Segmentation has always been a key part of marketing. Sorting customers into appropriate segments allows business and marketing types to filter ideas, glean intelligence, set prices, and decide what to offer and what to toss.
Segmentation also allows successful companies to produce just the right thing to address the needs of different slices of the market.
We are in a time of great change. I suppose that’s obvious. Post 9/11, there’s been much commentary about these uncertain times. Whatever side of the political aisle you are on, you can likely agree that environmental concerns, “terrorism,” war, and other big issues cause us to live in uncertain times. Institutions, much beloved for decades, are seen with some distrust. Journalism, once depicted by Thomas Carlyle as the “fourth estate” so important to democracy, is now one of the most disliked institutions, with a trust level below that of used car sales persons.
Seven years ago, Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger posted an online document called the Cluetrain Manifesto. It laid out 95 principles for communicating with customers online. The Manifesto created big stir, was signed by a lot of people working in the tech industry, and turned into a book that sold well at the height of the Internet bubble. But since then it has been largely forgotten.
Seven years later, the Manifesto is a mixed bag. Some of its maxims are seriously out of date, and a few are just plain wrong. There are also some things missing. Because the document is long, and parts of it are badly off target, we’re reluctant to refer any of our clients to it today.
However, parts of the Manifesto are just plain brilliant, and deserve to be spray-painted on the walls of corporations around the world.
This will probably sound crazy, but despite all the hype about Web 2.0 and web startups, the most common mistake we see tech companies making with regard to the web is underestimating its long-term impact on their businesses.
I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s a reaction to the Internet bubble — because the short-term effects of the web were oversold, people also tuned out the long-term effects. I know some companies are so settled in their current franchises that they don’t understand how vulnerable they are over time to the changes taking place in the marketplace. Others take the web very seriously in one respect, but don’t understand its full impact across their entire company.
To understand what the web is going to do to our businesses, you have to look at it as both an application development platform and a new communication medium. Either change alone would have huge impacts, but the two together are especially powerful. Here’s what we see happening in each area, followed by some ideas on what they mean for businesses.