The second post in this series on the evolution of marketing, explores the shift from one directional marketing (provider-to-customer) to interactive, multi-directional marketing. In the first post we discussed how things shifted from a scarcity of the number of available marketing channels to the scarcity of customer time and attention. This interactive aspect has a bigger impact on marketing and therefore gets a bit more attention here. Again, editorial on how this change applies in the legal market is added in italics.
The Next Layer
The persuasion aspect in the original marketing method directed content in one direction. Business crafted a marketing message and wrapped that up in various forms of advertising to push it in front of customers. Customers only served in a receive mode. To stay fresh, these messages became more dynamic and creative and actually drifted away from product descriptions to emotive appeals. Knowing your car had power breaks was useful, but imagining you powering through the curves on the Pacific Coast Highway was compelling.
With the rise of the Internet not only did the number of channels spike, but the ability for the customer to participate actively blossomed. This was Web 2.0. Here we saw the rise of Blogs and Wikis, followed by social media platforms such as MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn. Beyond the scarcity dynamic, this Web 2.0 environment presented a qualitative change in the way customers consumed information about products and services. Instead of passively accepting the information presented by the provider, they could participate in the development of the marketing message.
What emerged was a conversation between business and customer. Although this continues to present a challenge to business, it also presents an incredible opportunity. Businesses can find out directly and almost immediately how customers react to a new offering, price and brand. And any deficiencies will be quickly identified with possible solutions coming right from the customer.
Lawyers are trained in talking at people not talking with them. They present to courts and juries and give advice and counsel to clients on deals and regulations. As well the ethics rules generally frown on marketing interactions as that may create attorney-client relationships. Therefore ‘interactive’ does not come naturally to them.
This new interactive environment also drove a shift from persuasion to value in the style of messages being presented by business. In addition to appealing to their emotions, customers now need to find some direct value in a message, even if it is just entertainment. In other words, to get customers’ attention, business needs to motivate them via their self-interest to consume marketing content.
Successfully meeting this new-style value challenge presents a qualitative increase in the value of marketing. Valuable content, combined with an interactive, participatory audience, leads to customers extending a message much deeper into a market. This multiplier effect means one customer finding value in content will pass it along to their own network with no additional cost to the business. Multiply this effect out and well-crafted messages can reach an audience of millions at a very low cost.
Where business has stumbled in this arena is attempting to deliver old-style, one-direction messages in this interactive environment. Businesses push out a message and then either don’t engage with the customers or attempt to defend their message when it is critiqued. As might be expected, customers have not reacted well to these attempts. Business continues to struggle with this challenge, as it is a bit of a moving target.
Lawyers are stumbling – to say the least. Many legal blogs have comments turned off out of fear someone might ask a question. This eliminates the interactive component. Blog posts are are the typical newsletter style of content and tweets are mostly ads. This misses the mark on providing value over ad copy and their messages die before becoming part of any conversation.
I predict this interactive aspect of marketing will remain a substantial obstacle for lawyers.
In Part 3 of this series, we will explore how the market is reacting to these fundamental changes and what it all means for marketing going forward.