Shifting from Guessing, to Stalking, to Asking, to Learning

Intent Marketing Landscape
“The power of social media (individual voices) and VRM (individuals being empowered, commercially or otherwise) will put us ahead in the next decade. It’s a bigger opportunity than search (SEM*).”

[Darren Herman]

Perhaps one of the least talked about and most valuable virtues of modern times is patience.

For someone like me who can go from zero to Italian in no time, the last decade and half spent at the intersection of business and technology has been both super rewarding and incredibly frustrating.

We are both making progress and inching our way forward.

The title of this post explains why: our conversations about audiences, users, customers, buyers (not exactly interchangeable terms), however we refer to the people who foot the bill for products and services have followed a pattern.

Thanks to technology, marketers and especially eCommerce groups have gone:

  • from guessing what people may be trying to do online — it used to be quaint to even have a Web site; many an organization's digital properties have been built that way and remain stubbornly difficult to navigate and/or get anything useful from today
  • to stalking them in an attempt to be the choice for that buy it click — it reminds me of someone who keeps following you because you just looked at them once, maybe you were even looking past them; yet they thought you were interested
  • to asking them to do something now with insistence — pop up newsletter sign ups, coupons, interruption ads, offers self-destructing in a few seconds unless you grab them, and so on; someone not used to online browsing would get discouraged rather fast
  • to asking them to "like" a brand and follow a stream for a chance to — and the chance is invariably to receive more questions and requests to act now with the additional ask to share, stream, post, review; only when positive, of course
  • the more productive asking is more expensive — that's where customer support has been working all along in reactive-type scenarios; the proactive kind used to be the suggestion box, then product idea, then feature, then reduced to the type of latte you can order and how you can pay for it (it's for your own good, customers don't know which products and services are best for them, only the job to be done, etc.)
  • are we at learning yet? Jury is still out. See Market Intelligence that flows both ways#.

It seems to me that much of the social media disappointment pundits talk about is misplaced. A brand can indeed have social streams filled with happy followers and friends hanging out for best color on Fridays — and not make a dime out of it.

Should we be surprised? Convergence is here to stay — deal with it.

There is a fundamental gap between what people choose to do with their time and tools and what they should be welcoming as part of the deal. There is a time for every purpose, or so the song used to say. How to know which time is appropriate?

Businesses still mostly fund the stalking part of being online, easier to outsource at scale. Never mind that the dollar-in, dollar-out type argument falls apart when you are constantly spending dollars just to stay in place rather than building something that accrues over time.

Organizations will only shift stance when it is apparent that commercial advantage comes from doing it. Stronger competition and sagging results are typically good incentives to try something new.

Context is also here to stay and companies will increasingly need to consider the complexity of customer conversations. We are still within incremental thinking.

So while we made leaps forward with individual voices via social we are still inching our way to a point where individuals — and not companies, networks, or other entitities — become empowered commercially in ways that makes the scale tip in their favor.


[image courtesy kbsp]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.