In fact, a new set of principles has shoved its way along side of product, price, place and promotion in the hierarchy marketing planning. In the age of the customer it is the consideration of what I call the 4Cs that is paramount to the strategic and tactical success of any business. The new marketing model suggests that it is the use of Content, Context, Connection and Community, the 4Cs, that dictates the success of business.
Let me explain each of the Cs to make sure you understand how I’m applying them in this circumstance.
Content that educates, is authentic, and seen as valuable to the consumer is the new currency of marketing. Customers have grown weary of marketing messages that are blasted at them in an effort to sell. In fact, this type of marketing has little or no impact for most businesses as prospect have so many ways to completely shut it out.
Nowadays smart marketers, for example, often freely distribute detailed “how to” information via blog posts and white papers in an effort to gain permission to engage a prospect in a sales conversation. This no strings attached content allows them to break down built in sales resistance, build trust and demonstrate a true level of expertise in their business. Quite often this information is served up by search engines in response to very specific queries adding another layer of trust to the content.
While we now enjoy enormous access to information, due to the phenomenon of search technology and the growth of content strategies, we’re also overwhelmed with the need to filter, aggregate and make sense of it all.
The ability to place information in the context of our prospect’s life has become a core marketing tactic. In some cases this can be accomplished by simplifying our own messages and uncluttering our marketing communications. Creating products that do less, but do it elegantly. Narrowing our ideal target customer focus. Consistently offering advice drawn from the reams of relevant data and presented in snack size digests.
The growth of blogs, and certainly the ascension of some very high profile bloggers, can be attributed in part to the habit of presenting hi quality information, frequently, in short bursts. The twitter explosion certainly benefitted from this principle as well.
The concept of connection as a business principle today possess just a touch of irony. The more connected we become to technology the more we long for connection that involves human interaction.
In his 1982 book Megatrends, John Nesbitt coined the phrase “high tech, high touch” to warn of a growing need to match every advance in technology use with a corresponding human touch. Nesbitt’s writing focused primarily on the interaction of machine vs. man in the typical workplace as it was written far in advance of the popularity of the Internet or many other forms of information technology.
However, the most remarkable businesses seem to balance high tech connection with high touch connection by allowing one to inform the other. By using technology to allow prospects to connect when and where they choose, they allow people to connect more deeply when and where they choose.
The last of the 4Cs is Community. We’ve always had community, it’s in our schools, our churches, and our business organizations, but those are a form of community based on geography.
In the wired world community is free to form around shared ideas, common likes and dislikes, and strategic relationships unbound by distance.
Increasingly prospects, customers, partners, suppliers, mentors and even competitors form communities that can gain through access to an organization’s resources and the ability to generate content on behalf of the organization, context on behalf of the community and connection at many new levels.
While a Chamber of Commerce after hours networking event is indeed a place to build community, so too is the conversation in a blog comment, on twitter, in a Squidoo lens or a Ning hosted community of wedding photographers and videographers such as Jules Cafe.
It has become essential to create opportunities for customers and prospects to join your community.
It may still be some time before this happens, but I believe every first year marketing text should include these all important concepts.
Image credit Marufish: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marufish/