The Future of Marketing Is Organizing Behavior

I made the following statement in some social channels recently – “The future of marketing is less about demand creation and more about organizing behavior.”

The comment stirred quite a reaction. Many people fervently agreed while others simply wanted to know more. So, here’s what I mean by that statement.

The foundation of inbound marketing is based on the notion that people need to be drawn in to your marketing funnel by way of content – that you need to be found rather than go out hunting. And, while this has proven effective, many marketers simply interpret this to mean you create more demand by creating more content.

The problem with this thinking is that it’s really just the age old marketing funnel approach polished up with more information.

Today, marketing is about guiding a journey that the buyer wants to take rather than forcing them into the journey that fits our business model.

People don’t really need more information, they need insight, they need guidance and they need an experience that allows them to behave like they want to behave.

Over the years I’ve identified seven behaviors that most buyers desperately want to experience on their way to becoming loyal customers. Organizations that get this and create and organize opportunities for people to experience these behaviors at any point along the journey will win.

Buyers want to travel an often crooked path that allows them to:

  • Know – They want to give permission to the companies they want to know
  • Like – They want to learn to like and respect companies that might be addressing their needs in a way that makes sense to them
  • Trust – They want to see that their friends and others they relate to have come to trust certain organizations for a variety of reasons
  • Try – They want to be able to prove to themselves that buying from certain organization won’t make them look foolish
  • Buy – They want to discover that there are companies that make the buying experience as awesome as the marketing experience
  • Repeat – They want to develop ties to organizations they can count on and that allow them to forget about other options
  • Refer – They want to have such a remarkable experience with organizations that so exceed their expectations they are compelled to share with the world how smart they are

If organization are to address these behaviors, marketing, sales and service must participate as one in guiding the relationship. The traditional silo walls must come down. Sales must participate earlier in the buyer’s journey and stay later. Service must become more social and marketing must learn how to personalize content while bringing front line sales people into the creation of messaging and positioning.

Inbound marketing, outbound marketing, inbound selling and social service must overlap into every possible outpost on the buyer’s journey. Every marketing, sales and service initiative, process and campaign must be designed to organize the behavior the buyer desperately wants to experience.

hourglass functions

Use this grid to audit your own behavior and touchpoints looking for opportunities and gaps.




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  • Jacob Gerber

    Thanks for this post, John. About six months ago, I had a revelation that everything I love about marketing is, at the most basic level, psychological in nature. I don’t know why it took so long for that to click in my mind, but suddenly it became clear that everything we do as marketers–from content creation, to promotion, to calls-to-action–revolves around understanding and guiding the desired behavior that we want people to take.

    And that falls under the umbrella of psychology. If we want to do marketing well, then we have to study the heck out of the field of psychology.

    It’s been a fun six months, though, because I have been reading a ton about marketing psychology, where there is a ton of great material. I’ve just discovered the very tip of the iceberg, but I’m already seeing the fruit of that research in our own business.

    Thanks again for the post.

    • Scott Marshall

      Jacob, agreed on your point about marketing really being about psychology. Any titles to suggest for reading? Could you summarize the jist of their argument?

      • Jacob Gerber

        Scott, there is really an embarrassment of riches in this field, but Robert B. Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” is a classic, and for good reason. Cialdini lists six of the main psychological tools of persuasion that marketers need to be aware of, as well as a super-helpful overview explanation of why these techniques work.

        Specifically, Cialdini explains that we have mechanisms in our brain processes that automate our thinking processes. So, when we receive certain stimuli, we react automatically without carefully parsing out what it is we are actually doing. If marketers put out poor stimuli, we clog up the process and get in our own way. If we put out good stimuli, then we increase our likelihood of success.

        So, I’d also recommend a lot of the recent books about how habits work. Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” is really good.

        Finally, check out Nathalie Nahai’s book, “Webs of Influence.” It is a very thorough exploration of psychology and persuasion on the internet.

        Happy reading!

        • Scott Marshall

          Very cool—thank you very much for the suggestions!

  • Trent Dyrsmid

    Hey John, I really like your points on quality over quantity, it seems like each “new trend” that gets picked up now quickly turns into a dead-horse-beating routine. I think this puts a new emphasis on trust now, which you pointed to.

    One thing though, you say customers look for “refer” companies at the start. Couldn’t you argue that it’s the job of the company to move a customer into that state? Kind of, moving them from “satisfied” to “elated” on the Likert Scale essentially?

  • Sean Gallahar

    “Sales must participate earlier in the buyer’s journey and stay later. Service must become more social and marketing must learn how to personalize content while bringing front line sales people into the creation of messaging and positioning.”

    This paragraph sums up this article really well. Thank you for sharing!

  • Gerrie Cilliers

    Hi John,

    Makes one think…
    As our world changes, people are waking up to “who” they support and “how” those deliveries impact their lives – Following are what I see when reading your article:
    1. TRUST – Track Record & Ratings on Delivery levels, Community & Environmental care
    2. KNOW – Have a Social Fraternity where customers can Freely Collaborate, Vote and Promote
    3. LIKE – Guidance in Problem Assistance & Solutions
    4. TRY – Reputation supported by Values put into Practice
    5. BUY – Quality of the Delivery in action in turn Promotes Marketing and Other efforts
    6. REPEAT – Consistency where companies provide Ongoing Best Practices and Support even after Warrantee
    7. REFER – Mentorship through Opportunity that improves Experience & Life

    Excellent post – Thanks!