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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.

Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a 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 served 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,, most recently as the Manager of 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 was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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