This post is part of a 95 post series discussing the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto as they relate to business in 2011. Check out the rest of the series!
While Cluetrain didn’t overtly predict the demise of demographics as a marketing predictor and indicator, their words ring as true today (and more so) as they did in 1999. That said, they were not the first to think this way. In fact, precisely 10 years earlier over at the Boston Consulting Group, two smart guys, Richard Winger and David Edelman, were working on a concept they called Segment-of-One Marketing.
Ten years ago mass marketers discovered they could narrow their focus and create products for specific customer segments. Now a segment can be trimmed down to an individual.
Like most breakthroughs, “Segment-of-One Marketing” brings together in a working relationship two formerly independent concepts: information retrieval and service delivery. On one side is a proprietary database of customers’ preferences and purchase behavior; on the other is a disciplined, tightly engineered approach to service delivery that uses the information base to tailor a service package for individual customers.
While not as prophetic as the Cluetrain statement declaring that “markets consist of human beings”, the Segment-of-One Marketing was the first to proclaim a better level of service for the individual at the intersection of customer data and an intelligent, human-centered approach to deliver personalized, individualized services and products.
Yet, the two ideals could not be further apart. For the marketer, sure, Segment-of-One and putting a human face on the customer (sounds odd…social media is so much about putting a human face on the company…we still don’t see the customer as a human) is great and all, but remember that Cluetrain was written from the anti-marketer (not that they were anti marketing, but rather they were the opposite of marketers) so what we’re still looking for, as customers, is for companies to recognize us as a group of humans, not just numbers.
This is not to say that all marketing is still bad for conjuring up segments and targets. Rather, that’s a positive step forward. We realize the differences and similarities within the human population we serve (aka heterogeneity and homogeneity in marketing speak) and that’s start. However, we still have things backwards in terms of what we put priority on. According to Cluetrain, our marketplace priorities usually sift out as:
We value the transaction first and eventually, if we have to, will get into a relationship. That’s backwards.
It should start with conversation and work like this:
- Conversation – Let’s look back to Theses #1 – Markets are Conversations. We need to start the conversation and continue to take part in that conversation. Conversations are where we learn, share and grow to the point where we can establish a basis for a relationship.
- Relationship – This is the holy grail of marketing, so the relationship marketers would like us to believe, yet so many marketers don’t really get this right. Relationships are complicated and the only way to navigate through the complexity of relationships is to have more conversations. How convenient for social media that it’s almost all conversational media… The key to customer satisfaction (if there were such a single key) is to understand the customer and deliver services and goods to him/her based on what you’ve gleaned from your conversation with them. Increasingly that conversation involves data (that the customer herself usually shares) and helps to manifest the Segment-of-One concept.
- Transaction – Finally, one once we’ve started the conversation, moved to building a relationship and aim to deliver a segment-of-one experience are we ready to execute a transaction. (hopefully one of many over the course of the relationship)
So, what are we to do with all this “markets are humans” and such? To me, it’s simple. While the Cluetrain may have been written from the anti-marketer point of view, we live in a world where marketing still matters and to the thousands who are employed in the profession, we have a deep interest in the preservation of the discipline. Preservation lies in the deeper understanding of who it is that you’re trying to help. You can call them a customer or client or whatever you want, but at the end of the day, success lies in starting the conversation.