“Deep Marketing” Engages Customers


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Customer centricity, the voice of the customer and the customer experience are all ideas swirling around CRM today, and they have in common a need to find ways to more actively incorporate the customer into many customer-facing business processes. Social networking—or techniques associated with it, at least—has often been suggested as a means of achieving the goal of greater customer involvement. Several challenges arise whenever this topic comes up, though.

One of the most obvious questions on many lips is why? After all, if you ask 50 people the same question about a company and its products you are likely to get 50 different answers. Then what? Also, social networking, rightly or wrongly, has been tagged as a less than serious technology in some circles because its uses span everything from dating clubs to simple networks of business contacts. In other words, social networking is largely used to contact almost total strangers by people who want something.

Nevertheless, our research shows that a variant of social networking can be used effectively in business to help drive innovation, and we have suggested that, if used properly, it can represent an additional business process to add to the marketing arsenal. The social networking technique I refer to is simply called a “community” or a “community of interest,” and I have called the business process “Deep Marketing” to distinguish it from the everyday “Short Marketing” cycle that we have grown accustomed to for lead generation and sales.

I have seen an active community of men, 18 to 24 years old (a hard demographic to capture), who volunteer a great deal of information to the consumer products company, Unilever.

Deep marketing has its intellectual roots in the books of several business gurus such as Glen Urban, author of Don’t Just Relate—Advocate (Wharton School Publishing May 2005); Eric von Hippel, in Democratizing Information (The MIT Press, April 2005); and Fred Reichheld, in The Ultimate Question (Harvard Business School Press, March 2006). These and other authors have, in one way or another, shown that customers want to volunteer ideas to their vendors to help drive better products and services: what some have called cocreation of value.

Simply put, Deep Marketing engages with customers to gather their insights and opinions, which, in turn, drive actionable knowledge. Because it operates online, Deep Marketing can be pursued much more rapidly and at significantly lower costs than traditional surveys and focus groups.

Figure 1 outlines the basic Deep Marketing process and shows its relation to traditional sales and marketing. Note how the information output of Deep Marketing influences both product development and marketing with the data that customers freely divulge.

If you think about it, customers have a vested interest in seeing their vendors succeed, and smart vendors are beginning to leverage this reality to guide innovation not only for products and services but also for marketing messages.

The best example I have seen of how Deep Marketing works is in the customer community of interest. Companies hand-select the community members from invited individuals who represent desirable demographics that companies want to target. Members agree to visit a web site for a specified amount of time each week to interact with other members and to answer questionnaires or render opinions about relevant topics.

For example, consumer products companies might ask life-style questions along with questions about products. The same might be true of a financial services company; though, as you might expect, the questions would be tailored to the circumstances.

Figure 1. The Deep Marketing Cycle in context (Source: Beagle Research Group, LLC)

I have seen an active community of men, 18 to 24 years old (a hard demographic to capture), who volunteer a great deal of information to the consumer products company, Unilever. This community provided insights into what the well-groomed young man thinks and does in his social life, insights that Unilever used to fine-tune its product—Axe Body Spray—and its marketing messages. Unilever credits its community’s input for helping to propel Axe to leadership status in its market, and the company won a 2005 Explor award from the American Marketing Association for its innovative use of technology.

Other industries

Communities, and Deep Marketing, are not simply for CPG companies, either. Charles Schwab, the financial services colossus based in San Francisco, also relies on customer communities and deep marketing to capture customer insights. Recent Schwab communities have included a group of customers who are active stock traders with a minimum amount of cash invested and another group composed of high-net-worth individuals with a threshold amount invested with Schwab.

Schwab customer community participation is quite good—a finding that might surprise conventional marketers, given the relative inaccessibility of these groups to traditional marketing approaches. But because Schwab appears to these customers to be actively listening to their input, and then tangibly making use of it, these people make the effort to contribute.

Not long ago, Charles Schwab, himself, wanted up-to-date information about his clients’ investing strategies and views of the market in preparation for a press tour. Schwab worked with the community administrators to craft a questionnaire, and, according to Schwab Vice President Jonathan Craig, “clients were literally writing essays to him about what they liked and what needed improvement.”

