From the beginning of humanity, business has always been about relationships. Someone has a need, and someone else can for-fill that need. A relationship if formed an business is done. Think of the very first small town general stores where everyone knew everyone personally and the store owner worked to for-fill the needs of his/her clients. A general store simply stocked the things people needed the most and had intimate relationships with people that drove business and warded off competition (…until people started to demand more…).
But lets take a closer look into the meaning of a relationship. What is a relationship and and more importantly for the purpose of this article, what does it produce? For one thing, a relationship between 2 people produces love and/or hate. Love is the by-product of a relationship. But so is hate. And like anything in life there are always 2 sides to the equation as nature always has opposing forces and seeks balance between these to extremes. Love Can’t exist without hate, light without darkness, good without evil and so forth. Life is in a constant state of homeostasis or commonly known as balance. Relationships work better when love is more abundant than hate and it’s a constant state and effort of nurturing (maintaining a healthy loving relationship is hard work!).
When we translate this to the digital world we live in, a relationship is a connection facilitated through technology, and the by-product is “data”. In the data, we can understand the love/hate in the digital relationship.
The Internet is a connection machine. It connects things. Devices to devices that contain information and software. People to devices. Devices to people. And of-course people to people behind devices. Devices are connected via the Internet with people behind them. Think of a skype call, messenger chat, social media app. Two or more people interacting with each other through technology (a device/hardware with software and a connection) constantly generating and exchanging data. This data is a proxy into human behavior. It allows us to understand the relationship and more importantly to understand the nature of the relationship and whether there is love/hate within it.
Sex between two living organisms, if you take out all the social elements we as humans feel and look at more simple none social organisms, is simply an exchange of genetic information. Information! When two devices or machines connect to each other and exchange information in the form of data, they are having sex just as organisms do in nature. The Internet is the largest man made orgy 🙂
Digital-first businesses or what we commonly refer to as the innovative disruptors like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Tesla etc …. are harnessing the power of data to understand digital relationships and extract meaning to drive happier customers and better business. They are constantly analyzing the data and human behavior and giving people what they want. Give people what they want, and they will keep coming back for more.
The examples are all around us. Google uploaded a search bar and put the world behind it. They let you ask them what you want. The holy grail of marketing. And they simply give it to you by understanding who you are, your intent and what you want. They continuously analysis the data within the technology connections they facilitate and optimize the relationship so that you very quickly get what you want. This way they hold your attention (you keep coming back) and they serve advertising that is also behaviorally adjusted to nurture the relationship and give you what you want. It costs google about 2 cents to serve up your answer, and through advertising they make 27 cents. That’s a profit of 25 cents for every search you perform!
Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, Facebook do the same, they build personalized platforms, provide unique experiences, drive great value, empower you to live your lives and ultimately need to make you happy to become sustainable within the digital ecosystem.
How are these companies disrupting traditional offline businesses? If the consumer is consuming through digital channels, these disruptors are generating better relationships through technology at scale. They hijack the traditional relationship you use to have, let’s say with a book store, and give you a sweeter deal. They personalize, generate experiences, drive more value, empower and make you happier. If they fail on this last point of making people happier, they will ultimately perish and be disrupted by the next guy who does it better.
So how to survive in this newly emerging digital(first) world where consumers, especially the new generations, are consuming via digital channels – content, products, services, relationships…you name it…its happening.
Its quite simple really. You need to own or at least participate in the digital relationship with your customer. Use technology to build relationships through digital channels. This is exactly what is happening with websites, with apps – they are forming a relationship with your customer through technology. And these digital relationships produce data. In the data you will find all your answers on how to make your customer happy. Personalize, make it an experience, drive greater value, empower (save your customers time!) and make them so happy that they start valuing the digital relationship so much, that they become your move loving customer, advocate for you, become your evangelist, stand up for you and what you have created: A loving relationship where you give them what they want and put them first. Can you see how this is no different then the relationships we know so well…with our partners, our family, our friends, our trusted offline brands?
The relationships we know and understand are not just with people. They are also with brands. Build your brand through technology and create enhanced relationships at scale with you customers. Drive your decisions on data which is a conduit into the relationship that allows you to understand the love/hate in every relationship with everyone of your customers. Google does it, Amazon does it, Uber does it, Airbnb does it….and I don’t need to tell you how successful they became. But if they screw up the relationship, they will perish in time to give way for a new player that can create a better relationship.
The model I am working on called Meaningful Connections is a compass. It’s a digital compass that allows us to understand what is going on. The internet is a connection machine. It connects things. What is actually produces are copies: its the world largest copy machine (but that for another article :)).
Meaningful connection means that in order to generate meaning in a connection (a digital relationship), there is a give and take relationship. Just as you need to generate trust, openness, caring and 2-way flow in a person to person relationship, this also applies to relationships with brands (offline and online) and relationships through technology. In other words, people need to share and make available some of their personal data (their behavior) to the internet and everything connected to it, in order to get something meaningful back from it. This is meaningful connections.
As digital marketers we try to drive meaningful connections between the companies and the brands they value with the people they are servicing. The more meaning in the connection, the better the relationship will be. This especially applies to the way we deliver advertising.
On the left side of meaningful connections we have the building on the world wide web – the Internet. It is disappearing. It is becoming ubiquitous. In time, it will become like electricity. We will be in a constant state of contentedness. Always on. Unless we chose to disconnect (a huge story I can talk about another day).
The WWW basically LINKS many DEVICES and generates DATA (the left side). There are so many devices we gave it a name: IoT, which is becoming IoE as digital becomes ubiquitous (everywhere). The Internet of Everything is a state where every person and “thing” we use to live our lives will be connected to the Internet if there is a purpose for it to be connected.
The data these connected devices is producing is so much that we also gave it a name too: BIG DATA. What big data really means is our ability to combine and analyze it, which gives us insights, knowledge and wisdom to understand human behavior to such an extent that we can generate foresight into what may happen (predictive analytics). This is very powerful as we can start to server people in ways we are used to doing offline like thinking ahead, using common sense and caring. Giving people what they need and want without them even asking for it.
How do you generate happiness? Under-promise and over deliver (read delivering happiness – the Zappos story by Tony Hsieh). With predictive analytics we can anticipate people’s needs and deliver them more than they expected. Make them happy. The hole re-targeting of ads fiasco we just went through the past few years went terribly wrong as we dived into a technology without understand the repercussions of not having enough data to really understand the person we are trying to re-target. The symptoms of this push by marketers was unhappy people and a rapid growth in ad blockers….a long story…for another day 🙂
… to be continued. With love.