The New Media Model for Creating Lifelong Customers

The New Media Model for Creating Lifelong Customers

Reader Comments (62)

  1. Very good point. And this is why we need to learn how to build sticky stories that people can pass along. I read “Made to Stick” recently (I’m sure you’ve read it too) and learned a lot.

  2. It is precisely due to the level of sophistication of the people who view advertisements that advertisers have had to change their models. Anymore, you can’t just toss up any old ad and hope that it will sell — you MUST connect with people. The only problem with connecting with people is that you need to be genuine.

    If you’re going to run around like that annoying Orange Glow guy (It’s the most amazing product I’ve ever seen, my children love it, my wife loves it, you will love it too! If not, I’ll just keep shouting!), and claiming every last thing is the best ever, good luck getting people to buy from you. You need to infuse your belief in a product into everything you do — from blog posts, to regular ads, to just talking to people.

    I know it’s naive to think that people will only sell products that they believe in — but it certainly helps make your job being genuine that much easier!

  3. The ‘viral’ (I’m already tired of that word) process that has someone learning about my product and telling others happens in the positive when they like the product. This genuine enthusiasm comes as their testimony abouta product they like. This works because there are many more ‘sellers’ than the producer, who are excited about a good experience. I’ve written blog posts about companies I do not work for, but who gave me good service and product. The point that I do not work for them makes my testimonal stronger and more valid, in my view.(Later learning I could be an affiliate for one of my favorites! Now, I have to decide how to handle that.)

  4. I love how sophisticated Google AdSense is… it’s serving an ad on this post for people to create a banner to advertise online.

    Sure thing, let me hop right on that. 🙂

  5. You’re right that when there are more ads competing for your attention there is likely to be less attention available for each ad. And building trust is important.

    However, traditional “push” advertising is not on the verge of extinction nor will viral advertising, or newsletters, or blogs or any other softer form of marketing become the new model for all businesses.

    Morgan’s comment is a case in point: The “annoying” Orange Glow guy.” His name is Billy Mays and he didn’t help Orange Glow sell millions of dollars of product with a soft sell. He did it with loud, invasive, even annoying ads that you can’t tune out. You might hate the ads, but those ads have resulted in OrangeGlo International being named among the top ten privately growing companies a few years ago.

    Everything you say is true, but only to a point. Yes, have a conversation. Yes, get people talking. But don’t ever think you can rely on customers to do the selling. You won’t get rich waiting for a viral campaign to work.

  6. I wonder if there will come a time when the viral thing becomes so pervasive and enabled for the masses that we become numb to it too– ignoring friends’ testimonials, coworker referrals or blog reviews (gasp). What would be the next evolutionary stage?

  7. Well-made point. People would trust friends more than they would trust advertisement.

    If I am selling something on my site, no matter how greatly I praise my product, it won’t be as effective as other people talking about it.

    And that conversation will keep me on my toes. I have no control over it. 🙂

  8. Rockin’ post, Sonia.

    Here’s why this “new advertising” works for us. We don’t advertise. We let our actions speak louder than words. We say we’re good writers, sure – and we back that up with great content. We say we’re great designers, yes – and we back that up by creating attractive designs.

    We don’t do article marketing, email campaigns or push advertising. We have a banner ad or two sitting around on a few sites, but we don’t pay much attention to them.

    Why? Because we’re sick of advertising, too. Funny thing is that just by being who we are and participating in conversations or interacting with people, others see that we’re our own advertisement.

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is, advertise by just being the best you can be.

  9. Dean, I actually completely agree–having a lot of viral conversation without following up with effective marketing technique ain’t gonna do it. Attention spans are too short–when we get that attention, we need to quickly, skillfully capture it and start building.

    Salesmanship is not dead. Effective advertising technique is not dead. Push advertising isn’t completely dead either, but it’s becoming less and less cost-effective as a standalone technique.

