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Is Product Commoditization An Issue For You?

First published on January 6, 2016 on www.marketingprofs.com – a preminent resource on best practice marketing techniques for the benefit of the members. What is MarketingProfs? Individual marketers, teams, and entire marketing organizations at the world’s largest corporations rely on us to cut through the chaos to find the marketing experts you can trust and the information you need. Trusted by 600,000+ professionals globally, MarketingProfs is the only resource you need to stay ahead of the curve. Read more:

Is Product Commoditization An Issue For You? And What Can You Do About It

January 6, 2016

Commodity Graphic - 123rf
Your company sells unique and differentiated products – or at least that’s what you think. However, your competitors have been trying to match you or maybe offering similar products at a lower price. You also think your consumers/customers are loyal and won’t switch if given an opportunity. Yet, they are much smarter – and are rationalizing purchases more – than ever before.

Marketplace competitors – either direct or substitutes – can easily make your products or services a commodity where everything comes down to price.

How do you know if you’re being commoditized? And how can you avoid that undesirable fate?

Let’s examine what defines various states of product commoditization.

a) Your product is offered by many:
Examples include things like some food and non-food items, restaurants, law, financial services, even personal services like fitness and hair cutting, etc. Meaningful differentiation is essential to deflect lower prices. What do you do?

  • Be the #1 or #2 share leader. Being so gives you critical mass since it implies customer satisfaction and allows you to build entry barriers due to your size.
  • Have third parties talk good things about you – either in social media, product ratings or customer awards. However, don’t just rely on Facebook pages. Not everyone looks at Facebook all the time.
  • Don’t focus just on price. Remind customers/consumers of your products relevant features/benefits.
  • Be the marketplace expert and offer free advice/counsel. Doing so might not result in an instant sale, but people remember who’ve helped them in the past.
  • Be easy to do business with. Customer service/convenience can make or break a sale. Time, too, has value to your users.

b) Your product is offered by some:
You have a somewhat unique product. Also, your product category has substantial barriers to entry limiting competitive entrants. Examples may include utilities, cars, travel, telecommunications, capital equipment, etc. What now?

  • Offer aftermarket service. Buying a car, computer, or telecom services is more than a one-time transaction relationship, offering you a continuing opportunity to build future purchases or upgrades.
  • Off a full-line product/service. Depth can offer consumers/customers a “one-stop” shopping experience, “locking-out” competition. Wal-Mart is ALWAYS looking for “one-stop” suppliers/vendors.
  • Product availability is important. Nothing frustrates people more than being ready to buy but finding out what they want is unavailable – or they have to wait a long time for it. Be sure the logistics side of the business is in sync with the sales/marketing side.
  • Be sure your pricing is still competitive. Even though competition is limited, you can easily price yourself out of the market. Know what your competitors’ prices are, and respond appropriately.

c) Your product is very new, unique & different:
Congratulations! what you offer is new, solves real consumer problems, and is not easily copied (i.e. hopefully patented). You have a great advantage, but you still need to sell.
Ÿ Highlight your differentiation in a meaningful way to consumers/customers. Be sure product or service claims are accurate and relevant to them – not you.

  • Focus on core benefit(s) – not features per se. It might have a different feature, but does it REALLY matter to your customers/consumers?
  • Be sure you proudly communicate your differentiation. Do some type of advertising and/or event marketing to “tell your story” and build awareness.
  • Keep it simple. Differentiation can be very technical. Don’t assume your consumers/customers understand what you’re saying. Avoid jargon. If they don’t understand what you’re saying you can’t expect them to buy your stuff

The bottom line is that you and your sales force need to remember three basic rules when managing your offering in the marketplace.

1) Stay Relevant.  Can your customers/consumers see the value in your product benefits? Remember, they tend to look more at benefits than product features. Are your products still relevant and provide value?

2) Be Sure You Can Measure Your Differentiation.  If you can’t measure how you’re different, how can you expect consumers/customers to see it? Are your product claims accurate? Are you getting third party recommendations and/or awards? Visible differentiation is always better than conceptual.

3) Continuously maintain/upgrade your product line.  Competition is always out there, hard at work trying to gain a competitive advantage over you. Don’t assume your competition is standing still and doing nothing.

If can keep these basic rules in mind, you can avoid competitive lower pricing – and commoditization – you will maintain a profitable and sustainable business.

