Put a Ring on It: Why (Good) Marketing Looks More Like Marriage Than Hooking Up

by Frank on February 10, 2010

Being the big nerd that I am, one of my most-watched DVD sets is the “Planet Earth” series (and – just to confirm my nerd cred – it’s the BBC version, which is far superior to the Discovery Channel version).  One of my favorite spots in it is the depiction of the elaborate mating rituals of the Bird of Paradise, which has obvious parallels for marketers and with Valentine’s Day coming up (consider that your reminder), an evaluation of his methods may provide some valuable life lessons, too.

Here’s the deal: this bird is putting an enormous amount of effort into impressing the female bird. He’s developed bright colors and does a highly ritualized dance to convince her he’s all that. But even if he succeeds, the best all that effort and evolution can bring him is a hookup. He’s going to have to do the same song-and-dance every season, and – depending on his conversion rate – probably at least several times each season. While this may be good from an evolutionary standpoint, it’s enormously expensive if your marketing takes the same approach.

Effective Marketing Puts the S in AIDAS

Marketing is typically described using the traditional acronym “AIDA”: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. And this marketing process works out for the Bird of Paradise, and for many businesses. But ultimately, this is short-sighted. The acronym in its traditional form falls short in that it’s transactional: success is defined in terms of a single transaction. On the other hand, good marketing – especially in the internet age, where competition is global – is relational. Good marketing adds an all-important “S” – Satisfaction – to the end: AIDAS. Good marketing looks more like a courtship than a hookup. Good marketing’s goal is to connect with the customer, to understand their needs and honestly try to meet them. The desired action is not a one-time purchase at the highest margin possible – it’s brand loyalty, even if it means giving up a little short-term margin. It’s turning a customer into an evangelist, who brags about you to their friends, because they know that you value them more than simply a one-time transaction.

Remember: the lifetime value of that customer is far bigger than any single transaction. The goal, after all, is not to have as many customers as possible, but to sell as much of your product or service as possible. And the most expensive customer you can have is the first-time customer. Unfortunately, this is the only kind of customer many businesses have.

Which brings up a follow-up question: do your customer support staff understand the integral role they play in maximizing the lifetime value of your customers? Food for thought.

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