    My guess is that the 15- or 30-second spot will become a complement to the conversation, rather than being an either-or. Apple does this beautifully. Yes, they run TV ads, but the TV ads just fuel the lust inspired by the conversation their Crazed Fanatics are engaging in. They are very smart about creating a holistic system to engender fanatic devotion to their stuff.

    I would be very interested to know how many “I know those OrangeGlo ads are stupid, but the stuff really works” conversations are going on. I know I’ve heard similar conversations about other products known mostly for their potentially annoying advertising (Tony Robbins being a slightly scary case in point).

  10. Sonia,

    Excellent article.

    “Old school advertising” will never go away, it will simply become the platform for old school marketers to beat their heads against, eking out another .001% conversion…and calling it a good day.

    Joseph Ratliff
    Author Of The Profitable Business Edge 2

  11. Sonia you hit the nail on the head. Most advertising is tuned out, and for good reason: Most of it doesn’t relate to us.

    I don’t even notice advertising on blogs or web pages. And from the clicks that I get from Google AdSense I can guess that most other people don’t notice the advertising either.

    Live From Las Vegas
    The Masked Millionaire

  12. This is powerful and right on target. Society in general has evolved from the referral and conversation – think talking over the white picket fences, to the “fast food”, buy in bulk advertising that is quickly failing in the market today.

    People have lost the art of connecting and our souls crave sharing and intimacy. Creating that intimacy within the referral is what will lead the conversation to conversion in a simple and painless way, for both of you.

    Well done!

  13. In my humble opinion, this “new advertising model” isn’t so new: actually, converting customers via conversation dates back to the prehistoric times when one tribe was selling arrowheads to another by describing their latest mammoth hunt. But the tactics have changed a little 🙂 as now we have Stumble, Facebook etc.

    However, I enjoyed your post. Thanx!

  14. This sounds spot-on to me for consumer marketing, but do you think the conversation-building model is as applicable to B2B marketing? Are time-pressed B2B contacts as likely to value that personal connection to products and services for a business (esp if they don’t own it)?

  15. @Jeffry, ok, that made me laugh. Yep, guilty as charged, I’m very influenced by TCM. (Which is, IMO, as relevant as ever.)

    @Noel, interesting question–I think the mechanisms are somewhat different and depend on the business, but I think B2B is *more* dependent on relationships and harder to reach with mass advertising.

    So yes, I think a conversation-based model is exactly what you need for B2B, but the tactics might look a little different. In my experience (and most of my career has been in B2B marketing), B2B contacts are still folks and they’re facing the same psychological & social issues that B2C customers are.

    @Copywriting 911, I agree completely.

  16. I agree with this article. I believe that not only is salesmanship necessary, but great salesmanship is necessary in the transition to the new advertising model. All of the advertising in the world won’t do much good if the leads can’t be converted and closed. That’s where the next part of the lead conversion process comes in. I think many sales people are going to have a tough time unless they can adapt to the new advertising and construct the sales process accordingly. Gone are the days of manipulation with sleazy lines and other goodies long since peddled by sales gurus. A new era of relationship building through advertising is here, and it would be foolish not to take advantage of it.

    Just an observation.

  17. I am thinking this might be an overheard conversation at any juncture in advertising history. The potential reach in new media, the permission marketing mentality, can it be that different from when we went from broadsheets and barkers to radio and tv? Suddenly salesmen were invited into homes. Shares of audience, broad strokes are now being refined in new media to not how many, but who.
    But selling is selling. And buying is buying. Features and benefits still rule. A friend’s recommendation counts. I hate the Orange Glow Guy yelling, but if a friend recommended his stuff, said it really really works I might have to have me some of that. I just wouldn’t want to hang out with him. Would I use him to sell for me? I would have to ask Dean about that. 🙂
    I am thinking it’s not as much about reinventing the wheel, just which one works for what you want to achieve.
    Well written Sonia.

  18. Sonia:

    I love your optimism and your gentility. However, I’m afraid the thrust of your argument is wrong.

    People today don’t even have the time (or inclination) to engage in substantial conversations with their children about school or drugs. Do you really think they have time to engage in “conversations” with marketers about floor wax and frozen chicken?

