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Five Principles for Thriving in the Connected Age

I’m speaking today at Merkle’s 5th Annual DbM (database marketing) Executive Summit here in Austin, where marketing leaders from the Fortune 1000 are discussing how to connect with customers in what is arguably the most challenging, but most opportunity-rich era in the history of marketing.

On one hand, people in the U.S., for example, are bombarded by around 3,000 marketing messages every day – how does a company break through the clutter? On the other hand, it’s easier than ever to talk directly to customers. Every day, 175,000 new blogs are created and consumers post and consult millions of product ratings and reviews. Companies that tap into these avenues and connect with customers in a meaningful will earn customers’ trust (and business) in this Connected Age. 

As I see it, the secret to doing this successfully centers on five basic principles, which I’ll detail in my keynote today:

1. Location, location, location! –As in the physical world, customers have to know where to find you. And we’ve learned that they don’t always look where we think they will. We can’t assume they’ll type www.dell.com into their address bar to find Dell. We CAN assume, though, that they’ll type “Dell” into their Google, Microsoft or Yahoo toolbar. Your home page becomes a search result, and your site search better rival or better the experience in public search.

2. Everything online, real-time – Services such as  Jott.com exemplify that in the Connected Age, it’s all about getting what you want or need… NOW. Very soon you’ll be able to point your phone at something – a house, a restaurant, a car, a book, a grocery store item – and your phone’s screen will be populated by relevant information about the item, including perhaps where you can get it cheaper close by. The winners will be companies that can tap into customers’ digital DNA… that figure out how to marry offline customer data (say, in their databases) with this real-time data to reinvent marketing so that it’s more informational, and thus, more relevant to customers.

3. Market to an audience of one – Today’s consumer expects personalization. They watch TV on their schedules. They get their news when, where and how they want it. They choose the color of their notebooks. They also want to personalize how we market to them. Have you seen what we’re doing with Twitter? Customers can have conversations with a number of Dell folks, get some help from Dell, read the latest posts @Direct2Dell or see the current specials @DellOutlet or @DellHomeOffers.

4. Participate –Did you know we now have Dell blogs in five languages?  We get so much insight and goodwill from customers by not transmitting information to them, but by participating in conversations WITH them. That’s why it shocks me that only 11 percent of the Fortune 500 is blogging.

5. Listen – Our customers are our ultimate source of inspiration, and listening to them is at the very core of Dell’s direct model. Through tools like IdeaStorm, they’re telling us exactly what we can do to be the best possible technology partner. Customers have provided us nearly 9,000 ideas that have been voted on more than 600,000 times. It’s like a customer-driven, open-source R&D lab.

Video of my keynote will be posted later today. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check it out.

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