Do you have a question? If you don’t know the answer, where do you go?

For most of us, the obvious source is a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. The ability to find answers almost immediately no longer feels like a new phenomenon.  Our automatic instinct now is to go to the internet for an instant resolution. In fact, the term “Google it” has become the generic term for research, just as in the 20th century the brand name “Hoover” became synonymous with all vacuum cleaners.

Even when you are seeking truth and enlightenment, as in the original meaning of the biblical phrase which we have used as the title of this blog, the internet provides rapid direct access to sources of information and inspiration.

The internet era

The traditional theory of advertising (almost entirely print-based in previous centuries) was based on the acronym AIDA – generate Attention, Interest, Desire and Action (to buy). The challenge for every contemporary business is still the same. The difference now is that the internet allows your target audience to seize the initiative and interact with your brand, rather than receiving messages in a passive way. Anyone can access information, including comparative data and customer reviews, at the click of a key pad.

Promoting awareness of a product or service, and anticipating customer needs and expectations, has always been essential. The existence of the internet does not alter the basic process of marketing communication, it just makes getting it right first time even more critical. There is nowhere to hide if you get the message wrong, make false claims or fail to maintain standards. Digital media can be your friend, but it can also be toxic.

Proactive, not reactive

Getting a product or service known, and anticipating the audiences’ questions, is in fact nothing new at all. Go back 30-40 years before the advent of the internet, and inventors or innovators were already focused on their audiences. They asked questions like ‘Who will use this…what issues do they want solved…what problems may arise…what may they want to ask?’ Hence the creation of user manuals for every household product and for practical jobs that people wanted to do for themselves. The Haynes car and motor bike manuals are a classic example.

Manufacturers designing new products, whether for consumer use or for large-scale projects, have always understood the requirement to tailor solutions to the needs of the “customer” or user. Originating from the Latin, one of the two established meanings of an application is “the action of putting something into operation”, or in other words, making it work!

Know your audience

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers has a division called IEEE Professional Communication Society, who advocate the importance, for every sector, of understanding your audience [1]. Indeed, focusing on the audience is nothing new in the world of improving performance and offering rewards. At PAEM, our interest is in helping client organisations to understand the needs and expectations of their employees, channel partners and other stakeholders. We know that recognition and reward for performance is a powerful way of retaining loyalty and increasing revenue.

When you are planning the launch of a new product or service, the involvement of key people is critical, both within the company and in the marketplace. There are a number of dynamic ways in which we can help you to communicate with your audience, specifically with conferences, product launches, business presentations, corporate hospitality and performance incentives. Recognition events include awards nights, activity days, exclusive weekends and international incentive travel programmes. All are designed as live experiences that will motivate and engage key people in the success of your business.

The first step in this process is always to research the audience, to profile their needs and expectations. While data is valuable, personal attitudes and opinions reflect the subtleties in how people feel about your brand and the values it represents. Real engagement can only be achieved if you create an environment and atmosphere of trust and respect – so start asking the questions that will help you understand your audience. But, perhaps, this isn’t one for Google… this is the time to ask your living, breathing, real-life audience.