I've just picked up a copy of Regis Mckenna's book, Real Time: Preparing for the Age of the Never Satisfied Customer , which was published in 1997, and I am struck, not for the first time, how prescient this long time marketing hero is and how his insight continues to be so applicable.
The crux of the book is that bombarded with more and more messages, more and more products, customers get overwhelmed. But that the same technology which helped contribute to the problem can now be used to help correct it.
"Technology facilitated conversations and service will allow companies to cut through the market chaos and established strong relationships with customers," says McKenna. And can enable a company to build customer loyalty.
To do this, says McKenna, companies must replace their broadcast mentality with a willingness to dialog. This dialog includes giving customers access and by responding to their feedback with a willingness to listen. And to do that we as marketers must learn to think about the role of marketing in very different ways.
"If companies continue to treat the Internet like an 800 number," observes McKenna, "they will fail to recognize the power and importance of the medium." To which I might add, if they treat business blogging as just another tool in the marketing arsenal, they will totally miss the point. While a broadcast mentality is tied to the concept of markets as large homogeneous segments of mass produced goods, dialog refers to learning to connect with customers to elicit, listen to and respond to their feedback -- in whole new ways.
Up until now, says McKenna, companies have tended to treat customers as a target, a giant bull's eye to be hit. But listening to customers and incorporating their suggestions is going to require a very different mind set and marketing approach. Boy, I sure do agree.