The following treatise is the result of my ruminations of late on the changing world of business and marketing. Please feel free to connect with me if you’d like to debate the issues; this is definitely a work in progress.
Update – 12.14.09: After some rumination, I’ve realized there was a critical element missing from diagrams 4 & 5 — Experience. See below…
To market, to market…
It used to be simple to go to market.
You’d load up the wagon with food stuffs, pots and pans, a couple of fat pigs, and head into town. While you hawked your wares, eager customers lined up, asked a few questions and exchanged their money for goods. At day’s end, everyone would go home again, home again, jiggety-jig — they, to enjoy their purchases and spread the word — you, to count the day’s profits and get ready to do it all over again tomorrow.
These days? Not so simple.
For one thing, there’s a ton of noise out there. Too many goods and services fighting for smaller and smaller spaces in the marketplace. Too many voices hawking messages that say “Buy! Buy! Buy!”
For another thing, as if crafting the right message wasn’t hard enough, technology now offers a gazillion ways to get that message out (and often requires a rocket scientist to do so) — assuming anyone even cares to listen.
On top of that, the marketplace itself has changed. The lines between you and your customers have blurred almost beyond recognition. Between your brand, sales, R&D, etc., more often than not your customers are as much in the driver’s seat as you.
And, let’s not forget to add the value of reams and reams of data available on almost every aspect of your business. Never before have we had access to the wealth of information that can lead to so much actionable insight…except that extracting that insight also requires a rocket scientist.
It’s all integrated…
In my years of being in the marketing business, I’ve often bemoaned the fact that everybody speaks to the power of integrated marketing but very few companies do much about it. I’ve also seen many digital initiatives fail because it’s not really possible to “do digital” in the absence of an integrated strategy — its success is bound to too many touch points along the marketing stream.
I mean, really integrated…
We now live in an era when all the elements of a business overlap, so “integrated” doesn’t just mean that all elements of your marketing campaign have to work together; it means that all elements of your entire business model have to work together. Attempting to solve the marketing puzzle without addressing the connections will simply fall short.
It’s all digital…
So guess what? Newspapers are dying, broadcast media is less effective and everyone’s online doing social networking. We’ve turned the corner into a fully digital, fully consolidated world.
This is not news; everyone talks about the “new paradigm.” But is anyone doing anything about it? I mean, in the right ways? Agencies, consultants, social media experts and other pundits are all playing in the sandbox, promoting new services and attempting to monetize the sand. But precious few are asking an important question: Are we even in the right sandbox?
Because, at the end of the day, you can’t necessarily apply new ways of thinking to the same old framework.
Let’s face it, it’s time to shift the paradigm. Marketing strategy (as we have known it), is dead. Long live go-to-market strategy.
I’m not attempting to be flippant in the use of this term. To me, “marketing,” conjures up images of branding, ad campaigns, focus group and the like, which all have their place, but have had their day. I much prefer the term “go-to-market” because it paints a more homogeneous picture of the fundamental shift, and speaks to what we strive for in the relationships between business and customers in today’s marketplace.
To illustrate, let’s walk through a few diagrams, beginning with the old way…
Diagram #1 illustrates an ancient view of business modeling. In essence it says this:
- Your people (employees)…
- Work within your systems to create an outcome of goods and services that…
- You bring to market.
In the old days, getting to market meant little more than a distribution system and sales people.
Diagram #2, The Golden Age of Advertising & Marketing, added one more element that we’ve all grown to know and love: brand.
- Your people (employees)…
- Work within your systems,
- Creating goods and services aligned with your brand,
- Giving you power and influence in the marketplace.
This worked very well from the 50s through the 90s, when brands had the ability to reach eager customers. But we now live in an age when the customer is in charge of how, when, where and why they want to connect.
Diagram #3 represents an entire shift in the framework of what constitutes “business:”
- People (employees, customers, influencers, et. al.), systems and brand are totally interconnected,
- In overlapping internal and external realms,
- That culminate in the transactions of the marketplace.
To illustrate these points:
- Your customer is just as much a custodian of your brand as you are – when she blogs about your products and tweets about your service.
