Marketing Communications: While the Internet keep growing at a frantic pace, "2.0" becomes a commodity word, active blogs are tens of millions, and UGC (user-generated content) is being adopted with enthusiasm by advertising agencies, a growing discrepancy grows everyday more evident between many a company corporate image, the “sparkling” brand marketed on media and in interviews, and the actual company face and behavior in the cold reality, as for when anyone must interact with it to simply ask for a refund, a piece of information or for a substitution. Often such discrepancies exceeds by far the most creative imagination.
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On television, in the press, inside magazine reviews and ads your company appears like a priceless chocolate candy, coveted and wished from all those high ups. In all of your company official statements, inside ads and press releases, your company transpires a professional, sleek and competent look from all pores.
In fact, your whole communication strategy is based upon the creation of a glamorous sparkling façade which pushes and reinforces the idea that your company and products are really the best.
But in the real world, the “façade”, the popular, high-profile brand you have built so far, is starting to collapse.
Increasingly with jokes and funny stories told by your employees, then on blog posts and on the faces of your colleagues and customers, the people you know have been attempting to communicate to you that something major has changed, and that you have not realized it yet. And your brand, from an invincible fortress has come to look like a castle cards ready to crumble at the first gust of wind.
The answers are all around you!
a) Consumers Are Not a Passive Audience Anymore
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Once upon a time, when mass media where the true and only owners of the marketplace and television was the main channel to promote and market new products and services, consumers were treated like half-intelligent kids to whom to provide advices and useful tips.
Today, those same kids, have grown up. They talk among themselves on Skype and tell each other which and where to buy the latest gizmo.
These guys uncover products defects and idiosyncrasies before the very companies that make them and they can often create complementary products, tools and services that make your own product more useful and reliable.
Today, those very same dumb kids talk and communicate non-stop on channels and through networks that no corporation can monitor, while sharing with no censorship what really appeals to them and what not.
They are the one doing real marketing, the one based on word of mouth and on the value and credibility of a trusted friend's opinion. They do it second by second via email, chat and though all of the major online social networks.
b) From Consumer to Marketing Agents
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Those people we once called consumers are nowadays active individuals, who are up-to-date with the news, keep themselves well informed and are very aware of the choices they make. These former consumers are also able to compare products and different brands, and to evaluate different services without using cost as the only comparison criteria.
From passive receivers of the marketing and propaganda messages you have been sending down to them via traditional television and the press, these consumers have rapidly become industry commenters, reviewers, recommenders and trusted evaluators. It is thanks to them that some of your products are a splashing success while some others have been rapidly called back even after you having spent a multi-million advertising campaign on them.
It is these very people who more and more frequently let their key choices be guided by ecological, social and community interests and not only by their own private interests.
Remember: They are the ones that create new trends and who determine the success or oblivion of your products.
c) Media Have Changed
The age in which you utilized top-down mass-media communication approaches, while leveraging the lowest common denominator to reach the largest sized audience possible, is over.
Today new media come from below... from the roots. These new media are called blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasting tools, web radio and live video streaming... they can do most anything the major networks can do without the huge costs and the compromises that these carried with them.
Unless your target audience is exclusively made up of people that follow only mainstream media, you will have soon to face these guys too.
d) Marketing: PUSH Is Dead, Long Life to PULL
The age of interruptive, hammering and distracting advertising, the age of PUSH, which often creates artificial needs to be satisfied with new commercial products and spends millions of massive marketing campaigns has already passed its point of maximum profitability.
The new approach to effective marketing today is called PULL, and it is characterized by a marketplace in which are the individuals themselves who chose and select the products and services that best match their needs and requirements. It is them, the former consumers, who now do not hesitate to independently seek information and references about the products they want before buying them.
Today, notwithstanding how unreal this may appear to be, there are already thousands of companies, which by responding to their customers in a timely and friendly way, sell and make a profit online without doing any traditional advertising at all.
When you have a quality product, keeping a marketing "façade" between you and your customers is completely useless.
And if it is true that the new Cluetrain marketing paradigm is so deeply different and alien to our present-day marketing communication approaches, it is reasonable to think that also within your company the required transformation and changes to get on the right communication track for the future is not an easy or painless one.
If you are a marketing manager, here is my ten-step formula on how you can start taking down that damn corporate façade to build a new company identity in which employees and customers identify themselves.
e) Give a Face to Your Company
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Show us your face. Stop hiding behind institutional profiles that do not show your real face nor what your real responsibilities are. Show us the faces of the people that are working with you. Show us why these people have chosen to work with you and what they love to do in their eight-hour day shifts.
f) Give a Voice to Your Team-mates
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Make them speak, honor their contribution. In your advertising campaigns you talk so proudly about giving voice to us small guys, why do you then treat your employees like slaves. How do you think they can marry your corporate mission unless you first marry their causes too?
Open a blog to each one of them and let them share their frustrations and victories. Let them share and public their needs and tasks, as to allow your network of customers, suppliers and partners
to provide valuable suggestions and assistance when possible.
g) Listen to Your Clients
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Leverage your customers' comments and ideas to continually improve and refine your products. Use blogs, wikis and forums to communicate and interact with them. Limit restrictions and increase the spaces for public interaction.
Put your staff in the condition to have a conversation with your customers and to be able to reply publicly to the questions they submit.
The more shared and open conversations. between your company and your customers, the smaller the needs for customer assistance staff.
h) Talk in First Person
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Start to communicate using the first singular person. Stop being vague and stop using the “we” when needing to mention anything relevant. Open a blog, but do not hire someone to write on it in your place. It is you who we want to listen to.
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Let your voice be heard on the main corporate blog of your company. Place comments on articles that do talk about important issues and respond back on posts that call or reference you. Write sometimes things that you feel strongly and passionately about.
l) Share Before Asking
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Make sure that the web sites, blogs and the other outlets that your company utilizes to communicate are truly information rich and useful. If they are only static brochureware, it is time to change as people will not trust companies that have no ability to communicate without putting up another fake brochure. Walk the extra mile and offer valuable contents and services for free; gain the respect and trustworthiness of your potential future customers.
m) Build a Community
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Create an online space where all of your customers can freely meet and share their experiences with your products and services. Leverage your existing services to create meeting points, sharing venues and creative brainstorming roundtables that would otherwise remain underground.
n) Acknowledge Your Mistakes
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Immediately acknowledge your mistakes. Publicly. Do always something tangible to repair or compensate the damage created. By doing that and by making honesty and transparency your key assets you are actively communicating to your potential customers that you and your company have abandoned the fake façade in favour of a direct, two-way open conversation.
o) Be Findable, Traceable
Make yourself and your company findable online while mastering the ability to provide hype-free and useful information on all your products and services. Traditionally identified as SEM or “search engine marketing”, this area of knowledge focuses on optimizing your site architecture, layout and contents to make your company products easily found on major search engines. As such, SEM and SEO represent a critical and vital know-how for any company desiring to reach the once-dumb kids we encountered early on.
p) Suck, Don’t Squeeze
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Change gear. Start to know better your customers…take interest in them… create spaces and opportunities for those who want to support you… honour your customers, celebrate your collaborators, and if you are smart, let them have fun together. Invite periodically your largest customers and make them participate in defining your company future opportunities.
In the age of blogs, of bottom-up marketing and social networks your customers have become a unique asset to leverage, not another opportunity to “squeeze”!
If you want to know more about effective communication, get a look at the following links:
Original version first written in Italian by Robin Good for 7thfloor magazine and titled "How Corporate Communication Is Changing – A Mini-Guide By Robin Good".
Originally written by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia.Robin Good -
Reference: 7th Floor [ Read more ]