Are you Marketing Consumption or Participation?


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Take away all the fluff in sales and marketing today and I believe the single most important aspect that will determine your long term success and sustainability in the marketplace is your role in participating in your customer’s playground.

When I say this, most people think of experimentation, prototyping or even call it a specific playground term like sandboxing. These are necessary functions and on the road to customer development but are they on the road to vendor development? Are we really viewing things from the customer’s viewpoint? How a customer views a vendor?

I believe a few of the components that makes Lean Sales and Marketing so special are:

  1. A training system on how to define knowledge gaps and close them.
  2. Different perspective on knowledge transfer. It is not the perspective of educating the customer; it is from the perspective of learning from the customer, understanding how your customer uses and benefits from your product or service.
  3. Leave your customer be the professor, the Sensei, who will take you through a certain number of exercises (their decision making steps), the customer leads.

Dan Jones, chairman of the Lean Enterprise Academy in the UK pointed out in a Business901 podcast that:

Sales and marketing traditionally was there to get rid of stuff that was already made a long time ago in a forecast?driven, long lead time supply chain. So it was about getting rid of stuff.

We are in an era in which customers are part of the supply chain and we can really have a dialogue with customers not just about what they think they’d like, but what they actually would put their money in.

In many ways we are getting real use data back from customer as well as preference data. And the next step is of course to get plan ahead data with customers. Because customers can and do have some knowledge of what they want in the future. But they have no incentive to share it with us in this adversarial consumption mode.

I think there is a great deal happening at that interface and the web is going to change every customer interface in a very positive way, one that empowers customers rather than empowers the providers.

Later in the podcast he mentioned a presentation at the Lean Summit Alan Mitchell, co founder of Mydex and Crtl-Shift that I highlighted in the blog post, Has Lean Thinking fallen short on the Demand Side?. In this presentation Alan discusses the empowerment of the customer and how they will be taking greater control of their personal data. A new book on this subject, The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge. author Doc Searls describes how customers will be enabled (from the book jacket):

  • Control the flow and use of personal data
  • Build their own Loyalty Programs
  • Dictate their own terms of service
  • Tell whole markets what they want, how they want it, where and when they should be able to get it and how much should it cost.

Sounds like reverse thinking to Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together. This book was written several years ago expanding the principles of Lean to consumption. The authors, Womack and Jones detailed a Lean roadmap and ask companies to start providing the goods and services consumers actually want, when and where they wanted them and without burden to the consumer.

The role of a vendor/supplier relationship is changing. It is not about consumption, it is about participation and value co-creation, a basic principle of SD-Logic (The Service-Dominant Logic of Marketing by Stephen Vargo and Robert Lusch). My blog posts, The End of Best in Market and Path to Participation discuss this view in more detail.

In the Ted Video, Tim Brown says the design profession is preoccupied with creating nifty, fashionable objects — even as pressing questions like clean water access show it has a bigger role to play. He calls for a shift to local, collaborative, participatory “design thinking.” There are many lessons that can be learned from this video as we move from consumption to participation. See how IDEO does it.

Related Information:
Thinking Back from the Customer –Lean Summit 2011
Does Lean create Innovative Companies?
Does Lean Marketing deliver what the customer wants?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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