You might expect that kind of response for the boss, but it demonstrates the power of the community and the kind of response community hosts have come to expect when dealing in this realm.

Other companies as diverse as General Motors and Nabisco have used customer communities with similar results. These companies have demonstrated that deep marketing can generate high and enthusiastic customer participation and a wealth of information that drives product and service innovation as well as helping to fine-tune marketing messages. Deep Marketing is not a panacea, and it will not cure all marketing ills, but it is an important addition to the marketing quiver at a time when many of marketing’s arrows have gone dull.

Denis Pombriant
Beagle Research Group, LLC
Denis Pombriant is a well-known thought leader in CRM and the founder and managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, LLC, a CRM market research firm and consultancy.


  1. What is Deep Marketing?
    I have been in the marketing field for more than 10 years now.

    The marketing landscape has changed from traditional marketing to digital marketing.

    People think that there are two types of marketing – the old traditional way of marketing (TV, Radio, Newspaper, and Magazines)

    …and then there is the new way of digital marketing (Display Ads, Search Ads, Social Media, YouTube, and so on).

    Since consumers have started using personal digital devices like laptops, mobiles, and tablets, brands are forced to adapt their marketing activities to digital marketing.

    But, are these the only two types of marketing?

    Kind of yes… if you take into consideration the medium on which it is served.

    But as a marketer, you should not be concerned about the medium.

    See, the medium can be anything.

    First, it was print.
    Then it was radio.
    Then it was TV.
    Then it was the internet.
    Then it was the apps.
    Tomorrow something else might be the medium.

    So I believe that as marketers, we should not be concerned about the medium in which the message is served.

    We should be concerned about what is served, to whom it is served…

    Not where it is served.

    When people differentiate marketing only by “Where” and “How” it is served, I believe we are limiting ourselves.

    The medium doesn’t matter at all.

    What matters is:

    Who am I communicating with? (The target audience)
    What I am communicating? (The message)
    Why am I communicating? (The purpose)
    Not where (medium) or how (the type of media) I am communicating.

    So now based on these new questions, what do I think are the two ways to do marketing?

    Type 1: Surface Marketing

    The other one (more powerful one) is… Deep Marketing

    Surface marketing is what you see everywhere around you.

    Surface marketing tries to get your attention through interruption.

    When you are watching an IPL match on TV, you are being interrupted with an ad.
    When you are watching YouTube, you are interrupted by an ad.
    When you are reading a newspaper or magazine, you are interrupted by an ad.
    When you are listening to the radio, you are interrupted by an ad.
    When you are browsing websites online, you are interrupted by an ad.
    When you are driving on the road, you are interrupted by a hoarding.
    This is an interruption.

    Forced attention.

    You don’t pay attention because you want to. You pay attention because it is difficult to ignore it.

    It’s like one old school friend, that you do not really like who comes and talks to you at a party and you cannot ignore him.

    You tolerate it for a while. Low-quality attention.

    Such is the low-quality attention that surface marketing achieves.

    No one wants to give forced attention. And no one should want such type of attention on themselves.

    All the interruptions that you see above, are surface-level marketing.

    The medium doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it is a digital medium or a traditional medium.

    Surface level marketing has a lot of problems.

    With surface marketing…

    Trust is not built using ads.
    People cannot recall a brand through ads because now there are too many brands trying to get people to recall.
    If 100s of brands keep running ads right in front of your face, you will ignore all of them. Won’t remember any of them. Everyone is screaming for attention.
    Surface level marketing communicates “What” is the product. It doesn’t communicate “Why” the customer needs the product. Why you made the product in the first place. You cannot educate a customer using interruption ads.
    The attention that surface marketing gets from people is of poor quality. People are not really looking forward to paying quality attention to these ads.
    So if surface marketing has so many problems, what is the other method? The better method?

    The other type of marketing is “Deep Marketing”.

    Type 2: Deep Marketing

    What I am doing right now, is Deep Marketing.

