Consumers have changed a lot over the past 25 years, but many traditionally-trained marketers have not. This disconnect has made these marketers much less effective, although many don’t realize it.
Do any of the following marketing approaches apply to you? If so, you may want to rethink your strategy:
- You confuse brand recognition with brand loyalty.
Building a consistent brand for your business and building awareness of that brand is still a good way to get prospective buyers to remember you when they’re ready to buy. But brand loyalty – the idea that consumers tend to stay loyal to a particular brand – is not nearly as powerful as it used to be. According to a Forbes article in 2016 on “The Death of Brand Loyalty,” generational changes – including a loss of confidence in corporations, decreased religiousness and a “hankering for change” – are all working against marketers who take their existing customers for granted.
Recent research bears this out, with 39% of consumers in a 2018 study by Salmat saying they don’t consider brands while shopping. This has hurt incumbent B2C companies; 90% of the leading household goods brands are losing market share, according to Forbes. And it’s bleeding into B2B. The bottom line is that you must couple your customer retention efforts with a willingness to innovate and adapt to your customers’ changing needs, lest they switch brands out of their eagerness to try something new.
- You prioritize polish over authenticity.
If you’re relying on a fancy-looking website and clever advertising copy to help you sell your below-average product or service, you’re a dead man walking. There are simply too many great options out there for sub-par businesses to succeed long-term. If your product doesn’t meet the expectations set by your marketing team, your customers won’t just stop buying from you. They’ll tell their friends and family about their bad experience, and they’ll call you out in online reviews, chat rooms and elsewhere, revealing your lofty marketing claims for the falsities that they truly are.
If you’re thinking to yourself that your website and social media presence speak louder than the voices of your customers, you’re not alone in your misconception: According to Salmat, nearly half of marketers believe brand websites and social media are the top two channels used by consumers when making purchasing decisions. The top two channels consumers actually use, according to the survey? Recommendations from friends/family (72%) and search engine results (72%). This is also true in B2B: In surveys of distributors’ customers, they tend to start with search engines when shopping, according to Real Results Marketing.
- You think in terms of broadcasting your message to potential customers, not attracting potential customers to you.
Traditional marketing is made up of “megaphone” marketing tactics: the idea that if you broadcast how awesome you are to the world at large, the small percentage of people who are a good fit for your services will buy from you. Outbound tactics like online banner ads and marketing mailers may be useful in select circumstances, but they are nowhere near as effective – or cost-effective – as they used to be.
Today’s consumer is overwhelmed with information, actively avoiding interruptive advertisements. According to HubSpot’s Global Interruptive Ads Survey, consumers avoid traditional advertising by unsubscribing from spammy emails (94%), throwing away direct mailings without even opening them (27%) and muting or fast-forwarding through television advertisements (94%). Some even go as far as to install ad-blocking plugins into their internet browsers, and to use temporary, throw-away email services like 10 Minute Mail to gain access to subscription-only online resources while avoiding the resulting email barrage.
The high volume of digital information available is also empowering your potential customers. They know they can learn a lot about a company and product just by researching it online, and this is how they prefer to receive their information. Not from a pushy salesperson, unsolicited email or pop-up ad.
The misconception underlying these outdated strategies is that consumers want to be helped with purchasing decisions, or that they need to be helped. The irony is that once you not just accept – but enthusiastically contribute to – the empowerment of today’s consumer, you’ll be in a better position to influence them. By providing customers with the expertise, authenticity and decision-making freedom they’re looking for, you agree to play by their rules. When you agree to play the game, you get the opportunity to win.
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