Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Bill Lee of the HBR Blog Network caused quite a stir recently after publishing an entry that declared the death of traditional marketing as it is making way for a new paradigm that's customer-centric and more highly controlled by social influence. So, does this mean it applies to telemarketing as well?
Well while many in the comments are finding the article insightful, the same can also be said of the discussions among them. Some of the noteworthy ones come from those who find Lee's definition of marketing 'narrow' as opposed to the definition covering a wide array of practices (which, ironically, include the alternatives that Lee himself is advocating). So just what is it that Lee is advocating as a sort of 'replacement' for marketing? Will it truly 'kill' marketing (and telemarketing with it)?
“Restore community marketing. Used properly, social media is accelerating a trend in which buyers can increasingly approximate the experience of buying in their local, physical communities.”
It goes further on and says that social media is the medium of which businesses can start replicating the community that markets for the company instead of themselves. That might sound ideal for marketing to consumers but what about B2B? Are decision makers really the types to rely solely on peer-review? Are they just going to instantly be influenced by the words they'll read on a forum or social-networking site?
“Find your customer influencers. Many firms spend lots of resources pursuing outside influencers who've gained following on the Web and through social media. A better approach is to find and cultivate customer influencers and give them something great to talk about.”
Sure, find customer influencers. Just one question: How do you plan on contacting them? They're still customers too you know, and in B2B, a customer with that high amount of influence is going to have a very well-guarded communication line (from email to telephone) and is also not likely to be influenced by just peer-reviews.
“Help them build social capital. Practitioners of this new, community-oriented marketing are also rethinking their customer value proposition for such MVP (or "Customer Champion" or "Rockstar") customer advocates and influencers.”
Making it easier for your advocates to influence in the world of B2B might still warrant an appointment setter or at least a flexible, multi-channeled means of communicating for exchanging information. Sharing data that backs up their sphere of influence is good but wouldn't it better if you showed them how to properly use and understand that information?
“Get your customer advocates involved in the solution you provide. Perhaps the most spectacular example of this comes from the non-profit world... Using the techniques for building a community of peer influence, Florida solved it. They sought influential teen "customers" such as student leaders, athletes, and "cool kids," who weren't smoking or who wanted to quit — and instead of pushing a message at them, they asked for the students' help and input.”
If you try and make a B2B version out of this, it sounds suspiciously like getting customer feedback and the only significant difference is that it's limited to strong customer influencers. That still doesn't rule out the need for communication (the kind of which telemarketing can provide for inbound customer input).
In short, he might have a point about relying more on customer communities for marketing. It compliments the rising demand for customer freedom. Still, his proposed model requires a form of communication between the key influencers of that community and the companies themselves. Social media may not be enough for that kind of communication.