Anticipatory Marketing

June 6, 2014

Anticipatory MarketingIn my Communications 2064 presentation, I have been talking a lot about what I call, Anticipatory Marketing.  This is the concept, that marketers and product developers have been using to meet the needs of people before they ever know that they have a need. The late, great Steve Jobs once said “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  That is anticipatory marketing.

Amazon is experimenting with this concept by preparing to ship items to you before you even order it. Yes, that’s right.  The forward-thinking online retailer is gearing up to deliver items yesterday.  Those who are too impatient to wait the two days for Prime shipping can receive the package before they knew they wanted it.  According to this Wall Street Journal Article, “Amazon said it may consider previous orders, product searches, wish lists, shopping-cart contents, returns and even how long an Internet user’s cursor hovers over an item.”   

What do you think about this concept?  It certainly worked when the iPhone was developed.  With over 500 million phones sold, people realized quickly they wanted it.   Steve Jobs was right. Of course.

But how does this translate to your business?  How would your customers feel if you performed a service for them that they didn’t request.  Would you expect them to pay for it?  Would they be offended or flattered?

Here are some ways that you adopt an anticipatory model for your company:

Gather customer data through listening. In an age where “big data” is considered hot jargon, take a look at the little data. How well do you know your clients. Do you know how they are performing? Do you know about the strengths and weaknesses in their organizations.  By knowing the challenges that they face, you can begin to develop solutions.

Gather customer data through technology.  Are you tracking where people are going on your website? Do you know what keywords they are searching for?  Do you know what articles get the most reads in your newsletter or on your social media sites? The answers will hint at what is important to people and can help in the development of solutions and responding to their needs.

Brainstorm.  Once a week or once a month, gather your team and talk about your clients.  You can discuss a specific client, a category of clients or your business as a whole.  The difference here is that the conversation is entirely focused on them. Their needs. Their problems. Their successes.  What do THEY need to be better – to do better – to succeed. Once you come up with some ideas, use this to reach out to clients before they call you.  Let me know if they are impressed.

Focus Groups.  A formal setting like a focus group can help you identify issues that might not be clearly articulated. Using the information provided by the group, you can begin problem solving.

You don’t have to be Amazon or Apple to offer help to your clients and prospects before they realize they need it.  Anticipatory marketing is not new.  Yes, technology is making it easier to learn about people, but you need to act on the information and bring creative solutions.