If you haven't been in hibernation over the last few years, you ought to be well aware of the incredible changes the world has undergone. How we work, operate, live and even think has been transformed by the power of a constantly connected mobile and "social" world. These changes have affected nearly every discipline and the ways in which they operate and interact, from designers to product managers, marketers and leadership alike.
Traditional Marketing Communications Theory holds a hierarchy of effects that illustrates the consumer progressing along the following logical path and resulting in full product immersion for the consumer: 1. Awareness. 2. Interest. 3. Evaluation. 4. Trial. 5. Adoption. 6. Reinforcement. 7. Advocacy.
How has the increased focus on technology and the ever-faster evolution and affordances of the consumer impacted this traditional approach? The truth is that in the past you would see an advertisement (a poster or a TV commercial once TV's came around). You would become interested in the product so you would go to the store or call a number, at which point you would be confronted with an actual person who would bring home the sale. After making your purchase, whether you had an enjoyable or a negative experience, you would pass on this information to anyone you met, be they a family member or friend, to a next door neighbor or even a stranger buying a similar product. In this way it is clear that word of mouth has always been a primary marketing tool, but the difference today is that the medium is now instantaneous and much more far-reaching, traversing time zones and oceans in a split second. No sooner are you unhappy with a product or service than everyone will know about it with the simple click of a "thumbs down" or a post of an image.
Given this reality, there are a couple of core considerations that should affect your marketing approach today, as there is an increase in the amount of factors to think about, as well as the interaction and balance between them. The golden rule to help you achieve success is to always keep in mind the reach and accessibility of all that you say and do.
Consumers are Moving more Rapidly to Trial
With "computing everywhere", people are always connected. It is always possible to download that latest application or to find out the "truth" about a company, product or service you might be interested in. This has led to a trend where consumers are moving rapidly to trial - the first three traditional stages are completed in much less time than your carefully planned focus would have preferred before. This doesn't mean that you do not need to plan for awareness and interest - more that you need to understand how quickly a consumer will now want to and expect to trial your product. These dynamics have even spilled over to Enterprise. Before, we would all submit an RFP and some lucky contestant would get selected. Now, customers expect to be able to try-before-they-buy - they expect to be able to see and interact with an experience before making their decision. Proof of concepts and cost-free demos are no longer just for the latest start-up application; they have become an expectation - even on established contracts and Enterprise accounts.
With a new speed to trial, instant gratification is a must. Your consumers will need to emotionally connect and recognize the value in your product or service very quickly. In a departure from the traditional hierarchy, extraneous variables mean that these early stages can no longer be "controlled" by the offering agent. Now, consumers will need to experience that value for themselves.
Advocacy has Bumped up the Chain
Advocacy, once the end of the chain and the sign of true success, can now easily occur at almost any stage in the marketing process. After a customer becomes aware of your product, they could share their awareness instantly, along with whichever slant they see fit, with a simple update to their social media. The Marketer today needs to understand how the evolving Marketing Mix can be used for various outcomes. They need to know exactly how to maximize interest and engagement through newer digital and physical mediums, as well more traditional approaches.