For many years marketers have been developing strategies and tactics that focused on distribution. The goal of television, radio and print was to get as many eyeballs and “earballs” on the material. Overtime this created a generation of the promotionally challenged; people that don’t see or hear advertising. It’s something we don’t even think about. We simply block it out. (I remember reading something recently about an eye tracking study in China. It turns out that the Chinese have not been actively marketed to the way that Westerners have and because of this the collective Chinese eye was all over the page.)
Back when the Internet was young, marketers thought of the Internet as just another distribution tool. Putting information out there so that people could find you online and giving someone the option to click on an ad was defined as interactivity. Big deal. Now with some hindsight we can see the evolution of the Internet in regards to businesses as:
- Online existence
- Information sharing
- eCommerce (based on model)
- Revenue generation
- Bandwidth & media offered explosion
- Relationship creation
- Expansion of the Internet beyond the PC
What’s interesting about this list is that these are phases that the internet still embodies. This evolution has been accretive. The Internet has also recently become more interactive with respect to the masses. Social networks, blogs, forums, tagging and comments on YouTube videos. This is where marketing can become engaging through conversation and develop much deeper relationship with customers.
The important thing to remember is that the user controls the conversation and therefore the relationship. (They always have and the the Internet has only magnified this.) The Internet is becoming the single source for all media and communication. (As I right this I’m listening to a radio station in Hawaii.)
My goal as a business person is to help facilitate the conversation between business and customer. Marketers need to remember that the Internet can, through multiple mediums, enable that interaction and that this does not mean that every type of online media focuses on interaction. I do however think that all online mediums should incite interaction with businesses or peers.
Two things to remember when talking with customers online.
- They (customers) control the conversation and will reach out to a business if they chose to, utilizing the medium they are most comfortable with. (Recently heard this referred to as Inbound Marketing.) This does not mean being passive. This means that discovering a product/service/business online needs to be a great experience and that business needs to be ready.
- Online mediums have rules and are not always interactive. Businesses shouldn’t use blogs as PR tools unless they are willing to let someone speak honestly and openly. Again this does not mean giving away IP. It simply means that if a post sounds like damage control from the People’s Republic of China; you’re doomed. In regards to interactivity, I think that ‘branded entertainment’ moments such as BMW films have a definitive place online. Now that I think of it, the goal is not to simply get many to watch that video but to spark a conversation (with that business or a peer) about that video in as many online venues as possible. Which, then leads us back to an interaction that the customer controls.
In the end, the Internet will be the delivery mechanism for all forms of media/communication. The goal of marketers should be to remind the customer that they have complete control as to how deep a relationship gets and to be prepared to utilize the medium the customer feels most comfortable with. Dialing down when they want to passively watch a video online and turning it up when they want to have businesses send them behaviorally targeted/location based advertisements.