Reinvent or perish: no one gets out of here alive.
If you’re a mainstream media business facing internet-induced decline, you will need to overcome huge challenges as your circulation, reach and influence are marginalised by new entrants chasing and responding to your customers’ needs online.
To survive in any form (most likely as a smaller, tighter entity) you will need to reinvent many of your business practices. To achieve this, you will go through many restructuring exercises before you hit your optimum operating configuration and size. Even then new market entrants will disrupt your market further, making it a perpetual process of readjustment. And finally, very few of the things you were once expert in will be relevant to your business in the digital online world.
No more wallflowers
People are no longer the wallflowers they were, sitting idly and waiting to be told what to buy and how to behave. The internet has changed that forever and people can choose what they buy and consume from an infinite range of sources. People are resisting being broadcast to and are preferring instead to gather information for themselves. So it stands to reason that if people (prospects and customers) are more discerning and communications channels are more fragmented, marketing, the discipline that is responsible for identifying and satisfying customer needs and desires, profitably, will need to reinvent its practices.
The first challenge is cultural and demands a shift from transactional to relationship marketing: what is sometimes referred to as the shift from “push” to “pull” marketing. Influencing and persuading prospects to join communities and embrace brands in a world of intense competition and infinite choice online requires the deployment of specialist new marketing skill and deep-seated relationships.
For a discipline that has learned to push messages through mass, one-to-many media channels, there is a danger that the widely used marketing techniques of old will be used in new channels instead oflistening, empathy and the granular one-to-one practices of niche marketing. Like Eric Qualman says in his “Socialnomics” video, today’s successful companies “act more like Dale Carnegie and less like David Ogilvy: listening first, selling second.”
Traditional sales and marketing people are used to exploiting rather than co-opting community and they will find it hard to resist the temptation to revert to the kind of sales and marketing hyperbole they have been trained to use in their copy for B2B trade audiences. Successful community building is all about building and maintaining trust which takes patience and persistence. It requires participating in conversation (which includes a big dose of listening) and helping community members to express themselves.
This is a significant reversal of the traditional “one-to-many” broadcast model. The challenge is not to talk about how great your product is but instead focus on understanding the lives and challenges of your community so that you can help them lead easier lives. Empathy, patience and authenticity are the new marketing and you must show you understand in order to be understood.
It’s good to talk
The business objective for marketing in a digital online world has not changed: it exists to convert non-interest and casual interest toengagement, approval, endorsement purchase and repeatpurchase, profitably.
However, the means of achieving this outcome requires a radical rethink of marketing practices and a shift from transactional to relational marketing. And because successful community engagement requires attentive management and empathy 365 days 24/7, genuine community engagement strategies and tactics can not be owned, managed and implemented by marketing personnel alone.
A healthy, engaged community requires everyone whose job is dependent on the livelihood and satisfaction of a prosperous community to engage with it. Simply put, engaged customers require engaged staff. As Paul Gillin says “Growth will be focused around conversation-based tactics”. In my experience there are many people in editorial, customer services able to use the tools of social networking to grow and retain community.
Some tips for building a digital marketing framework for engagement
- Change in culture, strategy, practice starts at the top – share the ownership
- Marketing actions need to have roots in a larger, joined-up business development strategy – share the vision
- Ban the word “consumer” from the business vocabulary – replace it with “community member”
- Share the workload – ensure business-critical time being social is distributed
- Social marketing is by nature impulsive and disorganised – marketing can introduce process to structure the activity without dampening the enthusiasm
- Online community benefits from real life meeting – create events that bring community together in a physical space and allow people to build connections
- Don’t talk at members of your community, converse withthem and accompany them with empathy – they will pay you back many times over.
What has been your organisation’s marketing response to the digital media shift?
This article was originally posted by me on The Media Briefing a real-time news and information resource for the media industry.