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How marketing moves people to buy a product

December 12, 2009

This post is about why people buy a product or service. It ssumes that the product or service is worth buying. Yes, there is another blog post on how social media illuminates bad products and services.

Draw a straight line on a piece of paper. On the left side of the line, put the letter A. On the right side of the line, put the letter B. Then put an asterisk on the line.

This is what the line looks like:

A__________________________________*__________________B

The people who are A are potential buyers, but they have no awareness of the product. As they move from left to right (thanks to advertising, search, etc) they become more aware of the product. Somewhere around the *, they buy it.

After buying it a few more times, they move to the far right hand side where they tell all their friends how great the product is and how they too should but the product. We call those people Evangelists. If you’ve ever met a mac owner, then you’ve met one of these people.

This line can work for any product or service. The longer the line, the more consideration involved in the product. A pack of gum will have a really short line, whereas a new car will have a much longer line.

For years, Marketers only focused on the people on the left of that line. That was because on the left, one could buy a 30-second ad on Must-See TV and get the message to millions of people.

Other tools like websites, coupons, and even promotions were used to move them closer to the asterisk.

For the smart marketers, it didn’t end there. Even before the internet made the people on B important, airline’s and hotels used loyalty programs for frequent travelers.

Frequent flier miles come after the purchase, but are designed to encourage more purchases. On lower levels, think about the coffee cards, whereby the customer buys nine cups of coffee and gets one free. Those are marketing devices designed to create a loyal behavior.

These programs weren’t designed to attract influencers, just frequent travelers. Anyway, water cooler conversations were too micro to care about.

No though, thanks to the web 2.0 revolution, we care about the people on B. Some of these people have networks in the tens of thousands. Just think about the size of Ashton Kucher’s network. Everyone with a blog, a Twitter feed or a Facebook page is building a network that could scale to huge numbers. The old, she’ll tell two friends, and she’ll tell two friends and so on is social media.

That’s the shift. So marketers need to look at the tactics available, from awareness ads, to Twitter feeds, and place them on the line. Then write a plan to see how they will all work together.

The goal is still the same. Move people from the left to the asterisk. Then move them to talking about their experience with the product.

So social media won’t replace traditional media. With a few exceptions, social media isn’t good for creating awareness. But then a print ad should never be targeted to the people on the B side.

Use all the tools on the line.

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