Customers are powerful.
We can’t control customers and we can’t control what they say. All we can do is guide them to some extent. We can provide them with the stories they will tell.
It’s interesting to look at the progress of this thing called ‘marketing’. Around 50 years ago, marketing communications was all about one-way advertising. It was a monologue. It was big companies broadcasting their message through a limited number of media outlets to a passive audience. First on the radio, then later on TV, advertisements were one-to-many communications and the advertiser controlled the message. Of course there was word-of-mouth between individual customers on the ground, but they didn’t have the same power as advertisers to speak to masses of people. Advertisers were firmly in control.
As companies began to realise that customers might have something useful to say, marketing became a dialogue. This became a two-way process, not equally two ways, but communication from customer to company became increasingly important within the wider marketing process. Nowadays this has developed even further, and customers are even more powerful. In the 21st century customers have access to the internet. They can communicate not only with their immediate neighbours, but with communities worldwide; an online campaign can counter a corporation’s message or destroy its reputation; a blogger can bring down a company.
Word-of-mouth is now electronic, rapid and global. We’ve moved from monologue, to dialogue, to ‘poly-logue’. ‘Polylogue’ is a word I have coined meaning ‘many people talking amongst themselves’. Yes, the customers are the poly-loguers, or let’s say ‘ploggers’. No matter what your advertising message, the reality is that customers will do the plogging. Be aware of this. Perhaps all we can do, when faced with this power of customers, is be authentic and be honest. The truth will out.
Customers want a story. ‘Buzz marketing’ is about the way a story spreads about a product or service or brand. People tell stories and the currency of conversation is tales, not advertising slogans. Perhaps all we can do is give them a tale to tell. Give them the true story of our brand. Tell them what we did, including what we did wrong and how we put it right. Tell them where we’re coming from. Tell them about ourselves and our people. Be open about our passions and beliefs. They will find out anyway, soon enough, so why not tell them now?
Recognise the power of customers and provide stories for their plogging.
Customers talk with each other like never before. Word of mouth is electronic, rapid and global. Advertisers no longer control the message; customers do. All we can do is be open and give them stories to tell.
What to do next
-Tell customers about your company, your values, and your ambitions. And then remain true to them. Good stories about your business will spread. But beware, because bad stories will spread further.
– Add a section to your website (and other marketing communications) about your own and your company’s back story, its values and its ambitions.
This is an extract from David’s marketing book ‘Chase One Rabbit: Strategic Marketing for Business Success. 63 Tips, Techniques and Tales for Creative Entrepreneurs’.
Read this and 62 more inspiring and practical marketing techniques on your smartphone by downloading this strategic marketing book as an eBook. It is also available as a paperback and as an Audiobook. This highly-acclaimed marketing book is also available in Spanish and French.