We all know that online technology has irrevocably changed the way we do business. It’s high time that it changed marketing theory, too.
If you’ve read up on marketing theory, you’ve no doubt heard of the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion. They form the elements you need to consider when planning your marketing strategy and were recently joined by three more Ps: people, process and physical evidence.
I’d argue that because of technology changes of the past 40 years, particularly the rise of online, an eighth P needs to be added: partnership.
The technology-fuelled exponential increase in information sharing has fundamentally changed the relationship between businesses and their customers. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, businesses have been firmly at the centre of the universe, with information from the business (advertising, product information, product development, etc.) travelling in one direction to customers, with little or no information travelling back.
But the net changed all that. Businesses are no longer at the centre of the universe; the customer is now firmly at the centre, with the power to choose from a huge number of businesses and information sources. This has been described as a Copernican shift because in business terms it’s as radical as the shift in thinking from believing the Earth was at the centre of the universe to the realisation that it was just another planet revolving around a huge and powerful sun.
There has also been a shift from one-way communication flow (business to customer) to two-way flow. Customers can and do tell you what they think of you, your products and your customer service.
As a businessperson, the simplest way to understand this new situation is that it’s not about you, it’s about them. The master-servant style of relationship doesn’t work anymore.
That’s why it’s important to forge a partnership with your customers. In an age when your competition is only a click away, you need your customers more than they need you. Forming and maintaining a partnership is hard work but you’ll benefit through a better understanding of what your customers want, which leads to a more fruitful experience both for you and for them. Advertising legend David Ogilvy understood this concept long before the internet was invented when he said: “The consumer isn’t a moron. She’s your wife.”
Unsure how to build that partnership? Do it in three steps:
- Ask your customers what they want. Do it in person and via your website, blog, Twitter account or Facebook page.
- Listen to what they have to say. Monitor your brand and your category in social media. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as setting up some Google Alerts and TweetBeeps.
- Show that you’ve been listening. Act on their ideas. Use their feedback to redesign your products and services.
Like a good marriage, a strong partnership takes time and effort from both parties but the outcome is well worth it. In business, you definitely don’t want to be on your own.
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