Marketing to Networks of Intelligence

June 5, 2015

marketing networks

How can you tailor your marketing efforts to adapt to today’s consumer behavior? Peter Hinssen is a popular thought leader on digital and disruptive innovation and a Partner at nexxworks. He is author of The Network Always Wins, a business guide on keeping a company up to speed within its market in the age of digital disruption. This post is an adaptation from that book.

Today we are at a point where many markets are about to flip—that is, turn into networks of intelligence. Consumers have become extremely informed networked thinkers who are influenced by what they hear, see, and read on the network of intelligence that surrounds them, including peers who are always within reach. They trust one another more than they trust some commercial message on the TV or radio. Consumers have found one another. There’s no way that this Pandora’s box will close again.

Consumers have become intelligent, informed, and empowered. They trust the network more than they trust you.

Before making a purchase, an informed consumer will gather all the information necessary. Of course, TV and radio are in the mix, but more and more consumers will be seeking out websites, blogs, experiences on Facebook, Twitter, or anything else. And when they get to the moment of truth, they will be influenced more by their own network of intelligence than by your marketing efforts.

According to research by Google, in 2013 almost half of the population used their mobile phones in a store when shopping, to find out more about a product. More important, almost 20 percent of shoppers changed their mind in the store based on the information they got from their mobile phones.

So, the moment of truth isn’t what it used to be. And even after that moment, consumers will keep communicating with the network. They will talk about their purchase, about their decisions, and about their experiences. In some cases, consumers will actually spend more time doing this after the moment of truth than before it. This means that the old funnel has become a loop.

But it also means that the power balance between producer and consumer has fundamentally changed. Markets have now become networks of intelligence that are in constant flux. You can’t control a market anymore. You actually have to work very hard just to follow a market and observe its flow.

The new paradigm will have consumers who are more informed than you are, in markets that have become networks that can change and adapt faster than you can. It’s a whole new game. Marketing has gone from a very linear process, where the marketer sent out a message to the customer, to a very complex process, where different sources are influencing a buying decision, and where the consumer has also turned into a source of information.

The term consumerization was used primarily during the advent of the New Normal, when the power of technology, once the domain of the technology elite, came into the hands of consumers. Instead of being told by the high priests of IT departments which technology they can use and which devices they can have, today users themselves choose which devices they carry. They hold the cards. The consumer has become empowered and has full control. This is the fundamental characteristic of a market flip.

The same consumerization will happen to marketers. When markets flip, the old control exercised by marketers will evaporate. The ability to dictate the conversation with the consumer is fading quickly. Markets have been transformed into networks of intelligence, which follow different rules and observe different behavioral patterns.

To keep up, companies will have to flip as well. They will have to rethink their approach to partnering, to sourcing, and to innovation. Companies will have to flip their internal structures in order to survive and be able to react rapidly enough.

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About The Author

An entrepreneur, advisor, lecturer and author, Peter Hinssen (1969) is one of Europe’s most sought-after thought leaders on radical innovation, leadership and the impact of all things digital on society and business.

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