Rick Steinbrenner
Global Marketing Officer
Brand Marketing Advsiors
www.globalbrandguy.com
_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Brand Marketing Advisors are specialists in global brand marketing and new product development.  We help consumer product companies to more effectively compete in product categories in/around the home.  We strive to uncover unmet consumer “need gaps” while partnering up with R&D/engineering to come up with true innovative product and marketing solutions.  We accomplish this through a combination of marketing research, consumer insights and creative thinking.  In most cases, this leads to a strategic and sustainable competitive advantage for our clients.

Rick Steinbrenner Head Shot - Cropped w/red borders

Our team is led by Rick Steinbrenner – Chief Marketing Officer / Principal.  He’s led and managed leading global brands like General Mills, Kraft, Remington Products and Black & Decker – just to name a few.  He’s worked as a brand leader and general manager in both small & large companies up to $12 billion in sales.  His track record speaks for itself – developing and launching over 20 new products that are generating over $200mm+ in sales – both in the B2C and B2B sectors.

Which Is Better? – Marketing or Unmarketing™

Post first published 4/2/13 in the “MENG Blend” on the Marketing Executives Networking Group website – www.mengonline.com.  The destination site for leading marketing executives looking to stay ahead of the curve.  We have more than 1800 of the leading marketing minds in the world eager to meet, communicate, help and share our expertise. 

Which is Better? – Marketing or Unmarketing™ 

Does Marketing Really Work?

Does branded marketing and/or national brands really work anymore? Some people don’t think so. Whatever your point of view is you can’t ignore this simple truth. The combination of retailer and manufacturer consolidation combined with shareholder pressure to have successive quarterly earnings growth has done a lot to commoditize consumer product businesses. This has led some consumer product companies to stop innovating/marketing altogether because some don’t see it working anymore. There are many reasons why, but here a few big ones:

Innovation activity has and will most likely continue to decline:

According to the Nielsen company (a major consumer products research firm), of the 11,000+ new products they’ve evaluated over last three years less than .5% of all new product introductions met their breakthrough innovation criteria for success – that’s only 34 new products! While it’s always been true only a small % of new products ever achieve commercial success even during good times, there’s no question companies have been dialing back new product programs at an ever increasing rate. Nielsen also found the total number of new product initiatives decreased 6% annually since 2008 in the consumer packaged goods sector. While some of this decline can be attributed to lower economic activity there can be little doubt companies are innovating less not more. What I’ve also personally noticed are companies have radically changed their new product initiative risk profiles due to continuing Wall Street pressures to have these programs payout in less than 12 months!!

Decreasing importance of “national” brands:

National or manufacturer brands are having a hard time holding their own these days. According to Nielsen and the PLMA, store brands now account for almost ~25% of ALL retail supermarket, drug chains and discount store sales and growing. They also state 80% of consumers now believe store brands’ quality is equal to/exceed that of their national brand counterparts. This has led to the “commoditization” of many product categories. In some categories, retailers have “kicked out” the national brands altogether in favor of their own brands. While I don’t believe store brands will ever be 100% of sales, what is true is that national brands share of retail sales is decreasing and will continue to do so in the future. This is clearly a competitive threat.

Consumers don’t really believe what brands say anymore:

According to the Futures Company, the global strategic insight and innovation consultancy, a poll of 28,000 adults in 21 markets found 86% thought big business maximized profits at the expense of customers and communities. In Jonathan Salem Baskin’s e-book “Branding still only works on Cattle”, he takes this fact one step further by saying – “Brands are suffering the same declines and shortfalls we’re seeing in corporate reputations. Trust is a synonym for BELIEF and perhaps the strongest indicator of PURCHASE INTENT and subsequent LOYALTY”. Branded marketing clearly has a integrity problem today leading more people choosing NOT TO BUY vs. buying brands that supposedly have the right feature/benefit package.

These factors and others have many now saying “Branded Marketing is Dead”. It’s obvious we need to come up with a new way of thinking about branded marketing for the 21st century.

How about Unmarketing™?
Mr. Baskin goes on to say in his e-book “the 21st century model for brands will shift the emphasis from getting consumers to say YES to entertaining but otherwise meaningless engagement, and engaging with them on substance to which they’re allowed to say NO”. This is because people don’t really want to be sold on anything anymore, they want products/services that will help solve their unique problems – even if it means you might not make a sale today.

