Monthly Archives: April 2008

Push, then Pull

To summarize, there are significant forces in play that require Marketing folks to realize that optimizing Marketing goes far beyond media, message, response, and all the traditional MarCom stuff.

To take advantage of these changes, there has to be a Strategic admission that Sales, Marketing, and Service are all parts of a customer-centric whole.  Interactivity forces this on you; it’s a Relationship Marketing environment.

CMO’s have an opportunity to step up and take control of this situation.  If they don’t, the job of integrating these disciplines will be handed to a Chief Customer Officer, Chief Experience Officer, or some other needless C-Level fabrication.  And that’s not really going to work, it’s a partial solution.

For those of you with Brand as your current primary focus, it should be easy to make the argument about why this integration matters and why you should be in charge of it.   If you don’t do something about really integrating all the customer facing disciplines, examples abound of the Brand damage that can occur.

No amount of “Advertising” can fix Brand rot, you have to get to the Root Cause, which is probably cross-functional in nature.  It really doesn’t make sense to ignore excellence in execution and then react to the problems caused when you can discover, address, and fix these issues before they happen.

Here are some ideas to think about on the Tactical side:

1.  Don’t use Mass Media to try and build / close Relationships; that’s a waste of time.  Use Mass Media for what it’s very efficient at - creating Awareness and Intent.  The first step of the 2-step, it’s the Push part.  If Push sounds like it’s intrusive, remember people expect Push from Mass Media to begin with.  You have the proper context; that’s why Mass Media can be effective for Push.

Use unique taglines and phrases in the execution, knowing a search on the web is a high probability next step.  Google just released a study on what this looks like for newspapers. Make sure the web team is prepped for the Mass Media, that they have optimized the unique taglines and phrases for Search, both Paid and Organic.

2.  Make sure the copy directly implies you are open for the Brand Promise to be tested in an interactive environment, where Brand Proof will take place.  This will usually be the web, but it could be a call center or other venue.  Invite those with Intent to convert this Intent to Desire through Interaction with you; this is Pull.

Focus on driving curiosity and peaking Interest rather than selling, e.g. “Want to Know More?  Here’s our web site…”

3.  Pull is self-service, it’s about proper execution - consistency with the Mass message, ease of use, transparent, Relationship building.  Potential customer is now driving, you are awaiting response.  Answer the questions raised by the Brand Promise (on a web site or in the call center), allow them to be tested.

Don’t simply repeat the Promise – that job has already been done, it’s a waste of time, it’s redundant, not respectful.

Instead, fully and completely Expose the Brand Promise, let it stand for testimony.  Allow Brand Proof to take place.  This is not the time to be Intrusive; that’s out of context.  Make it easy for the prospect to feed back the experience, and be ready for the dialogue.  Relationship Marketing is an Exchange, a dance, two-way, back and forth.

React and Respond.  Be “Social”, if you want to call it that.

This portion of the program – which might consist of many different campaigns driving traffic into it – is where failure most often occurs, and where you get into this whole “customer is in control” thing.

Like that’s a negative?  What they are in control of is their own process, and what’s the matter with that?  It’s enabling, empowering for the customer; it builds the Relationship.  Hopefully, what you have done here is given control; as opposed to having it taken from you.  There is a very big difference between the two.

If the customer has to “take control”, you’re doing something wrong.  You have broken processes, you have cross-functional chaos, you’re not enabling a dialog.  Or you’ve inflated promises, created false expectations, at worst, told half-truths.  You’re creating frustration.

That’s when customers feel like they have to take control from you.

That covers the Tactics for Aquisition (AIDA), I’ll tackle Retention (S) in the next post.  As always, Comments on are appreciated.

Engagement Defined (for Marketing)

Before we move into the Tactical stuff, I would like you to think about something, and if you could, give it more than a passing thought.  Here goes:

If you stopped all Advertising to customers today, what would happen to customer activity in the next 90 days?

In some businesses, Sales / Visits from customers would slow down a lot.  These are typically offline, low-Engagement businesses, the kinds of businesses that require a ton of advertising to drive Sales.  People don’t really care much about the products one way or the other – they’re not Engaged with the business.  Many packaged goods products are in this camp, for example.  They need Advertising.

In other businesses, and in particular many web businesses, Sales / Visits from customers would slow only a little.  This is because the customers are Engaged with the product, the site, the community, and so forth.  They come back anyway – regardless of whether you Advertise to them or not.

This is Engagement, folks, from a Marketing perspective.  The emotional bond, the Desirability, the Delight.

This is why Interactivity is different, and why Interactive Marketing should be treated differently.  The customer has always-on, 24 hour a day access to the business, and they are Delighted by that access, stimulated by that access, enjoy that Interactivity.  Many customers will come back even if you don’t Advertise to them.

That is, if you have Engaged them.  Engagement is more powerful than Advertising, in many ways Engagement replaces Advertising, Engagement IS Advertising.

Is that so hard to understand in a Web 2.0 world?

Personally, when measuring web site activity, I don’t think it’s really appropriate to create a box of Actions called “Engagement” and declare “if a visitor does this, they are Engaged”.  What I care about is they came back at all.  People have all kinds of reasons to visit an Engaging web site / business; they are in different modes and do different kinds of things.  As far as I’m concerned, they can take whatever action they wanted to take, as long as they came back.  To me, that’s Engagement.

And the idea of them deciding not to come back, well, that’s dis-Engagement.  As a Marketer in an Interactive business, that’s what you have to pay the most attention to.   Follow the dis-Engagement cycle, and for highest ROMI, use the right messages at the right times.

