by: Christian Smagg

We recently touched on the subjects of the many forms of web marketing tactics that could potentially be utilised as part of your digital marketing arsenal as well as the effectiveness and increased use of these online tools. So while we are on the topic of integrating innovative techniques into your marketing plan, let's consider this from a broader, more strategic perspective, rather than a pure tactical point of view.

I echo Larry Weber, global communications entrepreneur, that "The customer is in control" or "Web 2.0 will change marketing as we know it" could be considered as neo-platitudes. I would simply argue that few marketing professionals, even if growing by the day, embrace these new concepts and adapt their marketing approach accordingly.

An excellent excerpt from his recent book "Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business" is highlighting 12 steps to the interactive future that marketers should take to recalibrate their efforts and change their mindsets on how to improve their marketing effectiveness. This 12-step approach is a great way to organise your thinking about the differences between the traditional marketing of yesterday and the new marketing of today and tomorrow, and includes the following recommendations:

1- Change your marketing mindset: The new marketing of today and tomorrow is about being more transparent, earning trust and building credibility. It's about nurturing relationships and dialogue among customers.

2- Make your brand come alive: In the new marketing reality, a brand is a living, changing thing. The brand is based on the dialogue you develop with your customers and prospects. What makes the social Web so important is that it enables companies to have this kind of dialogues more efficiently and less expensively than ever before. Companies should now gauge brand equity by dynamic measures such as customer word-of-mouth rather than static metrics such as brand recall. 

3- Out with the old segmentation: With the advent of the social Web, the new marketing means segmenting by customers' behaviour, attitudes and interests so that you can target them with marketing activities that are actually meaningful to them. 

4- Target by behaviour: One of the big changes happening is a swing away from one-to-one targeting, leading to targeting customers by behaviour. Behavioural targeting will become more widespread and is expected to increase ten-fold over the next five years. It will allow marketers to offer more personalised customer experiences, whilst consumers gain from more relevant advertising and content as they have been targeted based on their online footprint. 

5- Communicate Interactively: Communication is less about creating and delivering contained & controlled messages (as in the old marketing) and more about creating compelling environments to which customers are attracted. Web 2.0 actually creates the platform of true interactivity. 

6- Embrace Consumer Content: In the new marketing, the best Web site will combine professional and user-generated content, contributed by customers and prospects who are initiating and continuing the dialogue. 

7- Spread the right virus: Companies should develop solid viral marketing, a strategy that does more than simply attract attention to itself, so that word of mouth generates content-based virality. 

8- Accept customer reviews: The difficulty in the movement toward the social Web is the natural instinct of marketers and corporate culture to control the message and the customer. It's difficult to give up control completely, but realise that reviews, as user-generated content, serve to demonstrate your company's transparency. 

9- Leave paper behind: The new marketing will be collateral-free, with material that is more compelling, customised, visual and up-to-date. Information can be a powerful customer relationship tool, but doesn't have to be printed. 

10- Invert your strategy: Strategy has traditionally been imposed from the top down. It is now required to consider it in a bottom up approach. As marketers, it is increasingly important to learn from the people who are really paying attention to our products and services: the customers. 

11- Let users decide: With the social Web, information has to be available on demand, when and how users want it. Marketing is, in essence, truly becoming an investment in your brand's future growth and profitability. 

12- Let the people pay: In the new marketing, customers want to be in charge of their own payment options which must be fast and easy.

Today, marketing is exploding with possibilities but also complexities as it reaches out into new forms of communication channels and increasingly engaging media. Marketers have an exceptional opportunity to use these new tools to reach their audience, even in a fragmented world. It is becoming essential for marketers to understand the context of the "new marketing", and prioritise what they need to do to develop customer engagement, build communities and maximise profit in a time of marketing confusion. Online and interactive marketing initiatives should indeed be considered as an effective divergence from traditional marketing mediums as marketers have the opportunity to engage customers in a "conversation" that is not just steered toward standardised product messaging.

When you think about it, marketing's role has not changed. It has always been, and will always be, about acquiring new customers, managing effectively customer relationships, selling more to current customers while developing their loyalty, analysing the effectiveness of marketing activities and providing better customer service. But be prepared, the techniques that were successful in the past may become less and less effective in the future. This is where a new marketing mindset is required!

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