The changing face of Marketing

As the social web evolves and we collectively turn off our ears to unidirectional ads and messaging, the face of marketing continues to evolve. Prospects continually seek to find and pull valuable information and content without wanting to give up much in exchange. How do marketer’s respond?

The new goal is to provide something of value…something so valuable that folks who have never even heard of you or your brand want to share it with their friends. The content that you provide might be a public webcast, podcast, video, white paper, etc. It might be funny, proprietary and valuable research, or something else that will resonate with your target demographic. The idea is to get something interesting and valuable in front of the eyes of some key buyers and influencers within your demographic.

An interesting thing happened this week. Eloqua, a leader in marketing automation, drip campaigns, marketing analytics, and all the traditional fundamental building blocks of marketing did something different.

They created and shared freely a couple of pieces that most marketers will find value. No opt-in. No forms. No registration.

Not only is their content valuable, especially for those marketers just getting started and trying to wade through the variety of tools and how to incorporate them into their marketing mix. More significantly, a marketing automation company just became another living example of how marketers must evolve in order to gain Attention - the first step in the 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business.

AIPEE Pyramid

The Content Grid
This graphic creates a framework for creating and distributing content to align with the demands of the new marketplace. Personally, I have some questions and don’t totally agree with or understand everything in it, but it’s a fantastic piece of reference and valuable as a framework as organizations begin to organize their content strategy.

The content grid

The Social Media Playbook

Click on the image below to download the playbook. It’s built and designed for those new to the Social web, and provides an overview of all the tools out there. It doesn’t speak too much about the strategy of participation, or corporate strategy for actually bringing customers into the corporate ecosystem (critical first steps), but it does provide loads of tactical tidbits and an overview of the many of the leading publicly available tools for use on the social web.

Eloqua Social Media Playbook

Social Media Playbook

Both pieces were done in collaboration with Jess3, the creators who worked in collaboration with Brian Solis to create the now ubiquitous Conversation Prism and the video embedded below – “The State of the Internet”, which contains a dizzying array of facts about today’s internet (or yesterday’s as it is now a few months old, but helpful nonetheless)

Need more examples of valuable content that went viral, or why every company should be creating and providing valuable content? Check out “Three New Roles for your company: Media Mogul”

Have more examples to share? Please post them below.

Circles: The Real Driver behind Social Business

We were all born into a circle. At one time in human history, our circle never extended beyond our family. The circles then extended to our tribe, and then our village. Circles then extended outward. They were drawn around common languages, common religious beliefs, and then nation states. Advances in technology have helped enable the extension of these circles. Our circles now have the capability to nearly encompass the whole earth.

It’s too much.

So, we begin to draw narrower circles that are more manageable. We apply filters that help us to find those people and things that are most interesting to us, those that will help us accomplish our need. We have the ability to include other people in the circles we have created or joined.

This process is innate. We did it in school growing up. We do it in our neighborhoods. We do it professionally.

We join or create a circle called an organization. Within that circle are many other circles. The one around your physical location. The one around your department. The one around those that you call work friends.

Advances in technology enable us to draw more circles, more often. Circles that transcend traditional boundaries. The ability to draw more creative circles has evolved with the mass adoption of phone, email, and the internet.

Social technologies have allowed us unmatched freedom to create these circles. The biggest circle now encompasses the whole planet. We know increasingly more about existing circles (communities, groups, customers, organizations, and the individuals within those circles).

It is becoming easier to build a circle around a single purpose.

There has been increasing debate and discussion about Social Business, Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0 and the definitions of each.

The truth is that the change happening around us is simply about rapidly creating circles around a need.

There is someone out there right now that is trying to do something. They need your help. Social technologies have afforded us the ability to find, listen, and engage with them. You have the ability to quickly create a circle of folks who can work together to help them solve their problem. If that person with a need is “outside of your organization”, and your circle can provide something of value in exchange for currency, we call them a customer.

If you are able to do this over and over, circles containing multiple customers are created. They can, in turn, create their own circle or circles. They can tell stories about your circle to other circles they belong to. Some might label this process Social CRM.

