inbound marketing

Marketing Is Dead: Long Live Peer Marketing

If traditional marketing (ads, PR, branding, big corporate announcements) is dying as some proclaim, what’s next? Surely social media isn’t the only solution, or is it? Social media marketing still represents a small percentage of marketing efforts. Not only are the results mixed, but no one can decide on how to measure it.

And yet perhaps social media, and more important, peer marketing, offer keys to how the new marketing paradigm is evolving in the coming decade.

Experts are scrambling to come up with the next tools and tactics that will influence savvy customers. I ran across an interesting and much commented on post at Harvard Business Review, “Marketing Is Dead,” by Bill Lee. Here are a few excerpts I found worthy:

There’s a lot of speculation about what will replace this broken model — a sense that we’re only getting a few glimpses of the future of marketing on the margins. Actually, we already know in great detail what the new model of marketing will look like.

1. Restore community marketing. Used properly, social media is accelerating a trend in which buyers can increasingly approximate the experience of buying in their local, physical communities. …[when buying new products or services] you’ll probably ask neighbors or friends — your peer network — what or whom they’re using.

2. Companies should position their social media efforts to replicate as much as possible this community-oriented buying experience. In turn, social media firms, such as Facebook, should become expert at enabling this. They can do this by expanding the buyer’s network of peers who can provide trustworthy information and advice based on their own experience with the product or service.

3. Find your customer influencers. Many firms spend lots of resources pursuing outside influencers who’ve gained following on the Web and through social media. A better approach is to find and cultivate customer influencers and give them something great to talk about.

4. Help them build social capital. Practitioners of this new, community-oriented marketing are also rethinking their customer value proposition for such MVP (or “Customer Champion” or “Rockstar”) customer advocates and influencers. The new marketing helps its advocates and influencers create social capital: it helps them build their affiliation networks, increase their reputation and gives them access to new knowledge — all of which your customer influencers crave.

5. Get your customer advocates involved in the solution you provide. Perhaps the most spectacular example of this comes from the non-profit world. Some years ago, with the number of teen smokers nation-wide rising to alarming levels, the State of Florida …using the techniques for building a community of peer influence… sought influential teen “customers” such as student leaders, athletes, and “cool kids,” who weren’t smoking or who wanted to quit — and instead of pushing a message at them, they asked for the students’ help and input. The result: despite a vicious counterattack by Big Tobacco lobbying firms, teen smoking in Florida dropped by nearly half between 1998 and 2007 — by far the biggest success in anti-teen-smoking in history.

Traditional marketing may be dead, but the new possibilities of peer influence-based, community-oriented marketing, hold much greater promise for creating sustained growth through authentic customer relationships.

What do you think about this? I think it’s key and it’s going to become even more crucial to small businesses as they organize their marketing budgets with fewer resources. Influencing customers and using their influence doesn’t take money so much as it does smart strategies and well-planned social interaction.

There are a few companies that help measure social influence:

And other sites for reviews:

How well is your small business organizing marketing strategies for the coming decade? You probably know a lot about your area of expertise, your products and services. How savvy are you about the shift in marketing priorities? How is your business going to harness the power of peer marketing?

Maybe it’s time to talk? I’d love to hear what your questions and concerns are for your specific business. Get in touch with me, I’m on Skype: Brenda_Stoltz, Phone: 703-728-1336 or Email: BStoltz (at) AriadPartners (dot) com.