On the sales side of things, Peter Bourke: Principal & Vice-President of The Complex Sale, Inc. – a sales leadership team consultancy (www.complexsale.com) – makes the argument sales teams (closely allied to marketing teams) needs to unsell in today’s marketplace “selling more by Unselling™” as he coins it. This is because selling has become what the buyer REALLY expects in a sales call. The problem is most buyers/clients don’t want to be sold. The goal should be to make the buyer more receptive because they don’t feel like they’re being sold. It might appear to be obvious, but many companies still resort to the “old” way of selling.

Old approach to making cold callsUnselling™ approach to cold calling
“I have a product/service that best fit your needs” (presumptive at best).“I have a product/service that MAY fit your needs and if you’ll allow me to ask a few brief questions about what/whom you’re using now I may help determine if my product/service is even worth your time evaluating.”

It’s funny; this selling approach has been used very successfully on the marketing side in the past. Please see the short video below on how 7Up developed and executed the “Uncola” campaign in the early 1970’s. It featured Geoffrey Holder before he played Punjab in “Annie,” as well as playing a supporting role as Baron Samedi in the 1973 James Bond 007 movie – “Live and Let Die”.

Case Study – 7Up – The UnCola


Geoffrey Holder – “Cola vs. Uncola Nuts”

As you can see the account team & creatives at J. Walter Thompson (7Up’s agency at the time) correctly identified a unique consumer solution – a clean, light, wet and wild refreshing soft drink that wasn’t a cola. It was also strategically correct since it allowed 7Up NOT directly compete against the soft drink giants – Coke & Pepsi. The result was increased sales and brand equity for 7Up.

Bottom Line:
It’s time for branded marketing to re-define itself. We need to start Unmarketing™ our initiatives/products focusing on a more collaborative approach helping consumers solve their problems – even it means we don’t sell anything today. This means creating programs and products that builds trust and credibility. I know this is a long term approach that might not payout in “10 minutes” as required by most Wall Street/Finance people. However, what’s the alternative – continue to do marketing the same old way and then say it doesn’t work? We need to break this self-fulfilling prophecy and really change the way we do branded marketing going forward. If we do this, I think we might find a new renaissance in marketing because it will “work” again. The question is: what are you doing in your organization to make this happen?

Rick Steinbrenner
Chief Marketing Officer/Principal, Brand Marketing Advisors
www.globalbrandguy.com
The Global Brand Guy

How To Control The Trade Spending Monster

Post first published 10/24/12 in the “MENG Blend” on the Marketing Executives Networking Group website – www.mengonline.com.  The destination site for leading marketing executives looking to stay ahead of the curve. We have more than 1800 of the leading marketing minds in the world eager to meet, communicate, help and share our expertise.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in consumer products trade promotion spending has been and continues to be out of control – $60B+ in the U.S and $500B+ per year globally and growing – according to the Boston Consulting Group.  A lot of reasons exist, manufacturer/retailer consolidation due to winners/losers, Wall Street pressures for quarter to quarter earnings increases, brand commoditization, growth of private-label – just to name a few.  The Boston Consulting Group published a white paper in September, 2012 called “Paying for Performance – Trade Spending for Profitable Growth”.  In it they found trade spending dollars grew faster than revenues in 75% of the surveyed product categories.  It also grew faster than volume in 90% of product categories outpacing growth in other P&L line items.  The net effect is retailers’ profitability continues to grow at the expense of the manufacturer.  This dynamic is driving more and more manufacturer consolidation and/or exit of product categories once considered core to a manufacturer’s business.

The study included nine U.S. based consumer product companies in four product category groups a) food and beverage, b) household and personal care, c) wine & spirits and d) other.  They found a fundamental disconnect between trade spending and retailer performance using these dollars.  The complete white paper is linked below and is a good read.

“Paying for Performance” – Boston Consulting Group

The study also found trade spending is widely dispersed – not only among channels, but also retailers in those channels – with sometimes the best performers not always getting the highest rates (e.g. Wal-Mart for example).  This is due in part many big box retailers are not necessarily reliant on trade spending to drive their business models.

The report identified 3 ways to improve returns on trade spending investments. 

1.    Prioritizing trade spending investments with “winning retailers” delivering profitable growth.

Not surprisingly, manufacturers can boost trade spending ROI by reallocating trade spending investment to “winners” – those customers providing the largest profits, distribution and/or volume growth.  Within bounds of legal requirements, these superior performers should get higher trade rates and weaker performers should get less. 

