Industry analyst and pundit David Coursey calls this The Age of Google, and says that the Internet has transformed every market into a buyer’s market, with empowered consumers who can (and do) compare prices and offers from vendors around the globe, and then publish and share their own product reviews and experiences (good or bad) with your company.
Technology, he points out, has turned the one-way marketing messages of years past into an interactive conversation that happens in a host of communications channels that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
“Among younger consumers – those under 40 – even multi-million dollar B2B purchases are often ‘crowd-sourced’. Crowd-sourcing happens when someone asks their Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn networks for referrals and feedback about a product,” Coursey says.
The co-author of The Customer Never Sleeps: 21st Century Marketing that Works in the Age of Google says, “The hard, cold truth is that the American buying public doesn’t trust corporate marketing messages. For the most part, they simply do not believe what companies say about their own products and services. The exception is the local store manager, insurance agent, or franchise owner, who has a relationship with the consumer.
“The trust factor for businesses has evolved into a mirror of the way we’ve felt about the government for a long time. Everybody wants to vote out the unresponsive politicians in Washington — but nobody lumps their own representative into that group. That’s why we keep voting for incumbents: we know them, and trust them.
“It’s exactly the same for consumers. The recession may have left them mistrustful of banks in general, but they like the branch manager at the local office who solves their problems for them when they come up.
“Companies who aren’t shifting their marketing spending and effort to the local level are missing out on the single most powerful weapon in their marketing arsenal.”
When David Coursey talks about shifting marketing efforts to the local level, he means empowering individuals in the sales and marketing channel to select, customize, and personalize marketing assets for their own local market. In Texas, it might mean changing a background color from orange (the color of one football powerhouse that’s unpopular with fans of another) to tan. In Hawaii, it might mean swapping photos of a snowy neighborhood for images of a sunny suburb. At the very least, it means giving the local marketer the ability to add his own signature, logo, web page link, and photo to most assets.
For decades, personalization and customization have been four-letter words to both compliance and finance managers, and barely less offensive to marketing professionals. But if the industry pundit who showed Google to the world for the first time (at the Demo Conference in 1997) is right, they’re no longer options – they’re requirements in the new world where every market is a buyer’s market.