A recent post on Defragcon.com’s blog spoke volumes to me about the challenges that too many of us face in the Information Age. Simply put, there’s too much information and not enough ways to effectively handle it. The writer said:
Too much knowledge locked away in the corners of other people’s minds, and not enough tools that help expose it. Too many twisty knots of overloaded information confusion, and not the filters to hand me what I need when I need it. Too many sites, widgets, snippets, tidbits, documents and files, and not nearly enough brain power to do it all by myself…
Not enough options for finding what I need, and too much to find. Not enough guidance on how to actually move efficiently through the gold mines of data, and too many gold mines. Not enough time, and far too many things to accomplish. Not enough in resources – knowledgeable, actionable resources (both external and internal), and too many convoluted “solutions” that don’t solve my problem.
Here’s the bad news: It’s only getting worse. For all the information that we accumulate and store and process, more hits us on a 24/7 basis from a growing range of sources. I’ve heard it said that the real commercial value of Twitter is not as a great place to find out what your followers had for breakfast, but as a real-time search engine for any given topic.
Add what’s being said there moment to moment, and on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn, Xing, and any other social media outlet to the daily reams of information being gathered. And figure a way to analyze it and develop a strategy to react to it, while it’s still top of mind. And all the while, remember that it’s imperative to personalize our communications with customers and prospects, and to keep them permission based. Anything else becomes merely technology-enabled spam. And your customer will treat it, and your relationship, as such. Which is to say, disposable.
Here’s a case in point: recent research from Gartner found online banking customers were prepared to switch to banks that personalized their interaction. They will, for instance, want a landing page tailored to their needs, based on the information they’ve shared with you, but only on an opt-in basis. They certainly will not accept e-mail that doesn’t meet their needs—most 20-somethings won’t want information about checking accounts aimed at AARP members.
And they’ll not be shy about sharing that with thousands upon thousands of others. Imagine a Tweet that goes something like:
Dear [bank]: I’m only 25 years old, and not ready to quit. Why do you spam me with retirement stuff? Time for a new bank. Kthxbye.
It’s more than just theory, of course: what we as marketers do at every phase of our interaction determines how our brands fare. Those of us who can use technology to perform analytics on, narrow in and act on the information we truly need are in position to make the most of it. Those who can’t are doomed to wallow in terabytes of…stuff. Stuff they can’t make heads or tails of; stuff they can’t take advantage of. Moreover, they’re doomed to simply use that stuff in ways that become self-defeating.
So, from a technology perspective, while speed to acquisition and speed to analysis and results of information are more important than ever, and while we have more sources of information than ever before….the blogger’s “gold mines”…we must remember the purpose of all of this. And that’s to engage our customers in an ongoing dialogue, demonstrating that we truly value them as individuals, and aren’t just using all this neat technology to make it merely seem that way.
Because as marketers, none of us can afford the “Kthxbye” message. Which, in the era of Twitter, is only a mouse click away.
John K. Thompson is the CEO of Kognitio’s North American operations.