If the same scenario happens behind the veil of corporate walls, we label this collaboration. We call it Enterprise 2.0. The ultimate value exchange might look a little different as currency might not be exchanged. But we’ve done the same thing. We’ve created a circle of collaboration to solve a problem – a purpose. The only difference is that the focus of goal was to solve a need within our existing circle.

The dynamics of these circles aren’t new. Humans have organized in this fashion for eons.

Here’s what is new, and is rapidly changing the fabric of society and business:

  • We can now create circles with unlimited amounts of people in them
  • We know increasingly more about these circles because of the data we are collecting, and the analytical capabilities we have
  • Any conversation within one circle can be shared with an unlimited number of circles
  • Circles are increasingly dynamic – they can be drawn, erased, and/or reconfigured almost instantaneously

Could all the complexity of this world really be wrapped up in… Circles?

Three New Required Roles for your company: (#3) Media Mogul

Longer ago than I’d like to mention, I started a series called “Three New Required Roles for your company”. As the business landscape changes, shifts in business models and design require new roles and adjustments to traditional thinking. New opportunities emerge, and businesses who understand the greater trends can profit from seizing these gaps in market awareness and efficiencies.

In the first first two posts of this series, I advocated incorporating two new roles into your organization. These were:

(1) The CIA Operative, which highlighted the importance of listening to what folks are saying about your company, your products and services and other key topics that are relevant to what your organization is interested in.

(2) The Social Anthropologist, which highlighted a rapidly growing requirement for a skill set that has previously been relegated to studies of remote people groups, but now has potential ground breaking applications for forward looking organizations. Know your customers (and their network).

If you haven’t read those, or you need to refresh your memory, please (re)read those at your convenience, as I’d love to hear your thoughts, feedback, criticism (or praise).

Now, let’s take a look at the third and final critical role necessary for you to compete in the new business landscape: Your company’s very own Media Mogul.

I’m not talking about a web designer. I’m not talking about the Director of Marketing who comes up with good campaign ideas and glossy slicks to hand out at trade shows. I’m not talking about Press Releases.

I’m literally asking you to think about figureheads like Rupert Murdoch, Michael Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Forbes, Ted Turner, etc. Get those people in your mind. Imagine them working for your company. Think about how they’d corral attention in your business domain. Keep them there and let that image frame this conversation. We’ll come back to those folks later.

Oprah

Ted Turner

Ted Turner

There are at least 5 reasons why we need to consider this strategic hire:

(1) Time is the most elusive resource for all of us. We increasingly only seek media that we want and need. Filters play an increasingly important role in our daily lives. Your customers, prospects, partners, influencers, and vendors in the same boat. If you’re not providing something that they want or need, it’s not getting through.

(2) EVERYONE (including you and I) now has access to content creation tools AND significant media distribution channels. More and more individuals and organizations are hopping into the pool everyday.

(3) Traditional company centric messaging is increasingly ignored, less effective, and more expensive

(4) The makeup of Internet content is rapidly moving:
—> AWAY from text TO rich media
—> AWAY from computer based interaction TO mobile device interaction
—> AWAY from unidirectional communication and information consumption TO multi-directional annotated sharing, conversation, and feedback

(5) Valuable Content is being syndicated at exponential reach through newly formed and evolving “Communities of Trust”.

Look at points 1 and 2. Merge them together. Time is the most elusive resource for all of us and EVERYONE has access to content creation tools AND significant media distribution channels.

There is an absolute collision happening right now. Blogs, Microblogging, Video Production, and other Interactive Media Production is now essentially open to everyone. A huge majority of new media distribution is on “free” channels. There is a rush to participate.

People who were already faced the challenge of time management, are now faced with an increasing complex dilemma of what to read, who to listen to, who to talk to, etc., and every day there are more entrants competing for our time and attention… for your customer’s and prospect’s time and attention.

In short, there is chaos. And, where there is chaos, there is opportunity.

With the inability to filter, we look for others to help us with our decisions of what media to consume. Who do we trust? People we like. People we trust. People we admire. People…like us. This is one reason why Valuable Content is being syndicated at exponential speed and reach through newly formed and evolving “Communities of Trust”.

There is a heated battle happening for attention.

