What an amazing couple of days this has been! In case you missed my Tweets (and if you did, please make sure we're connected on Twitter), I've spent the past 2 days at the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit here in Orlando, Florida, where I was invited to participate as a VIP Blogger. This event has been hosted by none other than Guy Kawasaki, the author of Enchantment; The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions.
This has been a fantastic event! I have to say – I knew it would be top notch when I saw the surround screen being used for projecting. Amazing! IBM does it up right for sure! In every way, this event has been over the top INCREDIBLE!
What has been even more impressive, honestly, is the confirmation over and over again, throughout every event, that those presenting here really 'gets it' when it comes to the idea of smarter commerce. And what I mean by that is that every presentation and speaker kept reiterating, each in his or her own way, that the rules of marketing have changed. And these changes really have nothing to do with what you might learn in a marketing class. It's not about fancy techniques, honestly, and while technology can play a huge part in helping a company achieve goals related to Smarter Commerce, technology is a starting point and a tool, not the destination itself.
What Smarter Commerce has everything to do with is connection with your customer.
This is a message that resonates deeply with my own experience in social media, branding, and marketing. The #1 way to market to your customers lies in listening to them, discovering what they want, and providing that value to them. Period.
Mike Rhodin, Senior Vice President of IBM Software Solutions Group stated this clearly when he said, "The clock is ticking. You have a small window of time to structure your business around your customer."
Examples of global corporations who have revolutionized their businesses with this very advice were featured, some of whom used technology solutions found in the IBM SmarterCommerce suite. Stories were told, and in the telling, we experienced a demonstration of the power of stories to enchant your customer, a la Guy Kawasaki. Even the American Marketing Association itself chose to announce their selection of IBM Smarter Commerce during the conference, noting in a press release that "AMA plans to use IBM's Smarter Commerce software to sift through the data deluge and “pinpoint the needs of individual members” to “help deliver marketing resources and information that feels like a welcomed service,” said Yuchun Lee, VP of IBM Enterprise Marketing Management.
Over, and over, and over again, the message came back to the reality that in today's marketing arena, building customer relationships is critical to experiencing success as a brand. Brands that have embraced relationship building authentically, as opposed to paying it lip service, are experiencing success. Organizations that are resisting or engaging in a shallow or less than fully authentic manner find that all the technology and social media tools in the world just can't compensate for good ol' fashioned connection and service to people.
Ever since I started building my own social media and personal branding business, I have been saying this in one way or another, over and over, to anyone who would listen. As I have been tweeting about the event these past few days, it's been refreshing and validating to see major brands and speakers saying what I have known to be true these past several years.
Push marketing is pretty much dead. People don't want to feel sold to. The marketing of today is about planting as many seeds as you can and marketing up, not down.
As IBM has experienced in moving to its Smarter Commerce suite of marketing tools, there is absolutely a role for technology to play in empowering businesses – from large corporations to entrepreneurs building small businesses – to have incredible tools to learn more about their customers and customize solutions to fit the needs they have.
Perhaps Joe Megibow, Vice President of Mobile and E-Commerce Optimization at Expedia said it best in his keynote on Wednesday. "You have to listen to your customers! Listen to them and they will give you gold!"
Building and maintaining authentic connections with customers is the key to growing a business of any size in this era of relationship marketing. Technology provides tools to allow you to connect and listen with precision and strategy. How are you going to step up your efforts to listen and form authentic relationships with your customers? I'd love to hear what steps you're going to take.