Product marketing is surely not limited to advertising and promotion, but I would like to focus on this function of the job for this particular discussion. There is a great deal of debate about the role, effectiveness and ROI of social marketing efforts. The explosion of direct or indirect social interactions between people, using social media platforms, offers marketers two new opportunities:
- To learn (research) market conditions very economically and as a continuous exercise, rather than random events (focus groups). A huge surprise to many is the willingness of individuals to disclose and share their private and quite specific data on the public domain of the Internet.
- To practice “trust-based marketing” and “peer-to-peer marketing” methods in an effort to effectively reduce the uncertainty of a product purchase.
“The best way is to look at the product from the outside-in, the way the customer sees it and to understand the needs and interests that determine the buying decision. I would suggest that there are two basic variables driving buying decisions: 1) the amount of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that the customer has in making the decision to buy; and 2) the complexity of the buying decision.”
Traditional marketing “push” methods are generating less and less return on their investment, as new technologies in traditional channels (Tivo, DVR, etc) help customers avoid advertising messages, and offer very little accountability. Pursuit of the same behavior among the new channels (Internet, mobile, etc) will cause a similar backlash. There are already browsers and plugins, enthusiastically discussed on Twitter, that enable the blocking of these advertising messages.
“…the Internet is a great enabler for consumer power – consumers are more educated and more informed than ever before. Consumers now have more tools with which to verify company’s claims or to seek out superior product options. At the same time, companies have less power to push messages onto customers. Companies must decide what to do in the face of this overwhelming convergence of forces. One answer is to “push harder” with traditional marketing methods to torment customers. Another choice is “trust based marketing” and partnering with customers to jointly succeed.”
Like in any evolutionary development there are challenges to overcome:
- Relevancy – the scale and the span of channels help to generate enormous volumes of data. Technology providers are more attuned to aggregation and management of new channels and more data than with providing actionable, filtered, relevant information; perhaps because there is too little process thought leadership is available. There are good monitoring or “listening” technology tools available on the market, however buyers (marketers) are often more interested in what channels they are monitoring than with “why” they are doing it and “what” they are going to do with the discovered information as illustrated in this “On Twitter, information beats Sentiment” blog post.
- Authenticity – some people have always tried and will keep trying to substitute better product or better marketing with shortcuts of misrepresentation and outright fraud. Transparency of customer feedback practices is emerging and there are technological efforts under way to reduce the impact of those who are “slow” to learn.
This is surely not a complete list, but may be a good start. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.