I’ve been rereading Convergence Marketing, and thinking about the impact of the Internet on business and our clients. The premise of the book is that while the Internet doesn’t change everything, it does create a major shift in how customers behave and in turn how business must operate. The Dot.com era, the authors say, taught us that successful companies don’t simply throw out the old technologies and practices in favor of new ones, but rather integrate them into their total mix.
The same applies to marketing tools and practices. Traditional techniques, such as advertising, PR, and direct mail, have not been replaced, but they sure have been impacted by a witches brew of new tools from blogs and wikis to RSS and news aggregators.
The changes are taking place at two levels, in how older techniques are now applied and used along with the new Internet-based approaches and in the transformation of the customer him or herself.
“Customers want to call, click or visit with seamless interaction across online and offline channels, in person, by phone, on the Internet or through wireless”, say the authors of Convergence Marketing. Companies need to design strategies that combine the strategies to address them all. Today, for example, press releases should be written for both online distribution and web site optimization, sent out to different editors and written and distributed in very different ways.
Press releases, white papers, backgrounders still have a place, as does a company’s website, but they should be used in conjunction with other more interactive and more targeted forms of communication, such as blogs, e-Zines, and webnars.
Customers will still respond to more traditional marketing approaches, but increasing- ly they are better informed, more skeptical and more resistant to a company’s messages. These customers will seek information for themselves both on and off your site and will want to communicate to the organization directly not simply through an anonymous corporate channel. As these customers become more networked and con- nected, older command and control communications will break down and be replaced by a more distributed and direct kind of communications.
The objective of both old and new approaches will no longer be to promote and sell, but rather to engage and begin a dialogue that will become a relationship.
The impact of the Internet on business doesn’t eliminate more traditional forms of marketing, but as the Cluetrain Manifesto proclaimed “participation in a networked market changes people [and marketing] fundamentally.”