Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

Marketing to Strangers vs. Marketing to Friends

I've been meaning to weigh in on the discussions taking place over on the Lotus blogosphere (e.g.. here, here, here) around IBM advertising and marketing, but haven't had the time to really put my thoughts down in detail.  

And I still don't, but I thought this post by Seth Godin on marketing to friends vs. strangers was too relevant not to pass along today.

I was talking to an author about his next project. The question I asked him was, "are you writing this for strangers or friends?" The implications are huge. It impacts how you design the cover, how you price it, what it's about, where you sell it, when you publish it, how much you pay for store displays, etc...

You need to treat friends differently at every step along the way. First, don't confuse the moments you're supporting them or connecting with them with the moments when you are doing business. Second, understand that the most powerful win is when your friends tell their friends about you. This is worth 1000 times more than you talking about yourself.
Guaranteed: if you sell a friend the way you sell a stranger, you've made neither a sale or a friend.

Outside of our advertising (well, possibly including some advertising), I think a lot of the marketing IBM does falls into the "marketing to friends" category.  And the feedback I hear from a lot of the folks in the Lotus community is that you'd like to see us doing a better job of marketing to strangers.  The two questions that come to mind are:  

1.  Can we (IBM and our Business Partners) grow our businesses the way we want to by only marketing to friends?  Do we have the appropriate focus, resources, attention, revenue allocation split appropriately between marketing to friends vs. strangers?
2.  Have we made a conscious effort to only market to friends, or is it happening by default (because our marketing hasn't been designed to effectively target strangers)?

My concern is that in not making this choice explicitly, as Seth Godin points out, we're failing both parties (and ourselves).


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