Those that are able to capture it, provide something extraordinary while they have it, and enable those that engage to share with their trusted circle have a huge advantage. Once you gain pole position, you have a great chance to stay there. (Hat tip to Tom Foremski at Every Company is a Media Company who provided this analogy and seems to have very similar thinking on this)

For a moment, let’s bring those media moguls we referenced earlier back to the forefront of this conversation. What is the common thread for each of them? There are probably dozens, but here’s a key one: They have consistently created (bought, or curated) compelling and interesting content consistently over time that attract people AND keep their attention. Many of them have also bought distribution channels so that they could control the content on each respective channel.

Who else is doing this, and what benefits have they reaped?

Wine Library

Gary Vaynerchuk grew his family’s local New Jersey liquor store into a $60 million dollar a year business by creating a daily video blog Now he’s written a book, has signed a multi-book deal, has joined the speaker circuit, and his company is growing even more as he rides the media wave.

Blendtec – a blender manufacturer

Created one of the most successful viral marketing campaigns ever and increased their retail sales by more than 700% because of it! Read the case study. Perhaps many of you can relate.

They’ve since parlayed their initial success of that “media” into the production of 96 videos capturing the attention of millions of would be customers.

In another recent stroke of genius, they leveraged the recent hype and publicity of the iPad to create this cameo appearance on YouTube, which oh, by the way, has garnered more than 6 MILLION views in just a few weeks. Here’s the video:

BluDot

Here’s another example from BluDot, a chair manufacturer who observed a community culture in SoHo of those who liked to find interesting things on the street and take them home. In response, they came up with a creative experiment, and subsequent video:

But, it doesn’t have to be video.

Read this article posted on the American Express OPEN site about how a university differentiated themselves by giving their prospective attendees (prospects) something useful that helped them achieve what they are trying to do.

The Altimeter Group recently produced a framework for Social CRM which has garnered nearly 40,000 views at the time of writing this post, which by the way, is a very good starting point if you are considering a Social CRM initiative.

You get the idea. Think along these lines. Think outside the realm of your traditional thinking. You are now a media company.

And if you want to get a glimpse of where this all is heading so you can be ahead of the curve, here’s a VERY interesting glimpse into the future of publishing:

And finally, if you’re still not convinced, check out what’s happening over at salesforce.com.

It seems that marketing and business visionary Marc Benioff also sees things the way that I do. In addition to Salesforce.com’s recent acquisitions of Jigsaw and launch of VMForce, he just hired his own Media Mogul, Steve Gillmor, away from TechCrunch.

March Madness: Timeless Business Lessons from the Greatest Coach of All Time

The Final Four tips off tomorrow to determine who will play in the NCAA Men’s National Championship Game.

Every March, 65 basketball teams are given an admission ticket for a chance to play their way into a dream – competing for a National Championship. It’s my favorite time of year. It’s a time where most dreams are never realized, and some dreams are shattered when attainment is just inches from their grasp.

Not unlike the social landscape, the NCAA Tournament (aka March Madness) is a great equalizer. It’s a place where the small guys get to face the giants and see how good they really are. It’s a place where undiscovered stars emerge under a giant spotlight to take center stage and sometimes, just sometimes, this is where magic happens. Schools like Texas Western defeat legends like Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky. Little schools like Northern Iowa conquer untouchable top ranked giants like the University of Kansas.

Fans and observers across the USA simply love the excitement and adrenaline rush of buzzer beaters, agonizing near misses, and the thrill of the “win or go home” environment. Well, at least most fans do…

This March was a little different for me. Number one, I regrettably didn’t get to watch many games. (On a positive note though, as referenced above, I did fare better in my pool than Brent.) Secondly, I suddenly found myself witnessing a different kind of “March Madness” unfold. Use of the word “Social CRM” has absolutely exploded. A relatively small conversation between a few of us a year ago is currently experiencing “hockey stick” interest and discussion.

Social CRM Search Volume

Now this growth and interest is a good thing. I firmly believe that Social CRM has the potential to reshape modern day commerce. If you’re just getting up to speed, check out a great compilation of valuable discussions curated by Prem Kumar.

