Control is an Illusion

Control is an Illusion: Thinking Outside the Traditional Marketing Box

By Rebel Brown

Do you think you have control of your brand?

If you answered “yes,” you might want to think again. That’s one of the biggest Gravity beliefs around.

In the 21st Century, our audience controls our brand. Why? Because we no longer control the information about our business, and our brand, in the market. That’s a fundamental thought-shift that we must make to power our business success.

How Did We Get Here?
Even five years ago, we still were the primary source of information for our audiences. We controlled most of what they heard and read about our products, services and expertise.  We were able to manage their perceptions of our Value simply because we were the keepers of the information. We painted the pictures we wanted our audiences to see – and so we controlled our world. It had been that way forever – even after the web.

But then the world shifted, thanks to Web 2.0.

Today’s buyers can research, compare, select and purchase products and services without our ever  knowing they were looking to buy.

Buyers can chat among themselves, share stories of our performance (or our competitors’ performance) and we most likely don’t even know they had the conversations.

A vocal customer can change our brand perception in an angry set of clicks.
Whether we like it or not – our customers control our truth.  Trying to control their perspectives with traditional Me, Me, Me marketing approaches will backfire every time.

In believing we can control our brand – we  run the risk of alienating our markets.
Our brand perception is created based on the perceived Expertise and Value we deliver, applied to real world problems and opportunities.  Clarity in marketing can support that delivery – but even the best marketing will not defend poor quality or delivery.
The opportunity to market our way out of poor value or lacking expertise has come and gone. Get used to it.

So how do we shift our marketing think in a world where our buyers are empowered?
The first step is to recognize that we are no longer the center of the universe as a source of information.  Our buyers and markets create and share the information that creates and evolves our brands.  Period. We may influence by chiming in – but we do not control.

We do however control the value we deliver — and therein lies our power. When we empower our teams to share our expertise and value in real-time, relevant conversations – applying it to real-world buyer problems and opportunities, we can and will impact our brand perceptions.  When we empower our customers to share their experiences among themselves and with prospects – we impact our brand – assuming we delivered value.

It’s time to shift our marketing approaches – from traditional Me, Me, Me focused campaigns and promotions to interactive conversations and relationships.  That’s where we’ll find our marketing power in today’s world.

What are those shifts? Here are a few to think about:

• From product focused to engagement focused thinking. Traditional marketing hinges on promoting products and their value to our markets by sharing Me, Me, Me based information in a controlled fashion.  That’s the kiss of death in today’s world.

Instead of creating product messages and then pushing them out to the world – we must empower our people to apply our expertise to the specific customer or prospect conversation that’s on the table, focusing on solving a problem instead of selling a product.  When we focus on sharing our expertise and educating our prospects – without pushing our product – we create credibility and influence within our markets.

• From static content to interactive conversations. Traditional marketing focuses on content strategies and plans that drive long-term editorial calendars, blobs of content and a focus on sharing what we want to say. So here’s a question for you. How can a blog you outlined three months ago in an editorial calendar possibly be relevant to today’s audience conversations? How can that 20 page whitepaper that took six months to outline, write, tune and get through legal channels be compelling for current discussions?  As fast as our markets shift today — they can’t!

By shifting our content focus – from blobs of big content that are stale before we share it to smaller, interactive snippets of relevant, timely information – we empower impactful, relevant conversations with our audiences. We also empower our marketing messages to adapt in sync with our markets, keeping our stories and evidence continuously refreshed and compelling. When we adapt our definition of “content” to better match the conversational, real-time needs of today’s buyers – we begin to relevantly engage with, and create relationships with, our audiences.

• From social media as a marketing channel to social media as a community. Traditional marketing think focuses on pushing our messages out to the world. That’s old school Gravity!  Yet as much as we protest, for many of us social media is still acting as yet another channel for push. We claim to be listening and conversing, even as we create six month blog calendars, craft social media promotions and develop social media campaigns. Sounds just like push marketing, doesn’t it?  And that’s why this is one of the biggest shifts of all – because deep Gravity has set in.

How to Defy it? Imagine creating a social media community made up of prospects and customers who actively converse and share their experiences around your business and its value. A community where you empower your customers to discuss your value, suggest improvements, brainstorm new approaches and excite your prospects.  A community where you lead by sharing expertise and educating, not selling and promoting.  Imagine the goodwill, interest and loyalty created within that community, not to mention the powerful market feedback for future offerings and value. Through engaged communities of happy customers we have our best opportunity to manage our brand perceptions.

Traditional marketing and branding think is as stuck in Gravity as the dinosaurs were in the tarpits. It’s time we all accepted the truth.

Control is an illusion, a very dangerous illusion for today’s world.

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