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Managing the New Customer Relationship: Strategies to Engage the Social Customer and Build Lasting Value by Ian H. Gordon

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Chapter 9

Teaching Customers New Behaviors

“The learners themselves do not know what is learned to advantage until the knowledge which is the result of learning has found a place in the soul of each.”

Plato, Laws (424–348 B.C.)

Change is accelerating. This occurs not only because technology makes change possible but because customers are rapid adopters, actively engaged with innovation rather than being bystanders or passive users. Customers see innovation, learn about it and play with it as they explore why it is in their interests to embrace the new and abandon the old. If consumers were not to change their usage behaviors, no amount of marketing would make an innovation succeed. Marketers could yell louder but it would be into the already deaf ears of consumers. Adoption of innovation and the very success of new products depend on the ability of marketers to change customers' behavior. This, in turn, depends on customers learning, and learning quickly, because if customers don't learn fast enough, innovation languishes, adoption is retarded and companies can perish if they haven't planned for a long adoption cycle. It happens all the time.

Customer learning isn't just about innovation. If customers are to adopt any product or service to substitute for what they now use, they will need to learn powerful reasons why. Learning requires teaching. Marketers must now act as customers' teachers if customers are to behave differently and as though customers are interdependent with ...

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