Go Deep or Go Home in the Era of Innovation

We meet companies and non-profits who have been marketing to the same lists for years. Often, these lists and the assumptions about the people on their lists are more than a decade old. These aged lists may have been scrubbed, but that is simply for those who have fallen off the grid, one way or another. This point should be obvious to any reader of this piece: there are major problems with this scenario.

First off, organizations marketing to the same list for years lose the feel of how their buyers make decisions. Their selling instincts dull, and then they tend to think of names on the list as objects rather than subjects with rich, full lives, motivations, and choices. In essence, they lose their hunting impulse, their sense of courtship, and reduce a potentially valuable customer relationship into a vague, impersonal slot machine, settling for a single transaction with low odds.

Second, people are dynamic, not static. If these organizations put their prospects into a rigid category instead of knowing them on a deeper level, they will be marketing to a snapshot that is no longer valid. Think of yourself or your children 10 years ago to demonstrate this point. People are one of the most progressive species on the planet. Fortunes can be made, lost, and regained in a decade—and if your customer information keeps the same basic inputs, you are out of touch with reality.

Third, your weakest competitors are marketing to the exact same list. Incredibly, they are marketing to them with a similar value proposition, brand promise, feature and benefit set, and price range (perhaps with a few incremental differences, but nothing really discernible to them). They, too, are eking out a living on the after-fumes of cobwebbed insights from a decade ago, and cannot think outside of the confines of a strategy set when the world was a different place.

Fourth, the most egregious sin: They don’t have any actionable insights about the market, the people in the market, the trends and forces that shape the market, and they do not renew and transform their innovation and marketing efforts to position as a leader in their category. This is the classic deadly sin of sloth. If it exists in your organization, eradicate it or risk extinction.

Face it: this is the post-industrial world, the economic era of innovation. These innovations are steeped in human-to-human valves—offering products, services, causes, and messages that add value to a person’s life. You have to know a person to go this deep. You must immerse yourself in their world and get out of your conference room to comprehend where and how you can really add value.

Call it a deep dive, a voice of the customer, an ethnography, narrative insight based marketing research, field studies, whatever—just get out of your own head and your rut-like routines and get inside the homes, routines, rituals, and hearts of your people. Honor those that buy from you or give to you, as subjects with dynamic lives.

By investing in them, you create a win-win relationship. You offer something of value to Joe, Betty, John, Veena, and Amir—and they, in return, return to your offering as part of the natural course of their lives. This quid pro quo, these repeat sales, will not happen if you keep playing the old lists game and never spend time with your prospect base. Go deep.

image credit: ArtBrom

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Michael Graber is the cofounder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis.

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