Web 1.0 was about learning. Web 2.0 is about thinking.
It’s no longer enough to build a website where prospects can learn about your products. The thinking strategist now provides resources that help prospects think about their needs in a context that nourishes their appreciation of the company’s unique value proposition.
It’s no longer enoughto find a website that teaches you about the latest advances in your field. The thinking imperative is to find people who are talking about what those advances mean and enter the conversation.
Two ways businesses can use a thinking perspective are for web marketing and strategic conversation management.
- Web marketing is concerned with bringing visitors from outside the company to your website and
- Strategic conversation management is concerned with sending people from your company to external websites.
Thinking is the New Sales Process
The key driver of modern marketing strategy is customer centricity. But this no longer means seeing the world through your customers’ eyes. It means thinking about the world through your customers needs.
Therefore, successful web marketing depends on understanding the thinking process that your prospects go through as they learn about your capabilities, evaluate them against their goals and decide whether to continue in the sales funnel. Your job is to fill the sales funnel (your website) with opportunities for them to think in ways that help them appreciate the match between your unique value proposition and their needs.
A vibrant web marketing strategy consists of
- An ongoing and deepening alignment between your unique value proposition and your customers’ needs, and
- An evolving web site that’s dedicated to allowing your prospects to think about their needs in a way that will help them learn about that alignment, appreciate its value and decide to expand their relationship with you.
Your unique value proposition should be built from your competitive strengths. Do you offer the lowest price? The best service? A distinct product? It should complete the sentence “I am the best choice for someone looking for ….” and not contain any wishful thinking.
Describe both your face to face and online customer segments in great detail (The number of segments you use will depend on your time and other resources.)
If you have face to face customers, how and why do they differ from your online customers?
For each customer segment, ask yourself:
- What is the relative importance of each of my competitive strengths?
- What do they want to know before they purchase or contact me? How do they learn it?
- Where do they come from? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, search engines, advertisements, word of mouth?
- What will they do on my web site and in what order?
- What kind of post purchase support will they appreciate?
Is your web site designed with your customers’ thinking processes in mind?
- Is it easy for them to think in the order and detail they want about everything that’s important to them?
- Does it present information in a context which shapes their thinking in ways that help them appreciate the relevance of your competitive strengths and distinctive value proposition?
Does your web site reinforce the wisdom of their decision to be your customer so they’ll recommend you and purchase again? Does it help them learn new ways to get more value from your product?
Once you think your web site is aligned with your customer’s thinking processes, you need to test your assumptions and make evidence based adjustments.
You can use analytics, cookies and calls to action to get a better understanding of who your visitors are (existing customers, first time prospects, returning prospects,) where they come from and what they do on your web site.
- What are the different paths they take through your site? Which lead to purchases, contact information or departure with neither?
- What are the most popular pages and what do people do there?
- Which of your webinars have been the most popular? What’s happening in your support forum, LinkedIn Group or Facebook Fan Page?
If you can’t answer some of those questions, change your web site to give you better information. For example, you can get a more granular view of why people are visiting pages by replacing them with multiple pages with tighter foci, providing downloadable web assets that appeal to specific interests and adding calls to action.
If certain pages seem to be dead ends, think about what people might have been looking for.
Once you’re satisfied with your understanding of what’s occurring on your web site, compare it to how you think your customers will behave and adjust your web site and deepen your understanding of your customer until they’re in a new alignment.
Customer-centric web marketing is a constant process of thinking about what you know, adjusting both your customer solutions and web site, and testing your assumptions.
Strategic Conversation Management
Every time we use a search engine like Google, we’re reminded that the web is our knowledge economy’s most powerful and rich resource.
However, it’s vastly underutilized by most businesses because their employees use it mainly as a reaction to random needs for individual bits or small chunks of ad hoc knowledge.
Strategic conversation management is a proactive, systematic and cohesive system of utilizing the web’s resources to make your company more competitive by deepening and developing your core competencies.
It’s an ongoing process that consists of:
- Choosing your strategic conversations,
- Creating and training your social media team,
- Committing resources,
- Establish milestones, and
- Reflecting and modifying.
There are three threads from which you’ll weave your strategic conversations:
- What the organization’s various job functions need to know to do their job better,
- Places where these conversations are occurring or could occur, and
- Who in your organization has the time, interest and abilities to participate in these conversations.
You’ll need a social media facilitator to act as project manager and
- Create and manage the infrastructure. This includes developing guidelines, helping to articulate and imbue the company’s social media ethos and setting up and managing a wiki, LinkedIn group or similar place where the social media team and others in the organization can talk about the project, and
- Support the social media team by solving problems, scheduling and facilitating meetings, making sure training occurs and encouraging and supporting individual and collective reflection.
You’ll need to train your social media team in the
- Operation of the selected social media platforms,
- Company guidelines,
- Culture of Social Media and what it means to think socially,
- Art of conversation and developing thinking relationships, and
- Process of reflection.
Decide how much time each person will spend
- Participating in conversations,
- Reflecting asynchronously with the rest of the social media team,
- Updating their non social media peers on what they’re learning, and
- Meeting face to face with the rest of the social media team.
Establish milestones for
- Setting up profiles,
- Participating in ongoing discussions,
- Starting new discussions,
- Making connections and friends, and
- Connecting via phone calls.
Your social media team should interact regularly using both asynchronous tools and face to face meetings to think about:
What they’re learning about both social media and their field,
- What works and what doesn’t,
- How well they’re working as a team,
- Changes they’re thinking about, and
- New conversational directions.
The individual members should also be interacting with their functional groups to get ideas and keep them up to date.
You’ll regularly need to evaluate what succeeded and what didn’t so you can decide how to allocate resources for the future. Some of the things you should consider are:
- The things people learned,
- Specific questions people were able to get answered,
- The robustness of the network they formed including its variety, depth and scope, and
- The new questions they’re asking of your organization.
As the knowledge economy continues its transformation into an imagination economy, it’s essential to move from a learning to a thinking organization.
Thinking is a creative process so managing the thinking organization is essentially managing innovation. However, even though you’ll be navigating open-ended ambiguity instead of accumulating explicit knowledge, your goal is the same and the vast majority of what you know about business will continue to be relevant.
Whether you’re engaging customers or optimizing your business operations, you need to think through what’s important, decide where and how the important things get done, set up a process for doing them and then evaluate and modify.