Monday, 20 August 2012

What if your customer knows everything?

Minutes before I sat down to write this editorial, I got a call from a friend. He was in a Dell outlet and wanted to buy a laptop. He’s aware that I keep a tab on developments in the gadgets arena and therefore trusts my judgment. Interestingly, I could hear the sales representative trying to sell him a particular model at a price point he had suggested. Unfortunately for the folks at Dell, my friend wasn’t really listening to them. He was asking them for what I had recommended. And this is when the thought struck me – what do you do if your customer knows everything? What if a channel, which was supposed to convince prospective customers to make a purchase, is no longer seriously considered by the buyer? According to McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey report, “Consumers rather than sitting passively and having advertising come after them, are much more actively reaching out to their friends and family, the Internet and other channels to understand their options. As such, there is an urgent need to step back and re-evaluate, both how consumers go through the decision process and see what companies need to concentrate on in order to make their marketing efforts more productive.”

The fact of the matter is that traditional channels of advertising no longer serve the purpose of convincing consumers to buy the product. They merely help the brand in establishing its presence in the market. A television ad is as good as deploying a loudspeaker in a crowded market place which announces “Brand X is available at a store near by you.” End of story. This might surprise you, but CEOs already realise this. A recent study conducted by the London based Fournaise Marketing Group reveals that CEOs across the globe are increasingly getting with their marketing department. The study, titled Global Marketing Effectiveness Program 2011, states that “73% of CEOs say that CMOs lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognised financial metric.”

If you, as a marketer, really want to stand out and survive this shift in consumer behaviour, you’ll need to do much more than allocate budgets and hire a great advertising agency. If your website does not answer all possible forms of questions but your competitor’s website does, you’ve lost the bet. Marketing in the 21st century is about going back to the basics. If you are one of those who have suddenly started questioning the viability of Facebook as a marketing platform just because its IPO tanked and a lot of your friends in the industry say their are no reliable metrics, then you’re making a grave mistake. Look at the immense potential of the native ads market. They’ve been around ever since the rise of Google. Google’s search ads let marketers display offers relevant to their search queries. Similarly Facebook has ‘Sponsored Stories’ which have been proven to be more effective than Facebook display ads.

The herd mentality does work at times, but when you are in the business of getting hold of a customer before your competitor tries to hijack her, listening to what everyone is saying might backfire. While there’s still time, forget everything you had learned about traditional marketing and start looking at data unique to your business instead of trusting your past experience – by all standards, that’s now obsolete.

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