    And if they don’t have the attention span for the 3,000 advertising messages they’re bombarded with daily, how are they going to keep up with the 70 million blogs and other “non-traditional” marketing methods fighting for their attention?

    Most of the items we purchase are mundane and utilitarian. I’m busy. The last thing I need is to have a conversation with some marketer about socks or motor oil.

  19. Bob, you live up to your brand nicely. 🙂

    Read Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae. We’re not trying to dress up commodities like motor oil, we’re trying to open new markets with conversations.

    I do quite well at it for a living. Take another look before you dismiss it.

  20. Hmm, socks and motor oil …I find this interesting, the clash between the mass media, industrial complex, and what do we call it, new media? …is new media restricted from selling commodities such as these? or could someone, say Patagonia, make selling socks an art form?

  21. Brian, thanks for your reply. I read Godin daily. He’s a very bright guy with a lot of interesting ideas. However, like most missionaries, he overstates his case.

    The fact that the internet now exists does not change human nature, nor does it mean the laws of economics have been repealed.

    He is absolutely right in his emphasis on treating customers with respect and creating relationships based on that. He is absolutely wrong about the death of advertising. Advertising is actually metastasizing — invading every aspect of our lives.

    I have no argument with the idea that the web provides important new marketing tools and that we’re just starting to understand them. I have big arguments with the contempt many web advocates express for traditional media and advertising.

    As for my “brand”, it’s fun being a pain in the ass.

  22. Bob, I greatly enjoy your brand of being a pain in the ass.

    I think you might be very surprised (I was, anyway) at the conversations people are having–not necessarily with marketers, but with one another–about powdered drink mix, frozen dinners, and air freshener. Those are not made-up examples. Admittedly, for a whole bunch of reasons it’s hard for a giant food or cleaning products company to participate in that conversation as a speaker, but they’re sure participating as listeners. And in any event, the Fortune 50 aren’t really the Copyblogger audience (I don’t think, anyway). The folks in this particular room can go a long, long way with conversation marketing.

    I noticed you mentioned Apple on your blog as an example of successful mass advertising. But Apple’s TV spots for the Macbook Air are nothing if not “smug, benefit-free advertising.” Without the frenzied conversation that takes place among the Apple fan crowd, showing a picture of a nice-looking laptop with a pretty song behind it is completely meaningless. Yes, the ads do a terrific job of fueling the fire, but they don’t light it.

    While on one hand I agree that Seth to some extent overstates his case, I don’t think he’s overstating it for the long haul. Ten years ago, anyone who predicted what the world would actually look like in 2008 was a bug-eyed propellerhead. They overstated their case by any reasonable person’s estimation–and yet, here we are.

    I don’t actually have contempt for trad. media & advertising, I make my living in those realms and there’s lots of stuff that still works–more in the direct marketing realm than mass mktg, in my experience (which is puny compared with yours, and I do get that). But sticking random messages on every surface that will stand still–metastasizing, in your fine metaphor–I don’t think is a viable strategy for the long term. It’s going to get too expensive for too little ROI.

    Any of us who claims we know for sure is a charlatan, obviously. And I haven’t been in advertising for 100 years yet. But that’s how I see it. You may see it differently.

  23. Sonia:

    It’s hard to argue with someone as reasonable as you. But what the heck, it’s my job.

    I certainly agree with you that for marketers with limited resources (a nice way to say no money) net-based “conversation” marketing is a far more attractive option than pissing money away on small space newspaper ads or slides on a movie screen. For mass marketers, however, the attempts I’ve seen at “conversation” and net-based social marketing have been pretty feeble and ineffective.

    I have to disagree with you strongly about the Macbook Air spots. As someone who is on airplanes almost every week, schlepping around a 5 pound laptop, I have to tell you that the moment I saw that spot I wanted one. The spot was brilliantly simple (using the inter-office mail envelope) and focused single-mindedly on the benefit — thin ‘n light.

