It is safe to say that in terms of marketing products and services that the last few years have seen the most significant change to the structure and creative dynamism that we have ever seen in the world of marketing.
Taking a step away from our industry and looking at how conventional marketing has changed is a real eye-opener to the future in terms of marketing our products and services. What used to be a way of launching a product– advertising to build awareness, sample campaigns to initiate trial and promotions to encourage purchase–have given way to a total about-face in the momentum of marketing.
In the past, manufacturers were the controlling influence in the success of a product. Was it possible for a poor product to sell well and become a household name? It was to some extent as you have always been able to buy market share and certainly build it by spending in the conventional ways.
The customer is now at the center of everything that happens. In terms of an educated market we have never experienced the scale of self-education that now takes place. If a customer is researching into a product, they now have all the information they need at their fingertips. As part of the buying process, information gathering is a stage used to reduce the perceived risk of buying a product (particularly a new product). What has taken this information gathering to new level is, of course, not just the internet, but also the customers who now have a voice. Check out the best selling websites and they will all have comments on the products they are promoting, coming directly from the people who have bought them and used them. If you are not sure about a product, look at the comments from people who have not only bought it, but also actually used it and they will also comment about the level of service. This is a very powerful tool that can literally make or break products.
Now instead of advertising being the persuader, it is those satisfied (and sometimes dissatisfied) consumers who are able to directly influence the popularity of a product. This is seen in it most extreme cases where you find websites with girls who use a product and then comment about it on video or streaming – a whole new way of marketing your products now exists.
Bear in mind that these style icons have upwards of 2 million viewers and you can begin to see the scale and size of the opportunity or that faces today’s manufacturer. How does this affect us? We have the opportunity to give consumers not only a voice (they created that for themselves) but we have a 2-way communication processes that will help us shape products and services that the consumer really wants. Instead of a company launching a product (with some market research) and then seeing how it sells, they can look at what consumers are looking for. They can see the market leaders and spot new trends to exploit and maximise the investment in their products and services.
How this effects you is that you should now use this as a driver for your own business. Set up a Facebook page where your customers can leave comments about your business and the service you give. Look at your competition and find out what they offer, what they do well and what they don’t do well.
If you engage with this new media and create a community around your business, you will see it grow. Word-of-mouth has been fuel-injected by the word of touch by the web revolution. If you don’t have a website with a community section and Facebook page that your potential customers can see the genuine comments about you from your clients, then you are missing the single most important change in marketing. The customer is now at the center of the universe and you must become even more customer centric in this, the most competitive of times, to survive and most definitely, if you are going to thrive.