I really liked Chris Carfi's post yesterday. David Cushman is in the market for a car and has used his blog to invite someone to sell him one. Chris picked up on this and used it to write a little lesson about how businesses should think about marketing.
Chris' point: while companies are focusing on their viewpoint, customers are focused on theirs, and the two aren't really meshing.
My take on this is that in the past, customers probably had to flex a little bit and see things from the vendor's point of view, and vendors got spoiled and started, foolishly, to insist on this. I relayed a story about a case like this, also involving a car sale, a few months ago.
These days, the balance has shifted to put the power into the hands of the customer. This is what Cluetrain is all about. So companies are focused on Selling; they Market because they have discovered it helps with sales; and they Support because they have to, it helps with sales, and it's an extra revenue stream. End of story, right?
Wrong. As Chris points out, these three functions are the flip side of what the customer is doing:
- Search (Marketing is supposed to reach the customer during this stage)
- Shop (Sales supposed to kick in here)
- Help (Support supposed to address this need)
Chris' view is that the vendors are in a "transactional mindset", and if they had a "relationship" with the customer they'd have David's business already. The reason this is true is because if more companies saw the need to maintain a connection with their customers even when their customers weren't in the process of buying something, they'd have a good way to ask their customers for referrals.
In particular, referrals could be incentivized - and although many businesses do this, many more that could do not. If I could make $1K by reading David's blog and telling my auto dealer about him, I'd be on the phone to my dealer right now. Or even if I weren't compensated - if I just had a friendship, or if I'd gotten a referral from that auto dealer for my business and owed him one. There are lots of ways to build a relationship.
High-end, high-touch businesses do this as a matter of course, but thanks to the Internet (and no so incidentally tools like Chris Carfi's cerado, now everybody can do it.