Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

We are the 5th P: People

Part 4 in a series introducing my new book, The End of Business as Usual

It seems that adding the word “social” to any category escalates its importance. From the Social Customer to Social Commerce and from Social Business to Social CRM, the common thread that weaves everything together is people. It is people after all that are responsible for placing the social in social media. Everything else is just technology. So why is it that businesses still approach social media and the services and channels that connect this very human network as it has traditional media in the past? Just as in the emergence of connected customers, this inherent behavior is simply part of the DNA. This DNA where perhaps the “D” stands for disconnected represents the very fabric of business and the very essence that requires evolution in order to genuinely connect with tomorrow’s customer, today. Operating with a business as usual mindset no longer cuts it.

Regardless of media, good business comes down to a simple process of identifying customers, learning what they want or need, feeling their challenges, learning how they communicate with one another, and observing how they discover and share information. Yet, many businesses approach what is a natural bottom-up occurrence through a top-down system of pushing information, pulling would-be customers through funnels, and confining them to artificial feedback loops. To put it simply, if we visit the traditional 4P’s of marketing of Price, Place, Promotion and Product, the key ingredient of favorable engagement and business outcomes is the very thing that’s been missing all along, People – you, me and the individuals who invest in products and sometimes the brands behind them.

Even though businesses are experimenting with engagement in Facebook, Twitter, forums, comments, et al., I’m not convinced they see us beyond our avatars. Nor do they view our communities as influential cliques, but rather as rudimentary clicks. Many businesses don’t take the time to get to know us, yet they invest in new media as an attempt to build relationships without understanding why we engage.

The bottom line is that customers are not necessarily looking to build relationships with brands. They’re, we’re, looking for solutions, direction, insights, and value. Information, contests, and clever videos are now commodities that contribute to the already clogged arteries of new media. But every day, companies ask customers to “Like” them on Facebook and “follow” them on Twitter weighing the extent of their efforts on the quantity of the 3F’s (friends, fans and followers) in addition to traffic, clickthroughs, and views. It’s no wonder why so many pundits debate the value of ROI when businesses are still not defining the “R” or the return we seek nor are brands defining outcomes.

We’re not driving experiences, we’re reacting to them.

We’re not introducing meaningful value, we’re pushing content and creative.

We’re not designing programs around intelligence, we’re focused on monitoring.

It’s time we had a click to action!

I Think We Need Some Time Apart

A few years ago, Microsoft released a video that to this day personifies the disconnect between brands and their customers.

Customer: “I want a divorce.”

Brand: “What now?”

Customer, “We don’t talk anymore.”

Brand: “I just put down a mil on a TV commercial just to talk to you.” OR sub that with, “I just invested time and resources on Facebook and Twitter just to talk to you.”

Customer: “Exactly, you do all the talking, I never get a chance to…[cut off by brand.]”

Brand: “You can talk on our web site can’t you?” OR sub that with, “you can comment, Like, RT, or interact with us in social networks.”

Customer: “Sure, if I want to say, ‘order this product.’”

Brand, “See…!”

Customer: “This isn’t exactly dialogue.”

Even in any examples of today’s social media best practices, even the dialogue isn’t representative of the dialogue customers are seeking or that they find enough value in to continue to return or interact with brands. The first step in the in a journey that lead brands and customers down discontinuous paths is the lack of understanding, context, or desire to better understand customers and the virtual and real worlds in which they dwell.

Again, customers are not on social networks seeking relationships with business. You know that better than anyone. That’s not why you’re there. You’re there to interact with friends, family, peers and everyone else who matters to you. In many ways, you are the very person you’re trying to reach and it’s that perspective that should factor into any business, marketing, service, or product development cycle moving forward. We are the 5th P of marketing and business and this is the end of business as usual

The End of Business as Usual will be available in the coming weeks. You can order now at Amazon | Barnes and Noble | 800CEOREAD.

Part 1 – Digital Darwinism, Who’s Next
Part 2 – Social Media’s Impending Flood of Customer Unlikes and Unfollows
Part 3 – Social Media Customer Service is a Failure!

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+ | BrianSolisTV

80 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “We are the 5th P: People”

  1. Jeff Korhan says:

    The brand and customer dialogue is humorous because we know its true!  

  2. Erik Hom says:

    Maybe it should be Personalization.

  3. Marc Poulin says:

    The P for “People” has always been part of the 4P but it is OK to single it out given the little consideration it has received by the MBA and financial guys running the show.

  4. Wendy Gibson says:

    Every good marketer wants its brand to inteact with People.  The ultimate is when you get your People to interact with other People and your Brand is the positive trending topic .. P2P.   We all learned about the 4P’s  ..  the People aspect takes it one step further and can ultimately define your brand and be a key differentatior if you get it right.  If you don’t, it can backfire on you.  It takes the entire company to build the people aspect of your brand. 

  5. Joel Pinto says:

    It has always been there, but probably we were so focused in products and venues, that we didn’t notice. Business has always been about people. To make it simple: no people buying, no business exist.

  6. Time we had a click to action – great line!

  7. Prateek Shah says:

    Hope companies doing social media around the world could take time to ‘listen’ to this. But no wait, they are too busy making people like their posts and comment on them.

  8. Rob W says:

    I’m pretty sure the traditional marketing mix evolved a long time ago to include 7Ps – one of which is People. This highlights the fact that, irrespective of the impact social media has made on our lives, the fundamentals of marketing have not changed. You still need a good product/service, it has to be value for money, brand equity is still important, etc, etc.

    As for “Engage or Die” – not sure there is much evidence to support that. Apple is one of the most successful brands in the world. How long do they spend engaging? Not a second. Social media has undoubtedly helped them. But that is a result of them building a good product that people want to talk positively about, not because of their engagement in the community (goes back to my original point).

