculation about what will replace this broken model – a sense that we may be getting a few glimpses of the future of marketing on the margins. But we already know a great deal about what this future will look like. It’s already in place in a number of organisations. Here are its critical pieces:
The restoration of community marketing
When used properly, social media can accelerate a larger trend in which buyers are able to approximate the experience of buying products within their local, physical communities. For instance, when you contemplate a major purchase, such as a flat-screen TV, you’re not likely to talk to a salesperson or browse through a corporate website. Instead, you’re more likely to ask your neighbours and friends – your peer network – about what TV they’re using.
Companies should position their social media efforts to replicate this community-oriented buying experience as much as possible. In turn, social media firms, such as Facebook, should become experts at enabling this. And they can do it by expanding the buyer’s network of peers who can provide trustworthy information based on their own experiences with the product or service.
Many firms spend lots of resources pursuing outside influencers who’ve gained a following on the web and on social media. A better approach is to find and cultivate customer influencers and give them something great to talk about. This requires a new concept of customer value that goes way beyond the number or amount of purchases. There are many other measures of a customer’s potential value beyond the money he pays you. For example, how large and strategic to your firm is the customer’s network? How respected is he?