2.    Analyzing returns and applying insights systematically advancing retail event performance

In addition to prioritizing spending, manufacturers must understand how to design and execute promotional plans to yield the highest returns.  Alot of category management tools currently exist that can assist with pre-event planning, event execution, post-event analysis, and lessons/insights from prior programs events.  Surprisingly, manufacturers don’t effectively use these tools enough to help really analyze the success/failure of their trade programs.  The result is more and more dollars going to either price/enhancing retailer margins and/or customer relationships.  In addition, mature consumer products also helps to commoditize product categories which can reinforce price reductions and/or growth of private label.

3.    Designing a trade promotion structure to pay retailers for performance, rather than relationships/activities.

The survey identified 3 major trade structure types:

  • Pay for relationship: trade dollars negotiated with customers with no link to activities/performance.
  • Pay for activities: trade dollars based on event plans – a lump sum or accrual based spending program based on customer activities – no metrics.
  • Pay for performance: trade dollars “earned” based on retailer event performance metrics.

Eight out of the nine surveyed companies had either pay for activities or performance based trade structures – most seemed to have a blend of both.  In either case allocating trade funds entailed making choices and tradeoffs while adhering to three broad trade plan principles: simplicity, consistency and transparency.  If done correctly, this can build a level of trust between the manufacturer and retailer focusing on “win/win” issues vs. “win/lose”. 

Specifically, an effective pay for performance trade program had 4 major core elements:

  • Earning mechanisms: Differential rates based on distribution and/or good/better/best strategies
  • Spending guardrails:  Fund can be spent among brands in a business unit, but customers can’t overspend funds that aren’t “earned” within that unit.
  • Strategic and transition funding: Strategic funds capitalizing on competitive opportunities and transition funds addressing changes in product lines addressing customer inventories.
  • Administrative rules:  Earned vs. actual spending quarterly reconciliation, no forward buying and/or diverting. 

Caveat:

Obviously, the nine U.S. based surveyed companies had leading market positions in their served markets which provided enough critical mass to make effective trade structure changes.  However, situations exist where other mitigating factors can complicate process improvements in trade spending.

1.      Manufacturers/brands not having leading brands or have strong brand equities:  For example, investments in traditional/digital media spending and/or new product innovations should take priority before working on redesigning trade programs.

2.      New emerging retail channels like mortar/brick vs. online retailers:  Issues like growth in dollar stores, “showrooming” and declining trade classes may make some customers reluctant to implement trade spending improvements.  Balance sheet and/or credit issues might make these customers more focused on generating cash flow to support their operations vs. process improvements.

Nevertheless, if pay for performance programs are designed/implemented correctly it is possible not only to reverse the trend of growing trade spending, but also to reduce trade spending levels by 2-5% annually (according to the study).  This will go a long way to “rein in” the trade spending” monster.

Rick Steinbrenner
Chief Marketing Officer/Principal, Brand Marketing Advisors
www.globalbrandguy.com
The Global Brand Guy
 
 

Digital Providers Say Forget Clicks – Focus on Brand Building

Recently, I wrote a post about the efficacy of digital marketing – is it really driving sales / brand building or is it just about clicks/grabbing eyeballs?  This question was was posed based on a 1/’12 article – “marketing capabilities for the digital age” sponsored by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).   In this article about 3/4 of global CMO’s aren’t sure if digital marketing efforts can be tied to business results.  This was just one of many conclusions.

More recently, Facebook the opportunity at the 2012 Advertising Week conferences in New York City to answer questions about the efficacy of buying advertising on their site.  These set of conferences were sponsored by Mediapost communications, the mobile marketing association and interactive advertising bureau.

Brad Smallwood, director of pricing and measurement at Facebook, discussed the findings of a study the company hoped would change advertisers’ minds about depending on measurements like clicks to determine the success of campaigns on Facebook.com. The goal is to have them perceive the social network more as a medium akin to television for branded advertising

“If you ran a campaign in the last five years, you focused on clicks,” Mr. Smallwood said, but “demand fulfillment is only one piece of the marketing puzzle. We have to provide a solution for the brand marketers of the world,” he added.

