Monday, January 28, 2013

The 3 Cs of Convergence Marketing



What is the true essence of marketing?

I believe that it can be distilled into three basic questions:

1) Which media/social media platforms are available;

2) What other businesses are dishing out; and

3) What customers truly want. 

These three spheres belonging to the worlds of businesses, media and consumers can be represented by the Venn diagram above. While you really should be at the sweet spot where the cupcake is, the truth is that these domains often do not coalesce.

Let us consider each of these "Cs" in turn.

Channels

The most over-hyped "C" are the channels. Yes, there are a gazillion ways to interrupt, influence and inform one's customers. It started with posters and banners across town, transited into newspapers, magazines, radio and television, moved up a few notches with websites and social media networks, and is now hopping onto the smartphone in your hand.

Media is omnipresent, be they company or individual generated outlets. We've read that they can be owned, paid, or earned, and that useful content is king. While more and more channels are technically "free" (such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and so on), the effort that goes into generating quality content isn't free at all.

Despite the overwhelming choices (or maybe BECAUSE of the overwhelming choices), consumers are pretty much ignoring what they're exposed to. They're buying stuff when, where and how they want it with nary a thought for that blaring commercial on TV or Youtube. The main triggers for purchase are still our friends, family members, and that little voice residing in our minds.

Competitors

Our next "C" would be the competition out there. What are similar businesses doing in the marketplace? Are they successful in what they do or are they in serious trouble? Is there anything that we can learn from them?

Many entrepreneurs tend to fall victim to the twin effects of novelty and ego. It goes something like this: "I've got this brilliant new idea that is revolutionary and unheard of in the market. It is something I've been hatching after reading all those great books about Steve Jobs, Google, and Zappos and speaking to a couple of friends (all tech geeks). Let's rule the world!"

The unfortunate truth is that many entrepreneurs do not do enough market research before branching out. They do not spend enough time talking to their future customers on what could work, or to reach out to new people beyond their usual networks. Some are also fixated on doing it their way that they completely ignore all criticisms - including constructive ones. Inbreeding is the last thing you need as an entrepreneur.

Customers

The final and most important "C" are customers. There are of course all kinds of customers, clients and users out there for a billion different products, services and experiences. To cut through the clutter, however, consider the following questions:

1) As a consumer/business client yourself, what are your needs, wants and desires?

2) How easily can you satisfy that need, want or desire? Is it easily provided for in the marketplace? Or could this be an unmet opportunity?

3) What are some of the greatest problems or service issues in that industry? How would you work towards improving that?

4) Can you create demand and carve out a new niche for yourself? If so, what are the chances for success?

Naturally, consumers are incredibly fickle and difficult to read. They're (we're) living in a world so full of endless choices that it sometimes takes a rocket scientist to figure out what the best option is. Having said that, it is paramount to conduct some form of research and test-marketing before going the whole hog.

Convergence - the Sweet Spot of Marketing

To find that sweet spot where all three converge, you need to master your emotions and not let feelings cloud your decisions. While there is a time and place for passion in entrepreneurship, choosing what to do requires one to adopt a dispassionate approach in weighing between the 3 Cs.

Consider first if your idea is going to be embraced by your targeted customers. Conduct some market tests and use empirical evidence to back your hunches. If you're going into an entirely new space, find ways to understand consumer sentiments and drill deep into the triggers of purchase behaviours.

Thereafter, study what other businesses are doing. Can they enroach easily on your space? What are your fallback measures? How high are your barriers to entry? Use these observations to shape your product offering.

Finally, consider which channels would best meet your targeted customers at the time and place where they're most receptive to your messages. Devise how you're going the get the word out aiming for reach, relevance and resonance. Study which platforms are most appropriate and customise your content to suit the idiosyncrasies of your audiences. If necessary, build a core community of followers and advocates, and give them reason to spread the word.

Convergence is about creating products and services that serve the needs of customers, are disseminated through appropriate channels, and can withstand the onslaught of competition. It is about creating unique value that can be propagated in a sustainable manner.

The next time you think about launching a new product or business venture, do consider the 3 Cs of convergence marketing.

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