Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Marketing is a conversation (1 of 2)

I had lunch with a marketing colleague the other day. He mentioned a saying that he's fond of: "Marketing is a campaign, not an event." I agree with that, and would an another: "Marketing is a conversation, not a proclamation."

In a prior post, I mentioned that "My marketing focus was:
  1. Understand customer needs and define the appropriate product or service to meet those needs
  2. Use the appropriate promotional tools to drive revenue growth for those products and services"
If you consider those two points together, understanding customer needs, then promoting, that's bilateral communication or, in essence, a conversation.

More broadly, there are many situations where companies need to have conversations with their customers and other constituents.

For example, SharedPlan had some pretty strong views regarding the collaborative aspects of project planning and management. To help us voice those views, we started a newsletter, quickly growing the readership to about 20,000. At the same time, we provided users a voice by establishing a forum and by providing a repository where users could share project plans. Again, bilateral communication .. a conversation.

At Albeo, we began a similar process. In the lighting market, LEDs represent a completely new model for lighting (with regard to economics, lifetime, light dispersion, light quality, energy use, size, heat, replaceability, you name it). The differences are so dramatic that we couldn't even begin 'selling' until we provided some fundamental education to our customers to enable them to interpret our selling statements. So we started the Albeo LED Academy, an educational resource to provide those basics. The plan was to develop the Academy into a series of webinars or live events that would then enable us to build a user community. That user community would then serve to give our customers a voice to begin a broader conversation. We had some visionary ideas about where LED lighting could go, but until we could hear the collective voice of our customers, we couldn't validate those ideas.

Both of these companies benefited from conversations with their customers and constituents. In the second post on this topic, I'll provide something of a counterexample, a company that could benefit from conversations, but does not seem to recognize or enable that.
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