The study was conducted with a new Facebook partner, Datalogix, a company that measures in-store purchases. Fifty campaigns on Facebook were measured, for brands from giant marketers like Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Unilever. When purchase data from stores was combined with data about ad impressions on Facebook, the study found that 70 percent of the campaigns enjoyed three times greater return on their budgets, and 99 percent of the sales came from consumers who did not interact with the Facebook ads.  More details on his comments are on the link below.

http://techcrunch.com/2012/10/01/facebook-brad-smallwood-datalogix/

I do applaud Facebook efforts to help branded advertisers assess the effectiveness of their online digital efforts.  If someone could show online ad impressions efforts can be tied to in-store sales / brand building, this would be very useful.   However, you need to spend more money with Facebook to figure this out.  It is not transparent.  In other words, you need to “trust” Facebook that they can tell you the right number of impressions to reach your target audience based on their “black box model” with Datalogix – their market research provider.

Facebook says ad impressions is the standard in the TV advertising world – we shouldn’t focus on clicks anymore.  While ad impressions are a traditional TV ad world concept, their view of effectiveness is not – at least not yet.  I’m not aware of any traditional TV ad metric that can say for sure – these number of impressions can drive the desired sales result.  Yes, reach and frequency does drive effective reach and based on historical benchmarks you will have a higher degree of confidence a certain level of spending will work.  However, no one can “guarantee” a positive sales result – there are too many more variables – not the least of which is pricing and distribution – not within digital marketings’ control.  If Facebook/Datalogix have such data they should share it in the interest of driving more understanding among the branded advertising community.  If they would, they would be first to market on this piece and their business will increase.  Trust is the issue here and Facebook and other digital providers have yet to earn it.  Trust has to be earned, not demanded.  Just my take.

Rick Steinbrenner
Global Marketing Officer/Principal Brand Marketing Advisors
www.globalbrandguy.com
The Global Brand Guy 

Is Digital Marketing An Effective Brand Building Strategy?

A recent Boston Consulting Group article says most Chief Marketing Officers aren’t sure. 

Obviously, social media is important/highly efficient and holds the potential for building better relationships with communities of consumers/customers.  Traditional marketing (i.e. TV advertising / promotion / PR) historically placed a premium on brand building and transactions, but has declined in importance due to a combination of message clutter, time pressed consumers, fragmentation of media and the growth of people using the internet to research what others are saying about products/companies.  Nevertheless, what really concerns me is how “tactical” social media has become in recent years and less “strategic”.  It appears almost everyone on the social media provider side keeps looking for the latest tools / technique.  If something doesn’t work, they simply abandon the approach and go for another without regard to strategy.

Social media today seems to be just a collection of curation, SEO / SEM, permalinks, long tail key words, meta descriptions, website crawling, and click through conversation rates (to what we don’t know) and more.  Moreover, when anyone “disses” social media, most assume it’s just driven by a desire to go back to “good ole days” of traditional TV marketing / brand building and they don’t “get it”.  What makes this worse is some digital marketing providers don’t have a clue on how to make social media effective and how it ties to a clients’ business strategy.  I recently attended a social media presentation put on by top online agencies and when asked how they know if digital marketing drives clients’ sales and builds brands the response was: “I don’t know, but you just need to invest in it since it’s the right thing to do”.  No wonder, most CMO’s struggle with social media.  I think most want to use it, but don’t know how to bridge traditional TV marketing vs. the new world of digital marketing.  They also aren’t getting a whole lot of help from digital providers.

To put all this in a fact-based driven perspective, a recent BCG article below was published in January of this year.  It was based on a survey among CMO in global fortune 500 companies. The link is attached below:

https://www.bcgperspectives.com/content/articles/marketing_branding_communication_marketing_capabilities_for_digital_age/

Below is a summary I gleaned from this article. I’m sure you will have your own if you read it and it’s a good read anyway.

* Most companies do recognize the need to adopt new ways to reach consumers and build better relationships (i.e. websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, mobile marketing, etc.). It can be very efficient, free / cheap, and can easily measure traffic / activity (read efficiency).

* However, some companies are still just experimenting with digital marketing; while others have developed an infrastructure that can share data with relevant internal business groups. These companies usually spend >20% of their budgets on social media.

* Roughly ¾ of all marketing executives in global Fortune 500 companies are still unsure where to best reach consumers via these new mediums. Moreover, 90% feel they don’t have the right metrics that can tie into business objectives.