But, boy have I seen the term misused, misinterpreted, and all of a sudden there is a rush of new definitions, new models, and anything related to social media is now being called Social CRM. Some are arguing that the term shouldn’t even be used, and trying to rename it to align it with their own agenda. Many posts and discussions have become misleading, misguided, and in many cases, myopically focused on the latest social tools with absolutely no real context, strategy, purpose, or value behind them.

STOP THE MADNESS!

Over the course of NCAA basketball history, there is one coach who stands far above the rest.

His all time coaching record was 885-203.
In more than 40 years as a player and a coach, he NEVER WAS ON A LOSING TEAM.
He won 10 National Championships.
He won an unbelievable 38 STRAIGHT NCAA tournament games, leading to 7 STRAIGHT NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS.

His name is John Wooden.

While he applied his principles to coaching young men to play a game, he could have applied them anywhere and had a similar track record. He was (and still is) simply a remarkable leader.

For a stretch of 12 years in a row, Coach Wooden navigated the UCLA Bruins successfully through March Madness, defeating countless adversaries on their way to appearing in a championship game. During the course of his tenor, opposing coaches and players devised new schemes, new defenses, innovative offensive plays, fancy tricks, and spiced the game up with a little “razzle dazzle” for the entertainment the crowd. Wooden never lost his focus.

Ironically, he never focused on winning. He identified 12 key principles, and he pushed his players to give everything they had to try be the best they could be. He believed the results would take care of themselves.

To Wooden, winning was the result of focusing on just three things: Fundamentals, Conditioning, and Teamwork. He was and is, at the vivacious age of 99, a man of profound simplicity. To tie the 3 things to the business world, conditioning equates to simply striving to increase your competence everyday. An oft used term right now for Teamwork is “Collaboration”.

In this fast changing landscape of new toys, schemes, tools, and ideas, we can probably heed some things from Coach Wooden. I urge business leaders and those who are advising them to capitalize and leverage new opportunities brought about by emerging technologies and strategies to not lose sight of the core business fundamentals critical to their success.

For each organization, these core fundamentals will likely be slightly different. But there are many that can and should apply across the board.

What are the core business fundamentals YOU believe organizations should be focusing on today?

Please share them in the comments section. I’ve taken the initial stab with a short list below. I look forward to your additions.

  • Align your entire value delivery chain around customer needs
  • Constantly measure and improve your customer experience
  • Draw talent, customers, and partners to your organization by constantly doing something that others can’t, or won’t
  • Build loyalty (with customers, partners, suppliers, and employees) by exceeding expectations and offering an unbelievable value proposition
  • Execute: Do what you say you are going to do

And, before we go, in this rapidly emerging world where “reputation management” is becoming more and more relevant, here are some valuable parting words from Coach Wooden:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden

Thanks Coach for getting us back on track.

Three New Required Roles for your company (#1): CIA Operative

You might be thinking you landed on the wrong blog or be asking yourself “What does this have to do with CRM? Now this Brian guy is telling me that I need to hire a CIA Operative? I’m moving on. I’ve got real business to tend to. “

Wait! Yes, you do…have real business to tend to, and this will help. And Yes, you do…need to incorporate not one, but three new roles into your business as soon as possible that you probably haven’t thought of before now. The first one is the CIA Operative role.

Ok. This might be a slight stretch. But hear me out on this.

If I could reduce CRM down into three words (other than customer relationship management), it would be to “Know your customer”, or “Serve your customer”. (Feel free to add your own 3 letter descriptions of CRM in the comments section at the end of this post).

For as long as your company has been in existence, individuals have been talking about your products and services. They’ve been talking at the grocery store, at church, at the water cooler. Word of mouth spread, but you have been unaware of 99% of the conversations that were out there. The CIA has not been so unaware. Now they’re likely not so interested in conversations about your latest volumizing shampoo, meat products, blade servers, or whatever your company happens to produce, but they’ve been listening to other kinds of conversations for quite some time.

Imagine if you could listen to all of those conversations about your products and services. If you are a company of any size, there are conversations happening right now about you. Some of them are happening right here on the internet. Those conversations are being enabled by the social web.

