Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Diagnosing Demand

Note: this is a reprint from an old blog, but a recent conversation brought it back.

Two recent projects have allowed us to rethink the notion of ‘demand generation’.   In the usual sense the phrase refers to getting people to take a step toward becoming a customer - become a lead, ask for information or make a purchase.   And in this world people follow the traditional path of awareness, consideration, and purchase with time spent between each stage.

There are scenarios when the desire to satisfy a need is much more intense than in other cases.  A refrigerator dies, a job is lost, or a project is finally approved represent scenarios where people behave and think differently than the normal sales funnel.  A useful analogy might be to think of pain in terms of medical conditions.
  • Acute Demand: Characterized by the need for immediate relief. The decision to buy has already been made, now it is a matter of which option.  Marketing tactics must cover all the places where a person would look for treatment - search, directories, factual comparisons, product reviews, and direct response.  Those things that make it easy to make a decision in an extremely short period of time.
  • Chronic Demand: Characterized by an on-going need that a person has, but has yet to satisfy. The decision to buy has not been made, but the individual knows they should.  Marketing tactics must portray both empathy and information to allow the person to make a commitment.  Given the long-term nature of chronic situations, campaigns should run in parallel with and through the events that trigger decision with attention paid to those with veto power.
  • Latent Demand: Often an invisible need that hasn’t (and may not) surface.  No decision to buy has been made at all and its unclear whether one will ever be made because a need has yet to be articulated.  Marketing tactics should work on stimulating or confirming a need through the benefits of the solution.  Since common interests are the new demographics, campaigns should focus on where people congregate, both literally and figuratively.
As an example, consider the potential strategies for Pest Control:
  1. Acute: be everywhere a person would turn to if termites or fire ants are found.  Who would they ask? Where would they turn? to get the problem solved that day.  Yellow pages, Google/MSN/Yahoo!, and Angies’/classifieds should be at the foundation of the plan. Since resolving acute pains often relies on personal recommendations, this is a highly localized decision - even for national brands.
  2. Chronic: provide information around treatment options, health and safety concerns about the consumers house and family.   Provide content and advisories on where outbreaks do/might occur through the media the audience uses.  Become the content aggregator for a specific problem.
  3. Latent: be visible.  Often termed ‘air cover’ in media plans there is a need to create some form of name recognition when a person moves to either chronic of acute demand.    Sponsor community or elementary school programs; be a member of the community by actively participating.  Broadcast advertising might be appropriate here to efficiently extend reach in lieu of any targeting information.
To provide a fresh view on a marketing plan, ask yourself:
  1. When people buy my product, what percent come from each type of demand?
  2. Are my campaigns aligned well with each need state?
  3. Are my tactics delivering the right information to each type of person?

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