My previous post introduced a Web 2.0 era definition of “cluster,” a term traditionally associated in marketing with demographic segments. This post continues the discussion with an examination of the art and science of cluster husbandry.
Cluster husbandry is not about targeting consumers. It’s about encouraging them to become meaningfully engaged by interacting with them in an authentic voice. As the agricultural term “husbandry” implies, cluster husbandry turns marketing efforts into a farming-like practice. It’s about generating and tending to a community of supporters of a brand.
Cluster husbandry is genuinely consumer centric: it starts with a more holistic view of consumers’ needs than characteristic of traditional marketing. In the past, marketers have tightly focused on bending consumers’ wills to their wills. In cluster husbandry, the marketer strives to wed his or her will to that of consumers. Cluster husbandry is an authentic expression of relationship marketing.
Despite thousands of articles, entire seminars and many books on the subject over the past two decades, relationship marketing has generally not been about caring relationships with consumers; rather, it has been about finding more effective ways of targeting consumers and “reeling them in.” For example, so-called customer relationship management (CRM) is not about managing customer relationships. It is about managing customer data. Better that it be called customer data management.
CRM is a quantitative approach to markets. Cluster husbandry is a qualitative approach. It includes quantitative tasks but “numbers” don’t dominate the process. Numbers are important in setting objectives and feedback metrics that help the cluster specialist determine how well objectives are being met. They are especially important in gauging consumer satisfaction with their participation in a cluster social network.
One way to view clusters is as ecosystems in which people, places and things are organized around exchanges of information concerning topics and needs of the people involved, be they consumers or providers. David Weigelt and Jonathan Boehman, the principles in Immersion Active and sponsors of this blog brought forth this idea in their book Dot Boom. In another time they might have used the term cluster management.” However, that would imply ambitions of control that are more suitable to the posture of traditional marketing. Cluster husbandry is not about gaining and exercising control over consumers. It’s about collaborating with them in determining their needs and finding effective means of satisfying those needs.
Cluster husbandry is like traditional marketing with respect to one overarching objective: finding ways to break through the clutter of advertising. However, the cluster manager will likely discover more ways to do this than the traditional marketer will because the cluster manager works both sides of the equation: first, from the consumer side, then from the provider side. The magic lies in seamlessly integrating the both sides in the information exchange process.
To the cluster manager, the consumer is not a number in a data set. The consumer, as David Ogilvy famously said, “is your wife.” Obviously he meant that metaphorically. He wanted to bring home the flesh and blood reality the consumer represents by positioning her in personal terms. Ogilvy, one of the greatest marketing minds of all time by common accord, understood relationship marketing before it became a buzz word in marketing and long before everyone had a personal computer on their desk to focus the marketer’s mind on number instead of on consumers’ circumstances, needs and emotions.
Ogilvy understood consumers as people as few marketers since his time have. Getting such an understanding is the best place to start in setting up your first cluster husbandry ecosystem. That is where I will pick up in my next post.