    I also don’t agree about ten years ago. In 1998 otherwise intelligent people were actually predicting a far different media world than we have now: “Convergence” was going to make TV irrelevant; people were going to be producing commercials on their laptops; during tv shows we were going to be clicking on products and taken to long-form info-somethings where we could buy through our television. Go back and take a look.

    I agree with your last point. Sticking messages everywhere is a loser both as a marketing strategy and as a social/environmental activity. Even today I can’t believe people are putting up with the amount of advertising they are being subjected to. At some point there will be a reckoning. Smart clients (yeah, there are some) are starting to understand that with the proliferation of media the correct strategy is not to try to be doing a little of everything, but to do one thing well. It takes discipline and focus — very rare commodities in marketing these days.

    By the way, this is fun.

  24. Fun for us too guys. If I could only this level of intelligent sparring going on in our meetings my company would be on the CAC40 by now. Keep it up (and good post as always Sonia).

  25. Great article.

    To further look into the SF view of marketing, I can recommend reading “Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson for further takes on viral marketing – especially on the Internet.

  26. At risk of sounding like a councilor mitigating an argument I think Bob and Sonia are both correct.

    Traditional advertising is still and will remain for some time the best and most efficient way to get a simple message across to large numbers of current and potential customers. However, the best customers, the ones who drive the business, expect and should receive special treatment. A “conversion” is a great way to do this. It can appear in many forms. Some Bloggers are using Twitter to involve their best customers in conversation. Google invites reviews which allows customers to be involved. P&G encourages conversation through research tools on their web sites, user groups and forums for best customers.

    In the 90s, using boring old direct mail, we facilitated conversation between Sprint and their best long distance customers by using highly versioned direct mail and incorporating a short, four-question survey BRC. Results from these short surveys were published in subsequent customer communication. Attrition was reduced by 60% among respondents, and by 40% among customers receiving the survey but not responding compared to the control group who didn’t receive the survey. Just providing the opportunity for conversation supported loyalty.

    I have to support Bob Hoffman’s POV that building a business through conversation will be difficult. Sonia’s New Media Model, with its ability to facilitate conversation, provides many excellent opportunities to involve customers in conversation and move their relationship with the brand from the functional to the emotional. This will support loyalty and encourage advocacy among customers and increase understanding regarding what’s important to them. Keep them longer and know how to get more like them.

  27. How about simply exchanging the word “conversation” with the word “interaction”?

    Conversation is a spoken dialogue exchange between two people. The web isn’t speech-friendly.

    Interaction represents this better. Older advertising methods didn’t involve interaction with consumers. New ones do.

  28. James C:

    Oh, please! This is what kills me about you net heads.

    The idea that “older advertising methods didn’t involve interaction with customers” is the kind of nonsense that drives me crazy.

    Most serious companies have tens of thousands of customers. What percent of customers base their opinions of these companies on web-based interactions?

    The important interaction with customers is exactly as it has always been — at the point of service. If that goes well, all goes well. If it doesn’t, all the web based conversations/interactions don’t mean a damn thing.

    Remember, less than 5% of commerce (conversations between sellers and buyers) is done on computer screens. Over 95% is done face to face. That’s where the important conversation takes place.

  29. @ Bob – I must be the anomaly to the rule, then. As a web worker, 95% of my conversations are done through a computer screen. The 5% that aren’t are the times when I’m out doing groceries or having a beer with friends.

    Even if I agreed with your figure of 5%, ecommerce is increasing at a frantic pace. It’s important to recognize the coming trend and adapt to it, or we risk becoming dinosaurs.

  30. Yes, James you must be an anomaly.

    According to the US Department of Commerce, the internet accounted for 2.5% of retail sales in the 2nd quarter of 2007 (latest available numbers.) I was being generous when I said 5%.

    The problem with so many web-centric marketing “experts” is that they are mesmerized by their area of expertise and have forgotten that 19 of 20 business transactions (97.5%) are done the old fashioned way — people interacting with people, not computer screens.

    To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, perspective is called cluelessness by those who don’t have it.

