The purpose of a brand today is not simply to secure the next customer. If it was, brands would focus entirely on sales funnels, reducing cost of delivery, maximizing price and margins. Brand managers would hover at the razors edge of minimal delivery and maximum margin, every now and then juicing up the excitement to keep things interesting for customers, then turning back to efficiency and margin management. It's not hard to imagine that a business or brand operating this way would be quite uninspiring.
Engage all audiences.
To avoid the above syndrome and to remain competitive in crowded markets, the focus of marketing must be the creation useful resources or meaningful conversations that the brand starts or joins. These conversations are where people come together in a community, tribes of shared and common interests. The conversations that gather tribes. (see also how Coca Cola describes its tribal community experience strategy )
Marketing learns from sales and consulting.
Here’s a B2B example. ASA, or the Alliance for Strategic Advantage, is a sales and business consultancy that trains sales reps and owners to focus on the other party, making the working dialog all about them. This is partly a technique that fosters positive interaction, and partly a way to build trust by being the first to give (and not pitch business) without expecting to receive (not close the sale). Although their brand website lists services provided, it's not designed to convert customers. It models conversations the firm and its principal Gene Rosendale foster every day, every week and throughout the year as they respond to the needs of companies that want to break through barriers to their growth. ASA teaches and models that the road to value is providing disinterested help in their area of specialty.
ASA's service delivery takes the form of a learn dialog, where clients come to understand methods for developing trust through genuine interest in problems, and helping through authentic matching of solutions to needs. This is how people become genuinely intrigued participants, and how participants become customers when it makes sense for them, not because they were bombarded or harassed by ad media or tireless sales persistence.
New market Debut.
The German Chamber’s Das Haus Tour is a road show with 12 stops in 12 cities. It is multi-faceted collaboration promoting sustainable and energy efficient building solutions. The German Chamber supports German business in building US markets. The companies behind Das Haus technologies and products couldn't possibly afford to spend enough on traditional advertising and sales to engage the markets they want, and DasHausTour.com is not a traditional marketing website intended to drive sales. Instead, it is designed by the German Chamber to demonstrate ideas, serve as a gathering place for like minded leaders, to engage people and stimulate interaction. Audiences include university faculty and students, governors offices, architects, sustainable building associations, developers and others. Torque developed the website as a digital marketing hub for unique blogs for each city destination, as well as YouTube Video, Twitter interaction, LinkedIn groups and mainstream media posts.
Engage by design.
Similarly, when Torque developed the Holabird and Root website, we avoided a hard sell of the company's history or work. Although the site is loaded with nearly 400 images of past projects, it is designed to provide substance for visions, many of who are planners working through the creative process of erecting a building. The site is a “visual aid” and talking support for the firm’s principals as they lead the visioning process for what the future of organizations can be, as expressed through the careful design and creation of spaces and experiences. The site designed to accept further content to engage users involved in the development process.
The business you’re in.
If this idea resonates, you can move beyond thinking of marketing as a process of driving customer leads, and instead focus on engaging interested users in in communities and conversations of shared interest. Here are 11 starting points to guide in taking care of users first, and enabling customers to follow:
- Stay close to your mission for navigating change and value in the market: the bigger reason “why” behind your core business.
- Draft a plan to write, speak, publish and interact as a guide to navigating the environment or context of where each of your user audiences operate.
- Design and build digital “arms” that reach into your community of users. With the website at the center, build out your presence in social communities, blogs, synergistic websites, eNewsletters and online channels.
- Engage existing communities.
- Ask questions; no one has all the answers.
- Remember all your audience tribes: one example that is often forgotten except by the HR office is the imperative of future talent; the people who would like to work or may one day work for your organization (or whom you may well be pleading to come to work!).
- Invite contributors: guest experts and complimentary organizations—multiple networks linking together expand exponentially.
- Illustrate your ideas with well-designed examples and carefully simplified and clarified information.
- Use high production value and strong design to improve meaning, use, feel and engagement.
- Make your brand more usable by automating processes and allowing self service access to your resources.
- Provide practical tools: steps, guides and practices.