Sense And Respond Marketing

Gary Hamel was the first management thinker to write about the concept of core competencies. It’s too bad this concept has fallen out of favor.

For all the talk about new marketing approaches like search engine optimization, social networking, and the like, few marketing execs can really (let alone honestly) answer the question: What is my marketing department really good at — that is, what are our core competencies?

I (only half) jokingly often say that most marketing groups have perfected the three Ps of marketing: 1) Predicting what customers will buy; 2) Pushing a bunch of marketing messages out to those customers/prospects; and 3) Praying for a better response and conversion rate than the last campaign.

The emergence of new marketing pressures (like SEO and social networking) will require marketers to not simply understand and utilize these new vehicles. The changing behaviors and attitudes of consumers will require that marketers develop a new core competency. I (and apparently, others like IBM) call this competency sense-and-respond marketing:

The ability to sense consumer needs and intentions based on their behaviors and actions, and to respond with appropriate advice, guidance, and offers.”

When addressing the core competency question, marketing execs should assess how well their marketing department can:

  • Sense where a customer is in the buying cycle based on the clues that they provide through in-person, call center, and online interactions;
  • Alter the sequence, quantity, and content of messages based on those clues; and
  • Respond within an appropriate timeframe (this does not always have to be “real-time”) and through the appropriate channels.

The predictive ability that many firms have developed over the past 20 or so years will support them going forward. But the nature of this ability changes from simply predicting product need to predicting “message” need (awareness message, advice message, sales message).

Successful salespeople have a sense-and-respond capability. They look and listen to their prospect and then respond and guide the prospect through the steps of the buying process.

This is marketing’s new competency requirement: Improving its ability to move customers through the buying cycle with a sense-and-respond capability.

For more discussion on this, see Jim Novo’s Marketing Productivity blog.

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