Wouldn’t you like to know what your customers saying about you, your company, your products, your services, your marketing campaigns, your receptionist, your customer service…?

The CIA knows a lot about what people are saying about the USA. In fact, they probably now know about this post. Hi guys – thanks for stopping by! :)

What if your organization had its own CIA operative? What if someone is blogging, or tweeting, or making a song or video that mentions your company or brand right now? How would you know?

Check these free tools out to see what people are saying, and then come back for the rest of the post:

Now there are a number of enterprise level tools that exist out there as well. Some primary examples include companies like Radian 6, Scout Labs, and Visible Technologies, which, oh by the way, received an investment from an organization called In-Q-Tel, which, oh by the way is funded by the CIA.

How’s that for tying the loop?

Forward thinking companies are listening, but that’s just the first step. Want a case study? Here’s an interesting one about Avaya, who turned listening not only into more data about what people are say about their brand, but actually closed a $250,000 sale because of their CIA Operative tacticts.

The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part 3)

This is the third and final of a three part post.

We’ve been talking about the AIPEE Pyramid over the past couple of weeks. I haven’t embedded the full image of the AIPEE Pyramid on this post, but if you’d like to take another look, you can click here to have it open in a new window, or review Post 1 and Post 2 in their entirety by clicking on the links.

In Post 1 we introduced you to the AIPEE Pyramid, and pointed your gaze toward the enchanting Blue Circled R – the icon representative of desired destination our prospect’s journey: the R Value Exchange.

The Mysterious and enchanting Blue Circled R

In Post 2, we took a detailed look at the 5 stages of the journey up the pyramid:

AIPEE Pyramid Simple

In today’s third and final post, we are going to focus on the following:

  • The customer’s response to their journey up the pyramid
  • The Value Exchange Retention Cycles

(1) The customer’s response to their journey up the pyramid

Humans have always been social. We’ve always told our friends, family, acquaintances and business associates about our day, our experiences, our hopes and dreams, who we like and don’t like, etc. Mitch Lieberman expands on this thought in a very worthwhile post titled Social Just Is…

Word of mouth has been around since, well, before words were written. Once upon a time, all communication was word of mouth.

What has changed is how many people we can tell things to in such a short amount of time. Social Technologies are an amplifier. The spreading of ideas, good and bad, and the repercussions of the spread of that information are now exponential.

Good experiences get amplified – an exponential boost to your brand.

Bad experiences, well, can spread like wildfire, and can do significant damage to your brand and reputation in a short amount of time. Here are some of the top negative PR events of 2009.

But really, this isn’t new either. Bad PR stories have been picked up and spread via the press for decades.

What is new is that EVERYBODY is the media. There is no longer a filter. ABC, CBS, and NBC no longer have the control over what is worth hearing about. Our peers do. You do. I do. Ashton Kutcher certainly he believes that he does.

Information and Stories that are worth spreading will be spread.

You: “Great Brian. But, what does all of this have to do with the pyramid?”
Me: “Good point. Let’s try and tie these pieces back together.”

Up to this point in the series, we’ve talked about how each prospect, one by one, makes their journey up the pyramid. There is a specialized craft in designing our sales and marketing efforts so that we can add the most value possible at each stage in the initial journey with our prospect.

But what if there was such value in what we shared that our prospects began to amplify and spread our content across their networks, at each and every stage of their journey with us?

Seth Godin expands upon this point in his blog post titled The Big Drop Off:

We try so hard to build the first circle.

This is the circle of followers, friends, subscribers, customers, media outlets and others willing to hear our pitch. This is the group we tell about our new product, our new record, our upcoming big sale. We want more of their attention and more people on the list.

Which takes our attention away from the circle that matters, which is the second circle.

The second circle are the people who hear about us from the first circle.

If the first circle is excited about what we do and it’s remarkable enough to talk about, they’ll tell two or six or ten friends each. And if we’re really good, the second circle, the people we don’t even know–they’ll tell the third circle. And it’s the third circle that makes you a hit, gets you elected and tips your idea.

The big drop off is the natural state of affairs. The big drop off is the huge decline that occurs between our enthusiasm (HEY! BUY THIS!) and the tepid actions of the first circle (yawn). Great marketers don’t spend their time making the first circle bigger. They spend all their time crafting services, products and stories that don’t drop off.