Because when folks are Engaged, well, they come back all by themselves, and I don’t need to do any Advertising to them.  That’s not to say I shouldn’t do any Marketing with them.  For those Engaged folks, what I am doing on the site as far as Products, Usability, Features, Service, unique / special Messaging, etc. – that’s what keeps people Engaged, that’s what I should focus Marketing skills on.  Spend some time in Customer Service, for example, and figure out what Marketing can do to help.

I only need to put the Advertising hat on when they start to dis-Engage, and then it’s all about knowing why.  Which segments are dis-Engaging?  Do they have a Service problem in common?  A Product problem in common?  A Content problem in common? 

What’s the Root Cause?

As an Interactive Marketer, I now have to try to fix that problem – even if it’s not in my silo.  Why?  Because it’s causing people not to come back, and that’s a Marketing problem, because it impacts Sales / Visits, and I’m responsible for generating Sales / Visits.

Now, I realize many web analytics folks want to specifically define Engagement for their sites and that is fine.  Define it any way you want, whatever way makes the most sense for the site.

But then, pay most attention not to the achievement of Engagement, but to dis-Engagement – when the previously Engaged, using whatever definition you like, no longer qualify as Engaged.  That’s the secret sauce of Interactive Marketing, that’s what makes Interactivity different from all other types of customer relationships.

Tip: dis-Engagement is a process.  It’s a movie, not a snapshot.  The question is not “What percent were Engaged last month?”  The question is “Of those Engaged in month X, what percent are still Engaged?”  Reason this difference is important: Newly Engaged customers / visitors will mask dis-Engagement by current customers / visitors in a % Engaged snapshot view

You can answer the question I first asked above about shutting off Advertising to customers.  Without creating a lot of disruption.

Test it like this.  I’m sure you will be surprised by what you find.

And then you can start spending more of your time and budget on fixing dis-Engagement rather than trying to create Engagement that in many cases is already there

Unless, of course, your site / product / service delivers a lousy customer experience, fails the Desirability test.  Then you’re going to need all the Advertising you can get your hands on.  Just keep pounding ’em with e-mail, that should fix the problem, right?

Does that approach really make any sense to you?

Desirability, Satisfaction

I didn’t talk about Satisfaction, the 5th component of the AIDAS model, in the last post on Desirability.  That’s because it’s the most difficult for folks to get a grip on and I wanted to treat it separately.   There’s a reason for this difficulty: Most Marketers (and many analysts) think they’re “done” when they get through the Action part of AIDAS.

They achieved Engagement, don’t you know.

So even though Interactivity is different, these folks are still using the old offline models to run their Marketing programs.  “Satisfaction” isn’t their problem, Action is.  Satisfaction is somebody else’s problem, a longer-term issue.  Marketers have no control over it.

Now, I’m pretty sure most folks reading this know Marketing plays a big role in Satisfaction and have seen live examples of it.  Everything from over-promising in the Sales pitch to Products with known faults that are still sold to Service Policies that don’t make any sense.

And most Marketers say, “That’s not my problem, my job is selling.”

This attitude is so old school, offline thinking again.  Interactivity is about the Exchange, it’s not a one-way, always Outbound kind of thing.  Interactivity, by definition, says there is a Relationship.  So if you are going to be an Interactive Marketer, you have to be in the Relationship business.

And this means Satisfaction is part of your job.

You’re not only responsible for creating Engagement, you are responsible for managing / correcting Dis-Engagement as well.  Because that’s how you have a Relationship, that’s Interactivity – you analyze, and react.  If you don’t, this is what can happen.

You wanted Interactivity, right?  What part of the Interactive premise says you can walk away from the Customer Relationships you have created?  That you’re “finished” after the Relationship is created?  That attitude is so old-school Marketing.

For many Marketing folks, what this all means they need to change from understanding “who the customer is” (demographics) to “what the customer does” (behavior) as being the primary segmentation concern.   Understanding Desirability means understanding how people use or consume products over time.  It’s about the behavior of consumers, regardless of how old or young, rich or poor, or what their zip code is.

What’s happening at a higher level is this:  There are business models that are truly customer-centric, and there are those that are not.  People prefer dealing with a model that is customer centric – and they always have.  But over the past several decades, they have not had much choice in this matter.

Insert your favorite “Corner Grocery Store” tale here.

Then came the web.  The web represents interactivity on a mass scale.  People like interactivity.  But it’s a different kind of relationship, and demands a customer-centric business model to be really successful.  You can’t just put a topping of interactivity on the old mass Marketing model most folks are using online and expect it to work for you.

That’s called a Meatball Sundae.

In the past, the number of companies in the “not centric” category dwarfed those in the “centric” category.  Then the web happened, and companies that never had contact with the end customer before, and were insulated from interactivity, now all of a sudden had to open contact centers.  Interactivity was forced on them.

It’s not that customers did not want direct relationships, and the web somehow gave them “power” or put them “in control”.  It’s just now people have experienced these kind of relationships with more companies than they ever could before, and they want this kind of relationship with every company they deal with.  So the environment at companies not used to the customer-centric idea feels like customers are taking control.

The customer is only in control if you are using the wrong Marketing model in an interactive world.  If you are using the right model, there should be no reason customers would want to take control in the first place.

This is what customer-centricity really means.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Choose Your Marketing / Business Model.


Now that we’ve powered through the Strategic landscape, on to the Tactical “OK, so what do we do now?” part of the program in the next couple of posts.

Comments on these ideas?  Or are you all waiting for the Tactical stuff to jump in?