Drop the Control Rock

Another conversation from a marketer who thinks they can control the message. Sigh. I wonder what his company’s customers would say if they heard him saying, “I have more control then my customers do.”

Many marketers and businesses think they have control, and they don’t. It’s a marketer’s classic error to think they have control. I find it funny that this is an illusion that many large companies have and all of the smaller companies follow suit. Small to medium enterprises are the organizations that can least afford this pompous attitude.

Whenever I hear this opinion, I can tell someone hasn’t spent significant time in sales. And that’s a problem because marketing supports sales. It’s also a very good reason why in a downturn, marketing is the first to go. They don’t understand relationships.

Just because your company is talking doesn’t mean anyone is listening. Buyers rarely pay attention or voice anything when things are going right. They only care when their needs aren’t met. Yes, their exceptions to the general rule (Apple and Harley Davidson comes to mind, though my Harley Road king was not a great bike. Yet don’t these companies serve and fulfill needs, not message vacuums?).

We must always remember that buyers have the wallets… Money is the ultimate control. Companies have to serve consumers in order to get them to purchases. In essence, companies are trusted to resolve a need. I’ve sold more than $35 million of marketing services to companies, and I can tell you it wasn’t because of message control. It was because people trusted my companies could do the job. In that sense, I totally agree with Doc Searls: There is no market for messages.

When companies don’t serve customers and start shoving product (and messages) in controlled atmospheres, they ultimately fail. They forget that no company starts or continues without a sale. What was assumed to be control was granted by a buyer in trust. It can be taken away when trust is violated. And customer bases erode.

What social media has done is accelerated the process, but buyers were voting with their feet (and wallets) a long time before blogs started. Think Sears, Detroit auto, IBM consumer products, AT&T phones, on and on.

Interested in more? How about a podcast with Brian Solis and I on message control?