By Ryan Skinner (email)
This "What Would Google Do" series of posts is quickly becoming a list of best practices in the shipping industry. There was John Watton sharing how ShipServ helps people find each other. Then, Franck Kayser of The Containership Company demonstrated how listening to market demands can and should drive business. Now, it's Ben Strong and AMVER.
This fourth installment of the series attacks the fourth of Jeff Jarvis' What Would Google Do precepts: "Markets are conversations". Maybe a price is an opening remark. A negotiation, a dialogue. A sale, a bon mot. More aptly, the conversation takes place as buyers and suppliers to and fro about needs and ideas. The size of the final transaction may just be an indicator of the value of the conversation.
That's putting a sharp point on conversations, but it is in fact the end result. The quantity and, more importantly, the quality of your talk will appear on or near the bottom line.
Now consider AMVER. Their marketing manager Ben Strong is everywhere on the maritime scene. Yes, he's at Marintec China (where I met him), and at Posidonia (where you'll meet him next week) and most trade shows in between. But he's also a prolific blogger, twitterer and facebook user. To those who meet AMVER in these contexts, the quality of the communications are spot on.
Strong understands that the same network forces that make the AMVER search and rescue system effective (the more vessels, the better the service) apply to AMVER's marketing voice. That is, the more often you hear AMVER saying interesting things, the more likely you'll think about AMVER in different contexts.
Most marketers would envy Strong the value of the AMVER service that he markets, and the price at which he can market it - effectively, free. Not only that, they've got backing from the American government, and support from the increasingly tech-savvy US Coast Guard.
But the kind of services AMVER provides don't market themselves. No one needs them. So AMVER and Strong start up and follow multiple conversations, about safety, about ship monitoring, about rescues, about the issues that apply to them and potential users. These conversations then build the market.
Ironically, AMVER didn't embark on this conversational path because of a surplus of time and money - rather, the opposite. With a need to focus its budget and meet people where it could afford to reach them, Strong and AMVER chose slim online channels. They had little experience of things like twitter and facebook (as Strong says, "I'm a generation late") but they pooled experience and...just started.
I talked with Strong at length over Skype. In order to follow that chat in video, just look below. The full conversation lasts about 17 minutes.