Wednesday, March 05, 2008

If Interactions Were Free...

If interactions with, and between customers were free (and frictionless) what effect would this have on the value of brands? Looks like we may find out soon. Umair (now over on the HBS blog), is taking the fact that brands are "heuristics", i.e. short cuts, to evaluation. Brands, and prices, indicate value, belonging and a range of other elements. People can very quickly see, and share, if brands (information) lives up to its promise. This happily coincides with Conversations over on VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) with Doc Searls around the role of pricing in communicating within markets. In commercial B2B markets, price is also an "indicator of value". But is it a good one? Customers that buy your product promise, will test it, video it, and publish it to their friends. If your not thinking about how you can build "conversations, and experiences" into your "product or service", you have little chance of giving a customer a brand experience. A price is just a message around the value encapsulated. Not understanding how the customer got here, by what route, and with what context, is a sure way to lose them on price. By understanding what the customer truly values you have to understand the process by which they come to make a decision, and thus what they are seeking to value. You may actually end up being able to charge more for your service. Final Point: an old McKinsey paper said that if your marketing guy calls your product a commodity, fire them. No product is a commodity to ALL its customers. Even for rolled steel, some customers will value consistency in product or delivery, others in pricing, others in speed of cycle time. The challenge is to capture more and more data so you can generate the opportunity for insights around what customers actually value in their interaction with your company. So, if Interaction was free, what would people actually value, what is actually scarce? ah-hum. Yes. Attention.

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