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Is your marketing about transactions or relationship?

I had a very interesting time working with a company the last couple days about how they need to improve their Web site. They are a well-known catalog company with over 60 years experience offline, but they wanted some insight in how to sell more online. I gave them a lot of my standard advice to be more conversational in their marketing, to use metrics as feedback in keeping with their own direct marketing tradition, and to break out of the specialization of their company so that everyone can help marketing. They warmed to most of the advice, but at dinner last night they asked some questions about another expert that they’d spoken to recently—they wanted to know what I thought of what she said. What they told me surprised me.

A well-respected consultant, whom I won’t name, told this company that every inch of their Web site must be devoted to selling. Because they are a successful catalog marketer, they accepted this advice without much scrutiny, but I told them it was dead wrong.

Now, understand, I don’t necessarily think that advice is dead wrong for everyone, but it was a totally off-base suggestion for this company. Although this company is a catalog marketer, they are a premium supplier. They offer services that their competitors don’t offer and they are at a premium price point. They should sell online, for sure, but if they look like every other catalog marketer in their business, then they will end up competing (and losing) on price.

Instead, my advice is that they must offer more value. They must be marketing relationships, not transactions. They must emphasize the extra service, reliability, features, and value. They ought to be creating loyalty programs with rewards for their best customers. They should be providing information and online services around their products that justify the high price.

In short, they ought to be emphasizing every aspect of a relationship with their customers at the expense of simple transactions. If they get customers to give permission for a long-term relationship. the customers won’t forget to buy stuff from them.

Like this company, you need to think clearly about your company’s value proposition before eagerly digesting advice on best practices. Because even if a sales-oriented approach is typically right for a catalog marketer, it doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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Discussion

  1. Avatar Mazda

    this is so so true. there are many online retailers today. what makes one initiate to purchase from a retailer? its all in the post.
    “They must emphasize the extra service, reliability, features, and value”
    great article.

  2. Perception is everything – particularly with premium products. I think whatever it is that you’re promoting then Amazon provide superb examples of ‘selling’ on every page.
    Customer feedback/reviews and testimonials are one of the most powerful ways to turm browsers into buyers.

  3. Avatar Micheal Savoie

    Look at the difference between Walmart and Kmart. Walmart began relationships with their customers and greeted everyone that walked into the store. People remember that good feeling that they get when they walk in and they repeat what makes them feel good.
    Same as Sam’s Club back before Sam Walton died. They were definitely more relationship oriented, and actually in some ways they still are, because they take their sales force and send them out to the businesses in the surrounding territories and build relationships with them, including showing them ways to help them reduce their expenses and find cool bargains for their homes.
    It is all in how you define your business.
    Thanks for sharing such good information!
    Have an amazing day!
    Micheal

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