GOAL #1: Create and provide maximum value in your content and interactions
GOAL #2: Keep the amplifier in mind. Try and create so much value that people are compelled, almost mandated to share it with their network of friends and associates. Think of it this way: What could you provide to you prospects that would enable them to add value to their network by sharing it?

Hey, I know that most of you are smart savvy innovators – sales, marketing and demand generation geniuses. So let’s fast forward a bit, and assume we’ve done that. We’ve knocked it out of the park. What happens after we get to the R Exchange, and exchange value with our prospect for the first time?

(2) The Value Exchange Retention Cycles

Hopefully the relationship we’ve worked so hard to nurture doesn’t stop there. I’ve highlighted 3 areas where and how further exchange might take place. Let’s briefly touch on each of them.

A. Repeat Transactions

Depending on our business and our previous exchange, we may regularly exchange value in a similar fashion. We may keep getting referrals. We may keep selling the same consumable over and over. The monthly subscription might just keep auto-renewing. It might just take a series of brief, regular “touches” to keep the Value Exchange wheel turning . But remember, in order to keep our customers with us, we need to continue to add value. It’s a post for another day, but access to competitive alternatives has never been broader or easier.

B. Upsell Opportunities (Deeper Commitment)

We’ve had an initial exchange. But, there’s more there. We know it. They know it. There is more dialogue to be had. There are more problems to be solved. You’ll see that the retention circle extends back down into the engagement stage. Deeper dialogue covering Value Discovery, Co-Creation, Deepening of trust are now back in play, and layers of the onion are peeled back as new needs are discovered and new solutions are presented.

C. CrossSell Opportunities (Different Product and Service Offerings)

You’ll notice that this retention circle ventures all the way back down to the permission stage. Perhaps we’ve solved a set of problems for our customer. We’ve added value in a specific area. But perhaps, there are new opportunities for value exchange in areas we haven’t even touched on yet. Areas of our customer’s business that may have different rules, needs, players, politics, budgets, goals, etc. While we’ve exchanged value for one business purpose, we may need to display competency in another area in order to earn permission to engage in dialogue for that need as well.

And that, my friends, brings us to our close.

We’ve taken a look at how to get our prospect’s attention, and facilitate a journey towards a mutual value exchange. We’ve looked at how social technologies amplify everything good and bad, and we’ve taken a brief look at how our relationship with our customers (partners, influencers, etc.) can be retained and nurtured for continuous value exchange.

Now it’s your turn. I’m anxious to hear your feedback:

1. Am I on the mark? How can we adjust this image to more accurately represent how businesses today and in the future can leverage social technologies for exponential revenue growth?

2. What did I forget?

3. Where am I flat wrong?

4. How does this compare with your personal Customer Acquisition efforts today, and your plans for the future?

5. Does the image accurately reflect the concepts and ideas presented in the text?

6. And most of all, I am interested in hearing your unique, unfiltered personal insights, questions, and observations.

Thanks again for your feedback.

- Brian @CRMStrategies

The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part 2)

This is the second of a three part post.

In post 1, I introduced the AIPEE pyramid, talked briefly about what it was and what it wasn’t, and pointed our attention to R Value Exchange (the circled blue R under Interaction Medium) – which represents our target destination when participating socially for the purposes of Customer Acquisition. If you missed that post – you may want to briefly revisit it here

In this post, let’s take a closer look at each stage and the progressive journey up the pyramid, starting at the bottom, where most new individuals will start their journey with us. (Click on the image to look at a larger view)

ATTENTION

For marketers, here is where we are casting our net far and wide. The key difference versus what we’ve traditionally done is that companies can no longer rely on “shouting” a message. Ads are less effective than they’ve ever been and trust in companies is about as low as it has ever been. The new goal is to provide something of value…something so valuable that folks who have never even heard of you or your brand want to share it with their friends. The most successful viral campaign in recent history is one from Blendtec. Google this to see what they did. There are dozens of other examples as well.

