It couldn't possibly be so, could it?
Forget what you think you know. These businesses have dramatically altered the flow of time and space, leaving us standing at the edge of a paradigm nobody fully comprehends.
Future historians will say with understated simplicity, "Companies delivering very personalized experiences en masse, marked the beginning of the end for traditional marketing"
Business owners will wonder why we tried force-feeding our markets. They'll ask, "Why didn't we give people a choice sooner?" How did failing companies not see what needed to be done, when it was so painfully obvious?"
The Paradigm Shift
Since the first advertisement, marketers have primarily relied on programming to spread their message.
Newspapers are printed by a certain time every day. Radio shows are programmed to a time slot. Television relies on regularly scheduled programming to keep audiences tuned in.
Traditional forms of marketing rely on someone else's programming to keep audiences engaged.
Good marketers know they're more likely to be ignored. So they analyze programming and its audience to tailor their messaging to be both entertaining and compelling.
However most marketers practice the frequency method. The more you deliver a message, the more it will sink in and convert viewers to buyers. This method works, but also frequently leads to buyer's remorse.
Which is why the first time you streamed a video on YouTube, or rented a movie through Netflix, the world was brought one step closer to the future.
The second you got what you wanted, when you wanted it, that's when marketing changed.
Faceless entities can't make demands on your schedule.
You are free to watch your favorite TV shows without hurrying home through rush hour traffic.
If you don't want to listen to a song on Pandora, skip it. If you don't like it, give it a thumbs down. You won't hear it again.
Follow reporters and influential people on Twitter. Learn about major events moments after they happen if you don't want day old news.
You have been freed from programming, and nobody can tell you what to do.
How does this hurt business?
This freedom means no more captive audiences.
You watch what you want to watch, read what you want to read and listen to whomever you want.
Traditional marketing takes place during prime time programming - your ad on someone else's channel. Now, that kind of cross-channel promotion a small part of a bigger plan.
What's hurting many businesses is the inability to accept that consumerism is a choice.
New marketing suggests brands create their own channel, be interesting and live beyond the "15 second spot." Brands are becoming full living, breathing personifications of their shared values with their customers.
Without giving people reasons to tune in, "changing the channel" is irrelevant. They'll just be ignored.
This is where many businesses get tripped up. They think because they've started a blog, or have a Facebook page and purchased ppc ads, piles of people are going to "be engaged." Without learning how to speak the language of the customer, businesses quickly learn "engagement" isn't easy to come by.
Don't think I'm singling out the big guys, either. Small and solo-run businesses are also guilty (if not more so).You see it all the time.
A blogger will publish extremely useful information, yet when no one shares it, no one comments on it, the article is like a tree falling in the woods. It might as well not exist.
People will always enjoy talking about themselves.
Successful businesses have shifted from communicating the problem they solve to understanding the problem people have.
They understand ads are an introduction to a much more meaningful and deep relationship.
Throwing money at advertising may get you extra attention.
But it doesn't mean you're entitled to more viewers.
"Pay to Play" has less power online than ever before.
Whether you're running Facebook ads, or sponsoring a post on a popular blog, social platforms have one rule in common: Be good, or be buried.
Seems simple enough, but many businesses still struggle to shake the feeling of entitlement that comes from taking out an ad (or simply showing up for that matter).
If there's anything we can learn from Netflix...
...and companies like it, it's that their customers care because Netflix lets their customer define the business.
Actively listening to the market to deliver products they want isn't progressive. It is the difference between the visibly engaged and crickets chirping.
Chances are likely though, your business doesn't offer a product like Netflix, or Pandora.
But you can do this
You want more feedback on your posts?
You can get it.
You want people to buy your products simply because you ask them to?
You can encourage them.
You want people to talk about you, and become such a staple in their lives that they couldn't imagine living without you?
You can wrap them around your finger.
I know a lot of this sounds like it's not achievable. I know it seems like businesses like Netflix and Pandora and Facebook have been around forever. But in every single case, these businesses were developed with a single purpose: solve the problem. They grew from an idea into what they are now because their customers defined them.
If a 21-year-old punk kid can develop a cultural phenomenon in his dorm room, what do you think your business could do if you incorporated your customers more?
My guess is: pretty much anything.
No, it won't be easy. I guarantee you won't always like what people have to say. I guarantee you won't always love the direction they want you to go. I guarantee there will be days when you want to put your head in the sand and give up because people are making so many demands on your time, and energy, and hard work.
But isn't that what it's all about? Isn't it great to be in demand? The world is full of businesses that never stop to hear their customer's voice. They push, hoping a small percentage of consumers will care, then wonder why their conversion rates are so low. You don't need to do that. You're smarter than that.
So go. Find out what they really need.
Then exceed their expectations.
You can do it.
I believe in you.