Dark Ages Marketing

Many companies selling complex products and services do not see a role for online marketing within the overall product marketing plan beyond the presentation of a simple website in the form of an online brochure. Dismissing Al Gore’s “information superhighway” as a useful medium for marketing communications by relegating online marketing communications to “brochureware” is a major and costly oversight. Let’s keep in mind that as of March, 2011, the online web has been around for at least 17 years and is clearly the most used medium of expression in the world. One would think that online marketing would be a “must have” for any business, regardless of type. Why the dark ages for complex products and services?

An answer, in part, can be found in the erroneous notion that promoting online drives the “commoditization” of products. Jeff Thull, in his otherwise insightful book, “Mastering the Complex Sale”, curiously makes this argument and, thereby, reveals a troublesome achilles heel. Of course, many commodities are sold online, much as they are sold in any other type of marketplace. But to argue that “[t]he emergence of new technology is driving commoditization.” (Thull, “Mastering the Complex Sale”, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010 p.13) is to suggest that an entire new medium for marketing communication maybe a path not to travel. I fear that Jeff has not accurately captured the geography of new media. From my perspective, new media present a perfect venue for the type of marketing that complex products and services require.

I am not alone. As far back as the mid ’80s, the ad firm Poppe Tyson popularized the notion of the web as the perfect venue for products and services that require a “considered purchase.” They observed (as did Don Peppers and Martha Rogers who developed the concept of online marketing as “1:1” marketing) that the web is uniquely capable of providing a robust medium for individualized and personalized marketing presentations; in fact, internet technology delivered a whole set of personalization tools which, when used precisely and adeptly can help ensure that customer decisioning about complex products and services leads to a purchase.

The advent of “social” media has only heightened the ability of electronic media to provide a “personal” experience for marketing communications. After all, what could be more personal than Facebook? An adept marketer sees an unprecedented potential for highly segmented prospect/customer presentations in Facebook, Twitter and Blogs and deftly steers clear of commoditizing his or her products and services.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved

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