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CluetrainPlus10: Theses 23 “Positioning”

Forward looking position

It feels like yesterday at times when the Cluetrain Manifesto was published, but in reality it’s been 10 years since the seminal, and controversial, book was published. To mark the anniversary, Keith McArthur began the “Cluetrain Plus 10” project which has 95 bloggers covering one of the 95 Theses that make up the book.

Cluetrain, for me, helped articulate the changing landscape of customer/ company interactions as the Internet began to come of age, along with other more brand/ e-comm focused books of the time. Although I see some parts as a tad one-sided and biased in terms of forcing a point, versus the natural evolution (and constraints) of business, the manifesto I’ve chosen to write about – Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about – rings truer than ever at this stage of the game in my view.

When companies decide to exist and build a product, one of the most natural and necessary things, for company wide alignment, is to develop a market position. All too often the way they go about it is internally, or shareholder, focused vs. allowing the focus to rest on their customer and their needs, insight, and focus.

Unfortunately it’s not surprising to sometimes find a force-fit approach lacking the fundamental questions all sustainable, successful companies in today’s market answer:

Why would anyone care?

What do they care about on a personal/ group level vs. as a “market”

Who are you really – are you part of the solution, or part of a problem?

What you do and who you are matter, especially as the world becomes increasingly wired and we become billions of loose threads interconnected 24/7. The absence of the connection – to something tangible we can relate to, be interested in, give a second thought to, and know there isn’t a hidden agenda, outside of making fair profits – means the potential loss of: trust; perceived value; a sale; a future sale; a referral; knowledge; social capital.

People still buy from companies they don’t really “connect” with (be it at a product, customer service, or emotional-brand level), but they do so grudgingly, and, on the whole, are open to other, more fulfilling, options. A company who is committed to a goal that makes sense to them as people, whatever that goal may be, in context, wins.

If you wanted to reach the people who may be interested in your product, would you want to be a company people understand & respect, or a company that’s a last resort?

Wouldn’t it be great to have your customers, and potential customers, on your side & providing you with actionable feedback, or would you prefer to be under siege & on the defensive?

The Internet offers one platform to become aware, and active, with the people who may benefit from what you have to offer them. But a strong position, in whatever regard, transcends the medium, and becomes part of the overall experience. The feedback loop in action. For this to truly work, the position has to be a real thing, not a product of a myopic “communications” view driven by expediency, lack of imagination, interest or insight, into the very “demographic” you are attempting to position for. Sometimes, when you dig deep enough, what you find will surprise, delight, and perhaps scare you. Maybe even open up a whole new opportunity you wouldn’t have considered if the “market” didn’t provide it to those who interacted with and listened to them.

How is that not the way to go in the long-term?

[photo credit: RichardLowkes via Flickr]

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Social media is one piece of your marketing pie

Social media is picking up steam in both the traditional media & in corporate boardrooms day by day. Everyone wants in on the action and wants to figure out how to use social technologies to their brands benefit. With this type of attention brings thoughts akin to “get rich quick” or mistaking a sound, over-arching, communications strategy that integrates social media, with executing social media tactics. Tactics and tools employed are not a strategy and won’t work just because someone tells you that you have to “get on Twitter”. If a consultant or agency pushes a particular tactic your way, ask them to explain why, outside of “it’s hot right now”.

When thinking of social tools there is no set formula or one-size fits all approach. What you get out of integrating these tools is dependant on the strategy you set at the outset. Twitter won’t work for every company, nor will having a blog. What will fit is what is determined based on the same principles any communications strategy or marketing plan is: knowing your product, your audience, your strengths and your weakness. Research is a must – not only what the current sentiment surrounding your brand is, but research into the established norms of the types of tools that may be right for you to use. Communities have a tricky habit of having their own way of doing things and it helps to set expectations up front before deciding, for example, that micro-blogging is the right approach to take. Not every brand can (or needs to) crowd source and not every company can afford to have constant interactions on a micro-level, in fact, sometimes the change that is most beneficial will have little to do with “getting the message out” and more to do with internalizing your customer.  

Knowing your limitations and setting realistic goals up front will help determine how social media will fit within your organization and to do that you have to understand your internal, as well as the external landscape.

Social media is not a cure all for what ails you, and not all of your customers want, or need, to have the same type of relationship with you. Blending how you interact, how you internalize, and what you can offer of value with how your marketing/ corporate message is/ can be disseminated is the path to take when planning. Don’t fall into the trap of taking a short-cut, integrate at the outset.

[photo credit: Vita Arina via Flickr]

 

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