Once upon a time customers used to wait till they were told about a product and its features before they made the decision to buy.
That era ushered in advertising and trade shows where companies mass promoted their products with the hope of getting the attention of their target markets.
Fast forward to today; customers have got very smart and most of them go in search of information before they buy; they seldom wait to be told about product features.
Despite the advantages of advertising to the marketer and advertiser, the targeted customers still yearn for more information when they see or listen to commercials. They desire to have more information on the features of products and services to know how it fits in solving their problems and what other options they may have.
This need would has led them to making further inquiries at helps desks and customer service points of the companies they get the advertising messages from.
The 21 century has brought with it a myriad of novelties with technology being at the lead. The ushering in of the web 2.0 (the second stage of development of the internet) sees a distinct change of the old web 1.0 (first stage of the internet) from being static to it having characteristics which support and promote user participation, rich user experience, free classification of information, mass participation and software as services.
The key features of the web 2.0 are users being able to search for information using key words, authoring of content, use of tags, extensions and signals.
These innovative and easy to navigate features are what has influenced the creation and proliferation of social networking, content generation and publishing platforms. Users take to generating content on websites, blogs and wikis.
Many have been going online since the inception of the web 2.0 to generate, publish and consume content and also network.
This new era (now described simultaneously as the digital era and information age) has massively influenced the buying habits of the customer and this is where your business faces the greatest risk if you have decided to turn a blind eye, or just decided to live in denial of the fact.
With the rise in the use of smart devices and the internet, customers are now exposed to different insights and cultures from different parts of the globe.
Customers who hitherto waited for businesses to feed them information on product and service features before making purchasing decisions no longer have that patience to wait.
They now go in search of knowledge on the problems they are facing during a particular period to understand the scope of their need. This then drives them to find solutions before making the decision on which offer could better solve their problems.
Customers no longer permit businesses to interrupt them by pushing marketing messages in their faces; they prefer to rather go in search of it where they can get it in abundance. Consequently, most of these customers tend to block advertising messages shot at them by marketers.
They switch TV or radio channels when an ad comes up, they quickly skip Youtube adverts and also close online adverts from Google Adwords. Sounds familiar?
This is as a result of they not being properly educated through the adverts and their emotional needs not also addressed first. What could be worse? Most of these customers also believe those messages in commercials cannot be fully trusted as the companies just want to make quick cash out of them.
At this point it could be said they evolved overnight! Thanks to the internet and social media. With all these changes in the customers’ buying habits it comes as a big surprise to realise the same traditional marketing strategies relied on so much have rather become expensive!
Could this be as a result of marketers forcefully trying to still reach the same target market who are obviously way ahead on a different route?
Traditional marketing strategies which push messages to customers are not only expensive and relatively ineffective to age groups between 18 – 45 years, but it is almost impossible to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) on them.
Not convinced? Let’s try this out. How do you measure the percentage of people who saw an ad on a billboard or heard it on radio have actually been converted to sales leads? How do you measure which percentage of these same people have decided to buy in the future but not immediately?
And finally, how do you keep in touch with this group who have decided to buy in future to make sure they definitely buy from your company in the future when they are ready? Why should huge investments be made in marketing strategies which are based on a game of chances and cannot be proved to be effective, but merely a waste of resources?
Most companies which are able to stay on top of the game are those which have decided to evolve with the customer. They have evolved the way they interact with them and this has helped in forging great relationships with the customers.
What is more awesome with these companies? They are also able to measure every investment made and the returns on these investment. And yes, the strategies they have adopted have become assets instead of being “liabilities”.
These strategies are effective because they are strategically targeted, less expensive and measurable and they rather pull or attract the customers (who are in need of information) to them.
This new marketing strategy has evolved with the new buying habits and needs of the customer and is what is now called Inbound Marketing, with its driving force being content.
To continue to stay relevant on the market, it is important for businesses to evolve with customers no matter the industry of operation, market or form of business, whether Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Consumer (B2C).
Marketing is no longer about the information you want to give the customer, it is about what the customer wants to know to solve their specific problems. Businesses risk becoming “obsolete” if they decide to stay fixed in the same unchanging marketing strategies of trade shows, outdoor advertising and on air advertising.
This makes it important for the advertiser to include inbound marketing strategies in the traditional marketing strategies being practised by the company to make it safe on both ends and not risk becoming irrelevant to the customer.
The next issue will delve into what Inbound Marketing strategy is and how best to use it for businesses. Cheers!