Control is Evangelism's Kryptonite

"What happens in blogs can be unpredictable, and a marketer has to be prepared to stick with it no matter what happens. Marketer participation in blogs requires total immediacy and a willingness to let go of control. Many aren't prepared for it." - Art Sindlinger, VP-activation director at Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA, Chicago.

I've been thinking about control. The control that a company has over its marketing. Many companies are nervous, or downright scared, about sharing that control with customers. That fear comes from entering into an area where we've never been before.

But at what point does a customer feel empowered enough to become an evangelist for a company? At what point does the enthusiasm grow until a customer feels compelled to tell others of their love for a company, its products, and its processes?

Understandably, many companies believe that they are better served to market their products and services than their customers, simply because they believe they better understand their offerings. And there's often some truth to that. But evangelists, evangelists know the customers.

Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba give several reasons why evangelists are the ultimate salespeople in their book Creating Customer Evangelists, including:

  1. They know your target audience better than you do because they are the target audience.
  2. They can search out and find others just like themselves faster and easier than you can.
  3. They translate your value proposition into words the prospects will understand.
The first point goes to the heart of why companies should make every effort to join their communities. And it also goes to the heart of what companies can gain by losing control. The loss of control leads to the rise of evangelism, which eventually leads to companies empowering their target market to sell to themselves.

Efficiency, anyone?

But the loss of control kills the customer's enthusiasm for the product and the brand. Which leads to less efficient marketing, as companies have to spend more and more to reach customers that they don't understand as well as their evangelists do/could.

The challenge for companies is to reach that point where they are sharing, and then shifting marketing control, to their community. When that tipping point is reached, evangelism can begin to grow and spread.

Not sure that many companies are aware that evangelism is the pot of gold awaiting them at the end of the control rainbow.



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posted by Mack Collier @ 11:51 AM,

5 Comments:

At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Lewis Green said...

Mack,

Like you, I give lots of thought to Citizen Marketers and their impact on products and services. I've been wondering this: When we suggest marketers have to give up control, is that accurate and true? And doesn't it scare the heck out of most executives, working against our efforts to promote effective blogging that gives voice to the customers?

Instead of giving up control, aren't we really talking about sharing control?

If marketing is about messaging, and I think it is, we marketers will continue to create messages for our consumers, and they will continue to buy into them or not.

But by joining with them and giving them a voice, they can share their thoughts on those messages, and we can improve upon them. This isn't giving up control; it's sharing control and making us better marketers, which should result in increased sales.

What do you think? Words have power, and I am concerned about how we use them in this instance.

 
At 4:37 PM, Anonymous David Reich said...

Lewis, I agree that marketers can't, and shouldn't, give up control. They need to be willing to share control, as you say, but only to a degree.

The amount of sharing will vary from one company to the next and will, I suppose, depend on lots of factors including complexity of the market and the comfort level of the brand's executives.

Each company will have to find its own mix. Citizen marketers, though, should be brought into the mix.

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"What do you think? Words have power, and I am concerned about how we use them in this instance."

Great point Lewis, and I think we are taking two different approaches to solving the same problem; how to get companies to empower consumers. My fear is that no matter what we call it, 'losing control', 'giving control', or 'sharing control', that many companies are going to say 'Oh shit! They are talking about us LOSING control!' And any company that has to be sold on the idea at this point in the game, is likely going to want to resist.

I was trying to make the point that companies would be giving up some control, but in return, they empower their customers to market for them. And if they are willing to give up enough control, they can encourage evangelism, which, from a strictly business sense, saves companies money. Evangelists are members of the same communities they are selling to, thus they know the markets the best, because they ARE the market. If they are satisfying their own wants and needs, they are satisfying the community's wants and needs, since they ARE the community.

But I do think it's rather sad that we have to think of a way to sell companies on the idea of empowering their customers, since doing so would HELP companies immensely. But many companies are so out of touch with their customers, that they don't understand the benefits of communicating with them directly.

 
At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Lewis Green said...

Mack,

Yes, companies are reluctant to change and often fear and resist it. I think you and I would agree that fearing change rather than embracing it ends up hurting the brand, business growth and profits. The exact opposite of what businesses are trying to achieve.

I also agree with David: "Marketers can't, and shouldn't, give up control. They need to be willing to share control, as you say, but only to a degree." By gradually testing the waters rather than diving into the deep end of the pool, we can adjust our strategies to meet our customers' wants better and can assuage the fear tugging at the CFO's purse strings.

But, as a marketer, I'm used to push back and have come to expect it. So, while we want the same result, I am trying to figure out how to frame the message so that it sells.

I don't think we can use sites such as YouTube or MySpace or even CK's excellent post about MTV as examples. I think we have to use apples to sell apples, and that means data and examples of traditional businesses that have taken the leap.

It's hard work, my friend.

 
At 2:22 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"I don't think we can use sites such as YouTube or MySpace or even CK's excellent post about MTV as examples. I think we have to use apples to sell apples, and that means data and examples of traditional businesses that have taken the leap."

Agreed. Anything that can make the message more relevant, improves the chance that it will be acted upon.

 

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