by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded
Marketing is communication. Great marketing connects emotionally. New media, social media, and every other new app has allowed various communications in ways that were unheard of 10 years ago. It has given everyone the ability to communicate and connect with people they would have otherwise never get to talk with. It has created virtual social groups, solidified fans, and opened opportunity for customers to buy exactly what they want. All of this is a great tool for marketers and communications professionals. But, in the midst of this electronic revolution, I’m seeing an erosion of the core of what great marketing is all about – human connection.
Though we live with technology, remember, we still live in an analog world. People are human, not machines. (If it was all about technology, we should have our machines, go out, search, connect with other machines, make the purchase, and call it a day. There would be no need for humans to be in business, ever.) And as people, we carry characteristics that are not always logical, but mostly emotional. We buy not on logic, but by wants and desires (emotion). We buy because we like someone, not necessarily because they have the best. Where I see many tech companies and software developers make a major mistake is they believe in the myth that “If you create the best product, it will win.” Logically, that is a reasonable conclusion, but people are doing the purchasing, not machines. So, there are other “soft” issues that affect buying decisions. For example, you may have the best software application, but if you or your company is a pain in the ass to work with, many customers will settle for “second best”. (Though it is RARE that too many companies have THE corner on any category. Yes, Google is one for now.) We are all like that. The world is full of alternatives of companies that offer the same thing and you may even like working with them too. Bonus.
Another point that we still live in analog is the vast majority of our purchases is still real stuff. We want real food, not virtual food. We want real clothes to wear, not just dressing up our avatars. We are looking for real experiences, connections, value, and stories. Too many companies are forgetting about taking care of the channels that already exists in pursuit of chasing the “new tech thing” to do. What use is great SEO if your customer-service delivery experience sucks? What does it say about your company if your web site is cool and appealing, but when I go to your store, I feel like I just stepped into an imposter? That destroys brand authenticity and credibility. So what if you have thousands of “friends” on social networks, but you can’t even get my name right when a representative calls to explain why my order is delayed?
Here are a few guidelines that a book titled “Becoming a Category of One” has outlined that I think are still true, even in a digital world:
• Know more about the customer than anyone else
• Get closer to the customer than anyone else
• Emotionally connect with the customer better than anyone else
These ideas will give you the single greatest competitive advantage in a customer-driven market. Online apps are capable in assisting you in accomplishing these three ideas. Software is able to collect huge amounts of data so you can know more about your customer as an example. But in the end, without human, emotional connection, you’re easily replaced. Because you’ve been reduced to just a web address and a price point, I have no emotional loyalties to you or your company. If a company depends on technology alone, you will eventually end up losing to the guy who happens to belong to the same club as your best client. Because at least, your competitor is funny, has 2 kids just like your client, and loves to fly fish, just like your client, he feels like your competitor truly understands him and really likes him as a person. It’s hard to make that connection online.
Digital possibilities are endless. The smart marketers realize that this is an opportunity to expand and amplify a brand, not to replace the real stuff that matters. No media or channel can ever be THE answer. Not even social media.