    If you have read this article until this point, then I am going to pat myself on the back because I got your undivided high-quality attention for almost 5-10 minutes so far, and you are not complaining.

    You are paying attention because you want to.

    And I believe you will probably give me your attention for another 10 minutes so that I can tell you about Deep Marketing – the better way to do marketing in today’s age.

    Deep marketing is different from surface marketing in many ways.

    With Deep Marketing you can…

    Connect with your customers on a deeper level
    Get high-quality attention using high-quality content (like I am doing right now)
    Trust is built from the attention. Because this attention is with consent.
    The trust can be leveraged into convincing customers to do a transaction.
    So where we do marketing has changed from traditional medium to digital medium. But that’s not as important as people think.

    What’s important is – whether we are able to move to Deep marketing, from surface marketing. Because in this day and age, it is impossible to build a brand with surface marketing.

    No matter how much ad budget you have, you cannot build a brand but throwing your brand name, logo, and slogan in every surface medium possible. People are just going to ignore you.

    The only way to build trust and generate revenue through transactions is to do deep marketing.

    How can you do Deep Marketing?

    Step 1: You are going to get people’s attention using high-quality content. Content marketing is the key here. Without good quality content, people are not going to pay attention to you. And the content has to be created by a human, personal brand. Not from a logo.

    Step 2: You understand the requirements of your audience and create content – to help them, without expecting anything in return. With a genuine interest in helping people, not expecting a transaction in return.

    Step 3: You are going to leverage this high-quality attention, to build trust. (You have spent more than 15 minutes paying attention to me now, doesn’t that make you trust me more?)

    Step 4: You can leverage the built trust to request your customers to do a transaction with you. And you are going to explain how your product/service is going to help your customer.

    C.A.T.T. – Content, Attention, Trust, Transaction

    Big brands spend so much money on surface ads to get your attention.

    But have you ever paid more than 2 seconds of attention to any of these ads? Do you even want to pay attention to them?

    I have got your attention for almost 20 minutes now, and I did not spend anything as a big brand would.

    Haven’t I already proved that Deep Marketing is better than surface marketing?

    You are paying attention to me because I care. I care to share an idea about how marketing has changed, not in medium, but in the way we communicate.

    I want to genuinely help change the world from boring surface level ineffective marketing to meaningful deep marketing.

    You are paying attention to me because I am a personal brand.

    A human.

    A person sitting behind this side of the screen.

    Typing it out, while I am a bit hungry and thirsty.

    And I am not interrupting the flow of this article. And I want to finish saying what I started to say.

    It’s personal.

    It’s deep.

    We get to know each other better.

    And that’s Deep Marketing.

    Deep marketing is not just for people who want to be bloggers.

    Even bigger brands can start doing deep marketing.

    Any product or service can be sold using deep marketing.

    At PixelTrack, our digital marketing agency, we help our clients do deep marketing through the digital medium.

    Deep marketing works for e-commerce, real estate, salons, education companies, and pretty much any business.

    For one of our e-commerce clients – we are helping them communicate the story behind the store. It connects with customers.

    Our client is having an e-commerce site for pickles. It has been their family business and her whole family works at the factory.

    All the pickles are age-old recipes passed down through generations and they make it with high-quality ingredients. This is a story that needs to be sold, but the CEO of this company. People pay high-quality attention to it because it’s inspiring.

    For our real estate client, we communicate the brand values of the company – written by the founder of the company, directly to end customers.

    The communication talks about the history, satisfied customers, the quality of the products, the features and benefits – and how it is going to help the end customer.

    Deep marketing involves understanding your end customers so well, that you know them like a friend, their needs, desires, fears, and aspirations. That’s when the communication is effective.

    Think about what you can achieve, by connecting deeply with your customers, through honest stories, and getting their trust and attention.

    These are the people who would talk about your brand and spread your brand. And the branding from word-of-mouth will be 1000 times more effective than surface marketing.

    So will you change how you do marketing?

    Will you do deep marketing?

    Reply and let me know because I want to read your opinion on this.


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