  31. @ Bob – That’s very interesting. Statistics Canada reports that in 2005 (three years ago and the Internet has grown), 41% of Canadian Internet users purchased goods or services online and that 68% of Canadians were Internet users at that time.

    Maybe the Canucks just shop more through internet connections than the Americans?

  32. I don’t think that’s it. And I don’t think these statistics are contradictory.

    What these statistics tell us is that there are a lot of light users of e-commerce. Lots of people participate in e-commerce, but they don’t do a lot of it.

    I, for example, buy some of my books and music on line, but that accounts for less than 1% of my total economic activity.

    As time goes on, economic activity on the web is sure to grow. But contrary to the crazy expectations of web 1.0, it will be a long, long time before we’re buying our dog food and batteries on line.

  33. Bob, people research transactions online before buying offline. Have you seen the stats on that?

    It’s not just e-commerce, it’s about reaching people when they’re exploring buying decisions and speaking to them in a manner that leads to the sale… in whatever context that ends up happening. Personally, I’m interested in markets that I can fulfill online… but that’s just me.

  34. Brian, no question that there is a lot of research done on line before purchasing.

    Something like 70% of car shoppers do a web search while in the buying process. And if my memory serves that number is almost 90% here in California.

    Having said that, I still maintain that the idea that mass marketers can have significant individualized conversations/interactions with individual customers on line is highly exaggerated and in some cases naive.

    Just go to any auto manufacturer’s website. Is it a conversation between you and them, or is it a high-tech brochure with some videos thrown in for entertainment? I believe it is far more likely to be the latter.

    Now, there’s nothing wrong with a high-tech brochure with videos thrown in. But let’s call it was it is. It simply isn’t a conversation by any reasonable definition of the word. The important conversation/interaction still occurs at the point of sale.

    What’s my point? My point is that the web has unique and worthwhile benefits and value to marketers. However, by perpetuating this “conversation/interaction” baloney, web agencies and advocates aren’t doing themselves any favors.

  35. Just go to any auto manufacturer’s website. Is it a conversation between you and them, or is it a high-tech brochure with some videos thrown in for entertainment? I believe it is far more likely to be the latter.

    Exactly. Because they use old-school methods of reaching the consumer: Telling the consumer what he or she should have.

    New media models encourage two-way interaction, not a one-way street.

  36. But James, all these websites are created by the best brains and the best agencies in the “new media” industry, not troglodytes like me.

  37. Who says they’re the best? 🙂

    Amen to that… the so-called “best” brains in new media don’t have jobs… because if you’re good, why would you?

  38. There are a lot of very successful agencies working on the “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” principle. Not only are their clients blind, they’re deaf, mute, and lacking any sense of smell. And it’s not just a matter of agencies taking advantage of ignorance–a clueless client can wreck the smartest campaign, as I’m sure you have seen many times.

    The amount of staggeringly bad work being done as lip service to “conversation,” “engagement,” and all those other terms you hate is pretty depressing. Looking at this stuff through the lens of the large volume of crappy, high-profile work would put anyone off.

    There are, though, some big companies that are getting it right. Southwest Air (too bad they didn’t listen to the part about “please maintain the aircraft so we don’t die.” oh well), GE, GM, the Red Cross, Dell, Sun, and others have created projects that get it. I find this pretty impressive given how hard it is in a huge organization to create the kind of responsive, fast-moving infrastructure and commitment to transparency that makes social media work.

    And as far as futurism from 10 years ago goes, sure, most of it was wrong. Most futurism is always wrong. What I’m saying is that the guys who were right were either mostly written off as entertaining loons (Ridderstrale & Nordstrom, Howard Rheingold, etc.) or were writing fiction so didn’t get noticed by most business minds (William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson). Their vision looked impossibly weird. My point is only that “far-fetched and implausible” can turn into reality amazingly quickly.

    I concede your point on the Airbook since I don’t want one so the ads don’t do anything for me. But I will defend the point that Apple as a brand benefits hugely–and has as long as I can remember–from word of mouth, and that word of mouth has been made vastly more effective by the Web.

