From the November 2006 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Catty Customers

It's common knowledge that the traditional marketing model is outdated and irrelevant. Although television, radio and newspaper advertising is far from being totally inconsequential, we increasingly see that the Internet is "the glue that binds customers' experiences in our emerging experience economy." Forrester Research has found that people spend 34 percent of their media-consumption time on the Internet, more than the time they spend watching TV. With more and more people logging on, the opportunities for businesses to communicate with consumers have risen and evolved. If you don't have an Internet presence, then it's time to consider it. And here's a book to help you chart a successful path.

The title, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?, is really a witty moniker for the authors to ask, "Are you waiting for your customers to respond the way they used to?" They note that, "Cats don't bark -- and consumers today don't 'salivate on command' like they seemed to a couple of decades ago. Consumers today behave more like cats than Pavlov's pooch. Times have changed and so have we." Traditional forms of marketing just don't work, and can make potential clients act defensively, like a cat backed into a corner.

The authors, brothers and founders of a New York consulting firm, focus on customer-centric marketing strategies. This includes branding, word of mouth, consumer-generated media, marketing and sales, metrics and what they call "persuasion architecture." Regarding prospects, the Eisenbergs write, "...you must provide a level of transparency that inspires a customer's confidence." They note that every individual actively makes a choice to come to you. If the customer refuses to take the next click on your website, walks out the door, or forwards past your advertisement, your dialogue is over. When it comes to the Internet, the customer is in control.

The authors write that "when someone acknowledges us as individuals and personalizes our experience based on our unique characteristics, we feel understood and valued. Our feelings of good will increase...Personalization casts a powerful spell. Marketers know this." They note that customization takes place when the customer takes control of his experience with your services. Personalization, on the other hand, happens when the brand takes the lead in shaping a presentation or product on behalf of the client. The goal here is to accelerate customer intimacy.

The Eisenbergs go on to describe the four types of customers. They are:

o Accidentals: People who find you accidentally and are not truly in the market for your goods or services, certainly not now and maybe not ever.

o Knows exactly: These people know exactly what they want, down to the model number (or its equivalent).

o Knows Approximately. These people are in the market to buy, but they have not made their final decision.

o Just Browsing: They're window shoppers who aren't necessarily planning to take any specific action.

Yet, the authors point out that none of these people are any more likely to take action than another. "The person who knows exactly what he wants can be easily distracted by other offers, whereas the person who is simply browsing can become an immediate buyer," they write.

Marketers can help their site visitors with what the Eisenbergs call "persuasion architecture," a concept they developed. This means asking three questions:

1. Who is it you want to persuade?

2. What action do you want them to take?

3. What information is needed to motivate them to take that action?

The authors devote the latter part of the book to the planning, design, development and optimization of persuasion entities. It is clear that they consider marketing and the Web one and the same. If you consider the Web important to your prospecting success, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark will be of interest.

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Reach columnist Mary Scott at maryscott303@comcast.net or see www.companieswithaconscience.com.

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