We recently asked you to send small business questions to OPEN Forum's expert, Guy Kawasaki, to help launch his new column. Today, he kicks off his third Ask the Wise Guy column about the latest marketing techniques. You can send your questions to Guy here.
Q: What will be the new marketing techniques used, in next five years, online and offline, to sell a product or service?
-BP, Mumbai, India
A: If you had asked me to make this predication five years ago, I would not have told you that Twitter and Facebook would be the key to marketing. Back then, Twitter didn't even exist and Facebook was a year old, so it’s tough to make a decent prediction.
Having said this, there are some trends that I think will continue, if not accelerate:
1. Nobodies are the new somebodies. It used to be that journalists, analysts and experts told us what to use. That's less and less true. Now your friends and acquaintances are as likely to influence your decision as the so-called “influentials” because information is so readily available.
2. Browbeating potential customers with slick and simultaneously insulting sales pitches is losing effectiveness. The Internet has made information so fast, free and ubiquitous that marketing has to be much more sophisticated, salient and transparent.
3. Competition is increasing because the costs of starting companies is lower than ever because of Open Source tools, cloud-based infrastructure, cheap marketing (Twitter and Facebook), and virtual teams. Believe it or not, this is good because it forces companies to get better or die.
These developments have major ramifications. First, marketing power grows from the bottom up. “Lonelyboy15” and “IAmTrixie” might be the two people who love your product and start a grassroots movement that makes it successful. The challenge is to find these people because they don’t have high visibility.
The answer to the challenge is that you can’t really find them and target them. You need plant fields of flowers to see which ones will bloom. In other words, do what you have to do to get as many people to try your product as possible.
Second, the quality of your product and your customer support is more important than ever. In the old days, the somebodies would try your product for a few days (or pass it on to an assistant) and then dash out a review. Somebodies were not always hardcore users of a product, so the product didn’t have to be as robust.
Now, an unknown person in an unknown organization may be pounding on your product eight hours a day—trying to do real work with it, not just giving it a spin. It’s like the difference between a car magazine test-driving a new pickup truck versus a construction crew using it to build a house. If you want the construction crew to tell their peers that your truck rocks, it has to perform. And so does the dealer when the truck goes in for service.
Third, there will be more competition than ever in technology markets because products and services are cheaper to build and sustain. It used to be that an idea without funding faced great challenges getting off the ground. Now ideas don’t require nearly as much money to take off.
For the near future, I'd advise that you incorporate Twitter and Facebook into your marketing efforts because they are as proven as any of the latest, greatest technologies. Also, keep an eye on what brands are doing with location-based services such as FourSquare, Gowalla and Loopt (disclosure: I advise Loopt).
But my prediction is that we're entering a golden age of marketing where great marketing is not only required, it's also achievable, at much lower cost. The opportunity and challenge can't get better than this. The only mistake you can truly make it staying on the sideline and not trying to kick butt.
Image credit: luc legay