Understanding how the Internet changes the rules of marketing is a huge challenge for CEOs: Which practices are obsolete? What new opportunities should be pursued? How do we define success in this new scenario?
Internet marketing is very different—and if you're not knowledgeable, you can allocate budget improperly or direct your efforts toward an area that won't provide ROI.
We all know that traditional marketing is a monologue—companies deliver messages to the market and push customers through the consideration process. The Internet changes the ways we can communicate with customers, adding new media like blogs and Web video.
When I analyze what's happening today, here's the mistake I see most companies making: They use new online marketing tools to pursue traditional marketing goals such as driving awareness, consideration, adoption, and purchase.
That's a mistake, because the rules of traditional marketing were shaped by what could be accomplished using one-way mass media. Frankly, it was the only tool we had available—up until even just a few years ago. Now that Internet media enables two-way communication, the whole idea of moving customers through a structured consideration process needs to be revised.
The central goal of online marketing isn't awareness, it's engagement. And the five key tools to produce engagement are affinity, personality, community, co-creation, and advocacy.
Engagement means getting the customer involved with your company, with your products, and—often—with your people. You want your customers to get to know your organization and its values and services. When customers like what they see and experience, the relationship deepens, leading to affinity.
Affinity refers to leveraging the depth and interactivity of the Web to create a memorable relationship with the customer. Some of the best techniques for building affinity include being useful when a customer's not buying, sharing passions, extending the product online, and creating cool experiences.
Nilofer Merchant is the CEO of Rubicon Consulting (www.rubiconconsulting.com), a strategy and marketing consultancy based in Silicon Valley that solves complex business challenges for high-tech companies.