- Your systems are both external and internal – when your company web site contains marketing info, a vendor portal, and a blog in which both your employees and customers participate.
- Your quality control department is staffed both internally and externally – when employees, contractors and customers are responsible for submitting bug reports on your latest software release.
Diagram #4 introduces two more critical components of the new paradigm, Communication Streams and Experience — the elements leading to perception and action that drive revenue and profitability (internally and externally):
- Your business model of interconnected people, systems and brand,
- Which lives in both internal and external realms,
- Gives rise to Communication Streams of three types…
- Facts – information about your company that is clear, cut and dried, generally pushed outward by the company (product specs, classifications, etc.)
- Stories – brand-centric information about your company, generally pushed outward but picked up on by customers (advertising, word-of-mouth champions, etc.)
- Conversations – fact- and brand-centric communication over which you may have little control, but should strive to have influence
- And both customer and staff Experiences of all types,
- Resulting in perceptions that lead to the actions that provide revenue.
The Communication Streams and Experiences of your business are critical factors in the health of your company, from internal to external brand presence to employee and customer satisfaction to business productivity and market sustainability — all of which add to, or subtract from, your bottom line.
- Your company tweets about its new product release (3rd party tool for marketing and PR)
- Driving prospects to your website (integrated go-to-market platform)
- Where they can order online (catalogue and sales)
- Which feeds into your back-end systems (accounting and distribution)
- And also gives them access to post on your blog (internal/external facts/stories/conversations)
- About an issue with one of your other products (internal/external QA)
- Which prompts further product development (R&D)
- And also prompts another customer to post a video of the product in use on YouTube (3rd party platform)
- That an industry pundit picks up, and responds with an article on an industry news site (3rd party platform)
- To which you respond with a comment to the post, linking to a press release on your site (internal/external connections)
- Which another prospect reads and tweets about (who’s controlling your brand here?)
- That one of your staff picks up, giving him an idea about packaging, which he sketches out and posts on the company intranet (another internal/external bridge)
- Which triggers a whole new point-of-sale initiative, including training materials to your sales, marketing, distribution and support staff (via email, your intranet and workshops)
- That the public raves about through twitter and all the blogs (more external brand control)
- Giving rise to a 300% increase of fans on your company Facebook page. (3rd party, external all-in-one go-to-market platform)
Lastly, Diagram #5 represents the same go-to-market framework, but illustrates the steps to ensure successful go-to-market results:
- Assess — and develop strategies for — the strengths, deficiencies and connections of your business model, in order to grasp the implications of the way it all works together, the goals that must be met, and how you’re going to meet them.
- Establish, enable, influence and analyze the communication streams (online and offline) and experiences (of customers and staff), implementing tactics that are integrated, actionable and productive within all the appropriate facets of your business model.
- Steps one and two will yield desired results, which will feed back into the whole system (with your help) to support and promote an ongoing, profitable model.
Recognizing and acting upon the elements — and the intersections — in Diagram #5 allows your company to be proactive, instead of reactive, to the events in the previous example.
Sure is. The digital marketplace has more moving parts than a Swiss watch, with commensurate costs, resource needs and potential income. In a recent white paper for the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Joe Burton, COO of McCann Worldgroup’s San Francisco operation, states:
- Digital’s high-volume, low-dollar, high-complexity nature makes it the most labor-intensive medium in the advertising industry.
- The lines between media, production and agency services are now blurred.
- Digital requires the establishment of new job functions and organizational structures within agencies and clients, with related supply and demand cost ramifications
- The cost of providing Digital services is directionally double that of traditional “full-service” agency fees.
- The (seemingly) higher cost of a Digital approach can generally be easily justified due to the measurable nature of the activity, proven effectiveness increases and resulting decreases in media and production spend to accomplish comparable goals.
Doesn’t have to be. The trick is to understand the value of strategic thought and analysis within this model — and the value of setting clear goals and strategy — to put in the up-front time so that tactics have qualifiable and quantifiable results.
And, just as important, to understand that even small, but well-planned steps can go a long way toward marketplace success.
I’ll expand more on the how-tos in an upcoming article. Until then, it’s home again, home again, jiggity jog.