Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

..The whole "naked conversations" and marketing discussion

There is a lot of talk, and has been a lot of talk, about the latest fads in marketing. How the old style is gone and been replaced with some flavor of "conversations".

I think this is much nonsense. Anytime anyone tells me the "old ways" are dead I am very suspicious, as in general there were reasons for the way things are done. They, in general, aren't totally stupid. That said, you shouldn't just trust that things are the way they are for a good reason. You should go find out what the reason is and decide whether or not it is still valid.

So - all these folks are running around and saying that the old way of marketing, where you put out a controlled message, is dead. The new way is "to have conversations" with your customer. I am all in favor of listening to the customer, but I have to say that conversations in public are dangerous. In general - the people who pipe up in our business are the cranks who have nothing better to do with their time. Our customers, in general, are working and not participating in 'conversations'. They just want stuff that works really well, every time, easily, cheaply(or at least a perceived good value). I don't think they are that weird for this request, as in general this sums up what most people want. I think, and we have asked quite a bit, that less than 5% of our customers look too hard on the web for what other people thought about a new product. If you look at certain message boards, you can pretty much find all 20 of the people who play this game. The rest - they all swear that advertising doesn't affect them and that they make up their own mind. The fact that sales for a product spike right after we run ad's is, I am sure, totally coincindental. The fact that we spend a lot of time worrying about message, and that we then see those messages parroted back in independent surveys is, also I guess, coincidental.

I like th Apple method of doing things. Don't blog. Don't talk. Give people kick butt products that they may not have totally known they needed. Don't design by conversation. Don't design by focus group. Don't design by committee. Hire good people with good visions, and let them go. Google does this as well...just go forth and build kick butt best of breed stuff. If you hired good people, then you will win. If you hired bad people, then they probably wouldn't have listened to a focus group anyway.

When you get the product out there, set the stage for how people look at it and go on from there.

Extending the Apple discussion a bit further - tech pundits don't buy in to the marketing. They, thus, assume that joe consumer doesn't either. This is where they are wrong. If you wanted to sell to the tech pundits, you are right - you should consult them extensivly and kiss their butts. You will sell 12 of your product - but it will get great reviews. You may (but probably not) sell a whole lot of them to joe and jane consumer. You see that Apple has pitched at it's target market and NOT at the tech punditry. They lose points with pundits, but make a lot of money. You decide which is better. (I will say that I do not count rabid fan boys / zealots as "pundits", as my OS Rules is not a pundit comment but does represent someone covering for someother defect they may have) (This holds true for Linux/Windows/Mac/OS2/Amiga/Be/.... zealots as well.)

What I have avoided saying so far, but have been driving toward, is the fact that different market segments behave differently and demand different marketing styles. This isn't a new thing. One segment of it (the conversations part) is just going through a bunch of new names as the blogosphere collectivly vents about discovering something.

In computer parlance BEFORE - this was called a beta test. Now "beta" gets slapped on everything and the term has lost meaning. Other industries call it "product testing" and large consumer companies have entire fake stores set up where they can watch real live consumers who don't know they are being watched. Our industry still has true "beta" tests that are closed. the pharmaceutical world has clinical trials (think it through...it is just a product test...).

It is stunningly important, and I have seen this through a whole lot of product launches, that you don't actually listen to the customer. By this I mean - Don't give them what they ask for give them what they really need. Example : Customer says "I want clear tubes" NOT SOLUTION : Give customer clear tubes REAL SOLUTION : Figure out WHY customer wants clear tubes and solve that problem....possibly with clear tubes but possibly some other way. Understand what they are saying, don't blindly follow what they actually say.

So - the links at the beginning (Scoble, Searles, others...) want everyone to do it THEIR way. This is wrong. There are products/services for which this is the right model. There are others for which it is not. Knowing which tool you need to use in which situation is the key. There are lots of tools to market. Use the right one at the right time, and have the right product -> get rich. Blindly follow some dudes book that says THIS is the one to use -> probably not get rich.

Summary :
  • Use the right tool for the job. Anyone who says there is only 1 right way is, by definition, wrong more times than they are right.
  • The take home message from the "conversations" push should be "listen to your customer".
  • BUT the more important message is listen to what they mean NOT what they say.

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