Command & Control: Controlling Your Conversation vs. Being Part of It
“Command & Control” is the strategy that every major corporation lived by before search engines and social media. Media advertising was louder than an individual, complaining consumer, so companies didn’t need to listen to individual complaints unless it was affecting their ability to sell to new customers–which it wasn’t. Now it does. Command & Control is only effective if a company’s target market cannot connect directly amongst itself and have a conversation. Online reviews and social media have made it way too easy to get third party information about any business. Thus Command & Control’s core model falls apart.
When Command & Control is the Only Option:
There are some businesses that believe they have no choice but to run a command and control business (sometimes they are right). These are usually companies that have a business model that depends entirely on their ability to interrupt people’s normal habits and use high pressure sales. An example of this type of company is the players in the timeshare industry. They have a product that has to be sold. Few people wake up and make a conscious decision to buy a timeshare, it just doesn’t make sense. So timeshare companies interrupt people’s chosen pattern with incentives like free tickets to Disney World, and then use intense sales pressure to make a sale. Their entire business model is built to support this concept. This type of company would have extreme difficulty getting any real value out of using new marketing strategies because their entire business model is based on old ones that, at best, manipulate new marketing in attempt to make their old model still viable.
“It’s like eating soup with a fork”
Using new marketing strategies to support old business models is a flawed approach. This is mainly because other competitors are fully embracing new marketing tactics to deliver better, more customized products to market than you are, because they are designed from the bottom up to take advantage of new media. They don’t ask how they can hide their negative reviews in Google by manipulating the search engines with SEO. They ask how they can better connect with customers to ensure they have no negative reviews, and how they can better encourage happy customers to leave positive sentiment online. The following example outlines the difference in two similar small businesses.
Two coffee shops are looking to generate more business out of using social media and SEO. Coffee shop number one is interested in changing their marketing methods, but doesn’t want to touch their core business. They decide to offer free Wifi, and a 10% discount for checking in on Facebook or Foursquare. Company two has decided to adjust their business model to fully take advantage of new media marketing channels. Not only do they offer free Wifi, but they offer free coffee for to people who write book reviews on coffee shops Facebook page for books that were read in the coffee shop, as long as they also include a picture of themselves in the picture, and host monthly competitions online for the people spend the most time at the coffee shop. Coffee shop #2 wins because they aren’t just using one way communication by telling people to check in, they are actively encouraging people to interact in two-way communication by providing value.
Why don’t more companies do this?
Using new media strategies takes patience, which is a virtue that most businesses don’t have. When you put a billboard up, people see it right away. That doesn’t happen with content marketing or social media. It usually takes time to build up a consistent fanbase. Slowly but surely, that base will grow. Months down the road, you have a consistent flow of loyal customers without spending money on direct advertising. The problem is that the effects on the bottom line are delayed, which makes decision-makers shy away from using these strategies. Also, it isn’t something that can be entirely outsourced to an agency. It has to be engrained into everyday business practices by the staff. It can’t be manifested (At least not without a lot of unnecessary costs). Decision makers tend to avoid doing things that make them change anything in their core business model because life is already hard enough.
Should You Break the Command & Control Model?
A common saying at Walmart is “you can’t out Amazon, Amazon.” If anyone could have tried to compete with Amazon it would have been Walmart, but they realized that they weren’t ready to commit to the battle, so they didn’t start a war. If you aren’t ready to commit to making changes to your business model to effectively use the “new school” tools that are available, then they may not be right for you. I say this with extreme caution, because not using them can also start the countdown clock to extinction for your business, regardless of its size. It may not happen tomorrow, but eventually, counting on mass media marketing alone just won’t be enough. It is a valuable tool, but tools need to be sharpened and adapted from time to time.
How Do You Transition from Command & Control to New Media?
It has to be from the ground up. These simple rules should help you quickly realize the level of commitment you should have to the process. If you don’t, you need to consider not taking on the challenge yet.
- Invest in a process to allow you to benefit and guide the conversion about your service or products between members of your market. Instead of devising ways to cover up flaws, focus on being able to adapt your product to meet the demands for improvements your clients are requesting.
- Instead of making products and trying to sell them to a market, make a market and sell products they want to buy. (A breakfast restaurant adding organic items to the menu vs. opening a restaurant that caters to the needs of organic food buyers, that serves breakfast)
- Looking at every interaction with clients as a form of marketing. Is your business capable of it? If not, devise a way to try and win new business with every interaction.
This is not an exhaustive list. This post was written to discuss some interesting points while they were fresh after reviewing a great book, “Meatball Sundae“, by Seth Godin, and how concepts discussed affects our clients. It is a highly suggested read.