    And as far as frozen chicken & floor wax go, I think Brian’s right, they’re meatball products. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to staple a social media conversation to them. But there’s an awful lot of stuff that’s bought and sold that is not floor wax.

    I secretly think you and I are in 95% agreement and you just like to scrap. Certainly there are a lot of half-baked gogglebox pronouncements out there, some of which will prove to be right and some of which will prove to be silly. We can look hard and think critically, but in the end none of us knows how it’s going to come out. We just have to take our best shot based on how we see it.

  39. And out of sympathy to Brian’s readers, who are probably wondering why the hell they would care about any of this:

    What will work for Coke, General Foods or Johnson & Johnson is not a relevant model for most readers of Copyblogger. The contrast here isn’t Coke vs. conversation, but PPC strip mining and cheesebag squeeze pages vs. conversation.

  40. James, Brian:

    You guys are killing me.

    The auto industry is almost 1/3 of the US economy; they represent over 25% of all media spending; they spend billions and billions on marketing every year. And they only hire idiots, right? If they only hired geniuses like us, all would be well.

    You’re just plain wrong. I’ve worked with these people. I’ve pitched them. They may be crazy, but they’re not stupid. They hire the best they can find.

  41. Sorry Bob… I guess I have more respect for entrepreneurs than corporate drones. Just the way I’m wired, but I’ll stand by my assertion that the brightest people in social media right now do not work for corporations.

    The problem is, these people are (happily) off *your* radar, so you discount them. But we can all see the laughable attempts at social media marketing that big companies make.

  42. @ Bob – Hey, I give as good as I get. And I’m Canadian, so the U.S. stuff doesn’t phase me much. The virtual world is international, in my eyes.

    I never said they hired idiots. They may hire people who are extremely skilled and brilliantly intelligent – but are positive they hired the best person for the job?

    You just *can’t* know.

    Here’s a real stretch but a huge possibility: Maybe Billy Joe is the best person for the job – but if he doesn’t have a fancy office, a schmoozy business card and a friend in the corporation to get him an in, he won’t end up working for that auto company helping them revolutionize their business.

    So has the auto company lost out on the best and hired the one that impresses the most? Maybe. Maybe they only got second best. Maybe they’re working with what they think is the best. They can’t know.

    And glam jobs don’t impress me much, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to convince me on this debate. Gen X/Y. I shun big business 🙂

  43. Brian,

    I finally agree with you 100%.

    As a lifelong entrepreneur I, too, have seen just about enough of big corporations and their pathetic attempts to “connect” with consumers.

    Whether this is the result of the wrong people doing the work, or the natural limitations of the medium, let’s leave for another day.

  44. One thing I felt compelled to add here…

    I do a lot of programming type of work work Adobe technologies (as does the company I own) . Adobe has consistently impressed me with their attempts to connect to their customers. It is not uncommon to see Adobe employees to post on [non-official] product related forums. I have a bunch of Adobe employees on my twitter list.

    I’m not trying to claim that software development is the same as car manufacturers, but I do believe that big companies are capable of connecting w/ consumers.

    [Disclaimer: My company is an Adobe Solutions Partner; and I personally am an Adobe Community Expert]

  45. Point well taken. We need to move away from the hard sell, to making people ask for our services, because they percieve us as experts in our fields.

  46. Your description of the greased chute is almost exactly the communications model most admissions offices use to recruit students.

    I’ve argued against it for years. Even as the Director of Communications in an admissions office in upstate New York, I still fight against people who believe we can control students’ decisions.

    I’ll be presenting an alternative recruitment model at some upcoming admissions conferences. Hopefully, it will catch on. If you don’t mind, I’d like to use the greased chute metaphor.

    Thanks for all your good work.

  47. I barely watch TV and I’m learning to avoid invasive personalities as well as invasive advertising. The best fulfillment I get is not online however, it’s at home with my kids being a father. Hopefully I can offer them the choice of opting-in to this media landscape, or opting-out when they feel the need.

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