* Marketers seem to think consumers want information or product reviews from websites. But consumers want marketers to give more discounts and/or access to purchasing products online vs. brick and mortar stores – This is a disconnect.

* Even the mighty Proctor & Gamble is redeploying marketing spend away from traditional media to digital since it’s more efficient and less costly. They announced recently they will lay off 1,600 people and are banking on digital ROI for long term savings.  However, I bet P&G is also developing the internal infrastructure to capture the data and share it with relevant internal business groups to help change their business models.

* Outsourcing of social media initiatives to outside agencies exclusively is probably not best option given need for integrated brand messaging.

* More companies are adding IT capabilities to marketing management job descriptions. Marketing and IT are converging into one function. Marketers now need to learn digital in addition to traditional marketing / brand building skills to be effective going forward.

Source: Boston Consulting Group

Based on this, a few conclusions come to mind.

1) CMO’s need to better understand social media and how it works beyond just giving assignment(s) to outside agency(s). 

Simply outsourcing social media will not work.  They need to know how to effectively use it for impact.  CMO’s really need to know SEO and how consumers are talking / searching about their company / brands.  They then need to have the right strategy(s) and develop the right social media tool(s) addressing those strategy(s).  It also needs to be measurable to make sure it’s working.  Developing the right kind of metrics will go a long way to proving social / digital marketing effectiveness.  This might require testing of alternative approaches to see which works / doesn’t work and not just guessing.

2) When social media / digital marketing is used there needs to be a organized and well thought out customer / consumer feedback loop to the organization. 

Comments / data from consumers, influencers, other stakeholders and communities need to be filtered back not only to marketing, but to customer service, sales, supply chain, finance and even engineering / R&D.  You need an internal infrastructure to capture this information and be able to synthesize it for these groups so appropriate changes can be make to companies business models. Social media is cheap…but there is a huge labor cost involved in using the data to help change your business.

3) Finally, using social media / digital marketing tactics exclusively is probably not a good idea. 

A good business strategy will probably require a blend of BOTH traditional TV marketing and social media / digital marketing.  We must remember digital marketing is a “slow burn” approach and in some cases won’t help brand building that quickly – just like traditional TV marketing.  In some cases traditional advertising or promotions will help jump start a strategy while social / digital marketing will help build the brand in the long run.  Using both to some degree is the best way to EFFECTIVELY grow your business, but again it needs to be driven by strategy and not the latest tool / technique.

Marketing is evolving and social / digital marketing is part of that evolution.  We all need to learn how to use the new tools as well as refining the old.

Rick Steinbrenner
Chief Marketing Officer/Principal, Brand Marketing Advisors
www.globalbrandguy.com
The Global Brand Guy

Traditional Marketing is Dead – Bill Lee – HBR Blog

by Bill Lee | 3:00 PM August 9, 2012

Comments (527)

First, buyers are no longer paying much attention. Several studies have confirmed that in the “buyer’s decision journey,” traditional marketing communications just aren’t relevant. Buyers are checking out product and service information in their own way, often through the Internet, and often from sources outside the firm such as word-of-mouth or customer reviews. Traditional marketing — including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications — is dead.  Many people in traditional marketing roles and organizations may not realize they’re operating within a dead paradigm. But they are. The evidence is clear.

Second, CEOs have lost all patience. In a devastating 2011 study of 600 CEOs and decision makers by the London-based Fournaise Marketing Group, 73% of them said that CMOs lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognized financial metric.

Third, in today’s increasingly social media-infused environment, traditional marketing and sales not only doesn’t work so well, it doesn’t make sense. Think about it: an organization hires people — employees, agencies, consultants, partners — who don’t come from the buyer’s world and whose interests aren’t necessarily aligned with his, and expects them to persuade the buyer to spend his hard-earned money on something. Huh? When you try to extend traditional marketing logic into the world of social media, it simply doesn’t work. Just ask Facebook, which finds itself mired in an ongoing debate about whether marketing on Facebook is effective.

In fact, this last is a bit of a red herring, because traditional marketing isn’t really working anywhere.