    • briansolis says:

      Rob, great comment. The idea of the 5th P is to also to inform the other 4P’s as they’re in development, especially when it comes to delivering a good product.

      As for Apple, well. They’re among the elite. As part of my work, I have to study the elements of Apple’s strategy and leadership regime are replicable. As you can imagine, it’s exceptional to say the least. There are industries, businesses, and products that are subjected to digital Darwinisim regardless of Apple…and if we’re not using these powerful tools to extract data, insights, and trends, we can’t adapt or lead. This isn’t about competing for the moment, this is about competing for the future. Apple has done that very well since 1997. Jobs recognized opportunities within the market and invented or reinvented products and supporting ecosystems to execute relentlessly against them. Other businesses can benefit from just the basics of observation to affect everything from products, services, systems, and even marketing and communications.

    • Rob W says:

      I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that whether a company engages or not will be a determining factor in the “survival of the fittest” – but then I haven’t yet read your book! There are lots of brands doing very well with limited engagement because they quite simply offer a great product/service and that drives passion and advocacy from their customers. I do agree however, that engaging with customers online can drive a competitive advantage – whether that be through the relationships built with customers, the impact it has on perception (and importantly trust) of the brand or how the conversation feeds feeds into the product/service innovation process.

      I completely that Darwin forces are at work, although I’d also argue that Darwin forces have always been at work! They are, of course, not just digital but economic as well given the current climate. But there is no doubt that the digital age has been particularly impactful – the examples in your “End of Business” video are powerful examples of that.

  9. Mike says:

    This should be the new “5P” model in Business schools!
    I pre ordered the book last nkght!

  10. Sarahm says:

    Great topic.  2 months ago, I blogged about a New 4 P’s of Marketing to be used in conjunction with the original P’s.  And one of them was People (Passionate ones).  Steve Gasser also linked to the post.

    You get what you ask for as a marketer, do you really want a click/like, is that a strong enough R (OI) or are you willing to participate in a conversation?  Marketers need to be honest about their needs. 

  11. Kathy Klotz-Guest says:

    So true. Business is fundamentally a social effort. It always has been! We sell to people. People refer us. Relationships happen between people, not faceless companies. People are the lifeblood of a great business. One day we won’t have to spell this out. It should be implied if you are doing business right!

  12. A profound concept Brian through mere basic observation.

  13. Hi, my names are Kimberly Karanja. I really liked this article. I am in the social media marketing business. I’m constantly engaging and processing information and inquiries from my fans, followers, customers and friends. The more you listen to them the more they feel they have some sort of identity with your brand.

  14. People are main part of social media. The value your people bring to your business by providing service to your customers and clients.

  15. as per people are connected to each other around this world, indeed we do need to add people into the marketing mix

  16. Moving on the conversation from Twitter. If already years ago academics agreed with 7P’s, certainly they never thought about the impact of social media (in fact they didn’t even exist). What’s interesting is your “social” approach to this old theory, skipping for a moment the Product, Price, Promotion and Placement, can we (re)define the rest as:

    People – the way you delight the persons in front and behind your brand, aka customers AND employees
    Processes – which paths one brand has to satisfactorily run interactions between customers and employees
    Physical evidence – how your offices, facilities, stores’ image communicate with customers, and at this point online stores and all kind of social media properties should be considered here as well

    Brands definitely should evolve their behaviors before consumers, the big issue is that consumers – over all Gen’s Y & Z – are way much faster to evolve than corporations. It’s utterly obvious consumers don’t want to do business as usual… really looking forward to read your new book.

  17. Steve Fogg says:

    Interesting post Brian, brands need to do less talking and more listening generally. Nice illustration.

    A good brand has a transactional relationship with the consumer, a great brand has an emotional connection with the consumer and it stores up a relational credit with the consumer so when consumer is disappointed with the brand it doesn’t mean divorce.Hmmm… I think I just wrote an a summary of a post for my blog! 😉

  18. It is interesting that many major brands are listening. That means that they have invested into “listening platforms” and teams to monitor and react, but the primary goal is to protect the brand not hear, learn and act. It is very difficult to estimate ROI on evolutionary change.

  19. Interesting. I think the 5th P – “People” is the most challenging in a way, since the brand cannot really control the quality of it, while the traditional 4 P “Product”, “Place”, “Promotion”, and “Price”, are pretty controllable by the brand team. 

  20. BuyGiftsItems says:

    Many businesses don’t take the time to get to know us, yet they invest
    in new media as an attempt to build relationships without understanding
    why we engage.
    One day one deal

  21. pdffinder says:

    Thanks for sharing the 5 P’s, I have really learnt something and will continue to support your blog.

  22. Irene Valdes says:

    i feel almost the same with your book everywhere! and i liked things you posted, but the book everywhere feels a bit like going on a nice street with no sidewalk and skipping cars.
    maybe it is because i like more sutil people that leave something to the imagination ; ) 
    although thanks for your postings, i liked, just a comment no complain

  23. Sudha says:

    The 4P’s of marketing is in fact a very well known offline marketing
    tenant. However, adding the 5th P (people)is essential as you correctly
    stated – people are involved in each one of the other P’s.
    However, I will point out that the P for “place” IS very highly
    relevant online. Think not geographically not demographically – NICHE
    marketing! Irrespective of the product or price or promotion you prepare
    if it does not relate to the people in the niche market you are aiming
    at all will be wasted!

  24. easypayway says:

    I am very much overwhelmed by your thoughts for this particular story. A more deeper and staged knowledge would be good for me.

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