The content that you provide might be a public webcast, podcast, video, white paper, etc. It might be funny, proprietary and valuable research, or something else that will resonate with your target demographic. The idea is to get something interesting and valuable in front of the eyes of some key influencers within your demographic.

Side Note: While I haven’t created a visual yet, also visualize the LIPEE pyramid (where Listening is substituted for Attention). Instead of the company creating compelling content to attract attention, it “listens” to and monitors the socialsphere for mentions of their brand, their core competency, or other key words which might be a signal to engage in “interaction” through Social Channels.

INTERACTION
You’ve now garnered some attention, and have established a little bit of relational capital. Now is the time where some 1:1 interaction might take place. Twitter, blogs, Facebook, some “Unconnected” community participation, etc.

Dialogue at this stage will vary – but the offline equivalent might be saying “Hi – how are you doing?” to someone while waiting for a drink at the bar on in the line at the bathroom at a networking event. There is a shared common interest, and we’ve just been presented with an opportunity for some dialogue in passing. Unless there is something compelling or interesting during that exchange, the conversation will likely be forgotten within 15 minutes by both parties. If there is something of value during the exchange, the natural response is something like “Hey, let’s talk more about that next week”, and contact information is exchanged. We’ve just gained permission to continue the conversation.

PERMISSION
Simply put, the dialogue during our brief interaction was compelling enough. We have offered something of interest and value that the individual have implicitly or explicitly asked to know more about us. Instead of handing them a business card in the offline world, with a few mouse clicks and a URL, we can point them to exactly what they are looking for in the form of pre-existing content. In exchange, they’ve give you permission to follow up to talk more.

Some examples of ways that this can manifest itself are:

  • Subscribing to our blog
  • Inviting us to connect on a Social Network
  • Giving us their contact information in exchange for a white paper, webinar, newsletter, free product sample or trial

We’ve been able to offer something of value and they’ve given us permission to engage with them in more conversation.

*** VALUE ***
This isn’t a stage by itself, but it is the most critical factor to all of them, respectively. If there is something that isn’t graphically represented enough in the diagram, it is the Value that is provided on behalf of our company. You will notice that as the prospect moves up the pyramid, the company must be providing more value in order to enable them to do so. If there is a strong undercurrent that is unseen by the casual observer… the invisible hand of the AIPEE Pyramid, it is the absolute necessity to PROVIDE VALUE at each and every stage of the process. Without it, the climb up the pyramid is simply too hard. It is the value provided by the company that compels the prospect to continue their journey.

ENGAGEMENT
This is where we get the chance to really “talk turkey”, and is likely representative of the transition from what is traditionally known as marketing into the realm of sales. At this same point, interaction that has previously been facilitated by social technologies and platforms now probably transitions to a more “traditional” or “more deeply engaging” channel. There might be a natural escalation in communication channels from social –> email –> phone –> web conference –> face to face. Typically, as we get closer to the most natural form of human communication (face to face), we are likely moving closer to a mutually beneficial value exchange with our prospect. (Conjecture on my part – anyone have any research to back this up?)

This stage could be (and likely will be), another post or two unto itself. But that is for another day. We all have work to get back to.

For the sake of brevity, here is the summary:

The two parties are fully engaged, figuratively “sitting on the same side of the table” and seriously exploring how they can help each other out. Trust has never been deeper up until this point in the relationship. The company’s main goal is to understand in detail what their prospect is trying to accomplish, and either offer an existing solution from their offerings portfolio, or co-create with them a product or solution that helps them accomplish their goals.

EXCHANGE
We’ve made it. It’s nice to be at the top.

We’ve consistently added value over a series of interactions. We’ve established trust. We’ve worked hard on behalf of our prospect to help them achieve their goals. We’ve now earned the right to ask for something. It might be a sale (Revenue). It might be a Referral. It might be a Recommendation. In some cases, it might be all three. We’ve successfully executed an R Value Exchange. But it doesn’t stop there… (It never does).

In the final post, we’ll dig a little more into the Value Exchange Retention Cycles, the potential response(s) of the customer at all stages in their journey up the pyramid, provide some examples of how and when the customer might “skip” stages and get to the top more quickly, and how and when you might consider automating some of your efforts.

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