The world of marketing has changed dramatically in the last few years, due in large part to the Internet, access to information, and changes in the way we shop, network, search, gather and learn.
These changes require that marketers, even successful ones, adapt and evolve how they approach marketing altogether. The age of the 4Ps of marketing that called for businesses to create products, test out a pricing models, secure distribution or place and promote the heck out them, has given way to the age of the customer.
In fact, a new set of principles has shoved its way ahead 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 the remarkable 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 they apply them in this context.
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. Any information that is seen by a prospect as irrelevant is increasingly block in the effort to tread water in the sea of information aimed at them on a daily basis.
Today’s 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 a layer of trust to the content.
Content is not simply a buzz word created by new media consultants, it’s an important marketing strategy and consistently unfolds in the form or written word, audio recording, video recording and in-person presentation.
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 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 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.
Connection as a marketing principle is somewhat rooted in 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 as it was written far in advance of the popularity of the Internet or many other forms of information technology.
However, the challenge now is to strive 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, you can 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 are communities with 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 prior to becoming a customer.
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.
Now is the time to create opportunities for customers and prospects to join a community.
Moving your marketing thinking and marketing strategy to take full advantage of the power of the four Cs will position your business firmly in the path of the age of the customer.