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Companies are increasingly finding their marketing messages contradicted–or worse, turned against them–by a new set of “advisers.” These online channels operate beyond marketers’ control and have great reach and significant power to influence consumer opinion.
Can this territory be regained? Yes, but only if marketing leaders learn to understand the battlefield of influence. They can then draw from a set of four tactical responses to ensure that their key messages remain accessible, relevant and influential.
Read this article by Accenture Institute for High Performance director Paul Nunes and research fellow Josh Bellin published in the November issue of the European Business Review.
View original article online
In the last 10 years, many marketing organizations became aware that their customers had “escaped.” They had fled the controlled sales channels of the pre-Internet age when stores were solid and physical distances mattered. Instead they were acting in unpredictable ways, turning to components of multiple channels before buying (or turning elsewhere).
Today the problem has just gotten bigger. Customers are not just exploiting alternative sales channels to inform themselves about products and company reputations before making a purchase. They’re also turning to a wide variety of online sources for advice, in domains where traditional marketing messages often have very little influence or impact.
The challenge for companies is to identify and embrace the methods, both old and new, that are most compelling to their customers, while responding effectively to competitors that are trying to do the same. This challenge is the hallmark of today’s new battlefield of customer influence, and it has left some companies seriously wounded.
Winning the battle is not easy. Investing more in yesterday’s styles of advertising is not the solution, and simply attempting to manipulate social media and search engines won’t work and may blow up when it’s discovered. To do better, companies must understand the nature of the new battlefield, in three particular ways:
The battleground for customer influence is only intensifying, with more competitors using a myriad of approaches to make a good impression. To survive this onslaught and win the battle, marketing executives should scout the terrain. The first objective is systematic reconnaissance, achieved by scanning the existing sources of influence and asking which ones are impacting customers’ purchasing behavior. Only then can companies seek the high ground, responding both strategically and tactically from a position of strength.
Companies must therefore not only continuously re-learn how influence gets peddled in the marketplace today–they must constantly reevaluate how customers are influenced, and what the appropriate response should be.
Paul F. Nunes and Joshua B. Bellin
November 13, 2012
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