There’s a lot of speculation about what will replace this broken model — a sense that we’re only getting a few glimpses of the future of marketing on the margins. Actually, we already know in great detail what the new model of marketing will look like. It’s already in place in a number of organizations. Here are its critical pieces:

Restore community marketing.  Used properly, social media is accelerating a trend in which buyers can increasingly approximate the experience of buying in their local, physical communities. For instance, when you contemplate a major purchase, such as a new roof, a flat screen TV, or a good surgeon, you’re not likely to go looking for a salesperson to talk to, or to read through a bunch of corporate website content. Instead, you’ll probably ask neighbors or friends — your peer network — what or whom they’re using.

Companies should position their social media efforts to replicate as much as possible this community-oriented buying experience. In turn, social media firms, such as Facebook, should become expert at enabling this. They can do this by expanding the buyer’s network of peers who can provide trustworthy information and advice based on their own experience with the product or service.

For example, a new firm, Zuberance, makes it easy and enjoyable for a firm’s loyal customers to advocate for the firm on their social media platform of choice. At the moment one of these customers identifies himself as a “promoter” on a survey, they immediately see a form inviting them to write a review or recommendation on any of several social media sites. Once they do, the Zuberance platform populates it to the designated sites, and the promoter’s network instantly knows about his experience with the firm.

Find your customer influencers. Many firms spend lots of resources pursuing outside influencers who’ve gained following on the Web and through social media. A better approach is to find and cultivate customer influencers and give them something great to talk about. This requires a new concept of customer value that goes way beyond customer lifetime value (CLV), which is based only on purchases. There are many other measures of a customer’s potential value, beyond the money they pay you. For example, how large and strategic to your firm is the customer’s network? How respected is she?

One of Microsoft’s “MVP” (Most Valuable Professional) customers is known as Mr. Excel to his followers. On some days, his website gets more visits than Microsoft’s Excel page — representing an audience of obvious importance to Microsoft, which supports Mr. Excel’s efforts with “insider knowledge” and previews of new releases. In return, Mr. Excel and other MVPs like him are helping Microsoft penetrate new markets affordably.

Help them build social capital. Practitioners of this new, community-oriented marketing are also rethinking their customer value proposition for such MVP (or “Customer Champion” or “Rockstar”) customer advocates and influencers. Traditional marketing often tries to encourage customer advocacy with cash rewards, discounts or other untoward inducements. The new marketing helps its advocates and influencers create social capital: it helps them build their affiliation networks, increase their reputation and gives them access to new knowledge — all of which your customer influencers crave.

National Instruments used an especially creative approach with its customer influencers, who were mid-level IT managers at the companies they did business with. NI engaged with them by providing powerful research and financial proof points they could take to senior management, showing that NI solutions were creating strategic benefits. That got NI into the C-suite. It also increased the reputation of the mid-level advocates, who were seen as strategic thinkers bringing new ideas to senior management.

Get your customer advocates involved in the solution you provide. Perhaps the most spectacular example of this comes from the non-profit world. Some years ago, with the number of teen smokers nation-wide rising to alarming levels, the State of Florida thought anew about its decades-long effort to reduce the problem. What could be more difficult than convincing teen smokers to quit — a problem that Malcolm Gladwell had said couldn’t be solved. Using the techniques for building a community of peer influence, Florida solved it. They sought influential teen “customers” such as student leaders, athletes, and “cool kids,” who weren’t smoking or who wanted to quit — and instead of pushing a message at them, they asked for the students’ help and input.

Approached in this new way, some 600 teens attended a summit on teen smoking, where they told officials why anti-smoking efforts in the past hadn’t worked — dire warnings about the health consequences of smoking, or describing the habit as “being gross,” left them unimpressed. On the spot, the teens brainstormed a new approach: they were outraged by documents showing that tobacco company executives were specifically targeting teens to replace older customers who’d died (often from lung cancer). And so the teens formed a group called SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) who organized train tours and workshops, sold T-shirts and other appealing activities to take their message into local communities. The result: despite a vicious counterattack by Big Tobacco lobbying firms, teen smoking in Florida dropped by nearly half between 1998 and 2007 — by far the biggest success in anti-teen-smoking in history.

Put another way, Florida won half of the “non-buyers” of its anti-teen-smoking “product” away from its much bigger, much better funded competitor. They did so by tapping the best source of buyer motivation: peer influence.

So can you. Traditional marketing may be dead, but the new possibilities of peer influence-based, community-oriented marketing, hold much greater promise for creating sustained growth through authentic customer relationships.

Bill Lee is president of the Lee Consulting Group, Executive Director of the Summit on Customer Engagement, and author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset (HBR Press, June 2012).