GETTING A LAY OF THE LAND
I’m often asked by clients, workshop attendees and students about the business revolution taking place today. They want to know how social media, mobile devices and widely available high-speed Internet access is dramatically shifting the business of buying and selling. Why do they ask? Are they curious? Nope. They’re lost. Most of my business clients are either nervous, scared and/or terrified of this change. They feel like today’s customers have too much power in the marketplace. They feel like they have to be overly reactionary to customers and potential customers. They feel like they are forced to monitor their digital channels all the time. And they don’t know how to react.
Sadly, many wish for the good ol’ days of having all the control, of talking at their markets. But the reality is, not only were the good ol’ days not so good (I’ll explain later), but they weren’t the way marketplaces had worked for very long.
THE MARKETPLACE OF THE 20TH CENTURY
For most of the 20th century, marketing became a way to share your message with a lot of people at one time. With the advent of mass media tools such as radio and television, marketers spent considerable time and effort creating advertisements for radio, TV, print, etc. and paid a large chunk of money to have it sent out. Then, you hoped potential customers would pay attention and buy your product or services.
Things were pretty easy. Your audiences couldn’t speak to you. You had a megaphone. You blasted your messages out and customers could only listen. Sure, if they had a concern, a compliment, or feedback about your product, they could fill out a complaint card, write a letter or call a customer service number (if they were lucky enough to find a number). But nobody else heard the complaints because they didn’t have a way to share their experiences with the masses.
BUT THINGS WEREN’T ALWAYS THIS WAY
Before mass marketing was an option, people did business in local marketplaces. As Mark Schaefer points out, these had been around for almost 1,000 years. They had some key attributes marketers should be aware of (because they sound very similar to the market we see today). These marketplaces were:
- highly personal and interactive – those selling interacted on a personal level with those who were buying
- there was immediacy in them – people could provide immediate feedback and sellers had to respond
- successful businesses were built on word-of-mouth recommendations – this was the only type of marketing that mattered (or existed). If you didn’t treat people well, word spread fast amongst those they told and you could be out of business fast and,
- there were severe penalties for cheating – rip customers off as a business and you could be hung (literally). So it paid to be honest and transparent about your products and services.
The main point is consumers were empowered and sellers had to listen to them and serve them well, otherwise they wouldn’t be in business for long.
This is what we lost during the age of mass marketing. When the marketing balance shifted last century, customers didn’t have a voice.
Well, today consumers not only have a voice they also have access to a world-wide marketplace. If they want to buy something or research a topic or share their experiences with a company, product or service, where do they go? That’s right, they go to the modern marketplaces aka Google, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter, YouTube to name a few. They can buy from vendors all over the world. They can compare not only prices, but see recommendations and ratings from friends and folks in their networks. And they can ask for input for their trusted community. Also, and if they have a complaint or compliment, they can share it via their social networks and, just like word-of-mouth in the old marketplaces, word can spread fast if you don’t treat people well.
Does this sound familiar to you? Then that begs the question, if the old marketing model is broken, what should marketers be doing to succeed today?
In our next post in this series, we’ll be talking about the solutions and you’ll see it’s not nearly as complicated and hard as you might expect.