Turn your marketing paradigm around

In a recent meeting with a group of people from a client company, we were discussing how to market a new product into a B2B category that is notoriously difficult to penetrate.

“How do we get the word out to these people without tripling our budget?” the president of the company asked.

We had just conducted research on the buying process for this type of product, and I encouraged him to look at how these customers make purchase decisions. Hardly any customers were influenced by “get the word out” marketing campaigns. The few who were influenced responded to messages focused on bargain-basement promotional pricing.

For most purchases in this category, customers themselves take the initiative. They search the Internet when the need for the product arises. 

“If we think about how people are buying this product,” I said, “successful marketing is much less about companies getting the word out and much more about customers deciding what words to let in.”

Web search is, obviously, one of the biggest changes in marketing over the last 15 years. Think what the word “search” means. Search isn’t a tool marketers use to get the word out. Search is a tool for customers to let the word in.

And it isn’t just basic web search that illustrates this principle about letting the word in vs. getting the word out. To deal with the cacophany of marketing messages they encounter, customers construct a fortress of mental filters to protect themselves from the noise. They only let selected messages in. 

Social media serves as one of the most powerful of these filters, as customers use the word (and the word of mouth) from friends, as they decide what to let in.

And even if you think you have a customer’s attention, don’t think that the “What words will I let in?” process isn’t still happening. While a customer is listening to you speak, reading your brochure or cruising around your website, he is still filtering your message through his crowded brain, determining which words to listen to and which to ignore, so he can focus on the other things going on in his life.

The natural marketing reflex is to think about “getting the word out.” In its most popular connotation, marketing is thought of as a process of launching campaigns and shooting volleys into the marketplace, then hoping these volleys land on desired targets.

Even many marketers who profess to think about one-to-one marketing, customer dialogue and relationship-building focus much of their thinking on “getting the word out.” Just listen to them.

There is a problem with this over-focus on getting the word out: Every other company is trying to get the word out at the same time as you are, to the same customers.The average American is bombarded with 5000 marketing and sales messages every day. If you try to get the word out by adding the 5001st message to this cacophony, how effective do you think it will be?

Another problem: Each customer ignores more than 99% of the messages that bombard her. She is very selective about what messages she lets in.

If you think about it in the simplest terms, here’s what’s happening: While companies are trying to get the word out, customers are focused more on deciding what words to let in.


The direction of marketing has changed, 180 degrees.








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