For those of us who I will call “Seasoned Veterans” (been in the B-to-B world for more than 15 years), we’ve seen major changes in they way people get info and go through a buying process. Those who are successful today are the ones who have adapted and embraced the changes as they have come along. Let me explain the evolution.
Before the Internet: Product info wasn’t easily accessible, and the only way you could get info is to talk to a salesman. The salesman controlled the buying process and in many cases, they weren’t trusted. It was a one-way conversation where the salesman was doing most of the talking.
Introduction of the Internet: Now customers were able to go on web sites (yours and your competitors) and investigate what was out there to make a better informed decision. They found what they were looking for by going to this new tool, e.g. Google, that allowed them to search by using key words and phrases. Some sites even told you where you could actually buy the product. More advanced sites “in the day” even let you buy the product online. The role of traditional sales was changing. With the introduction of e-mail, people could now ask more questions and make more informed decisions. Marketers had to create content for the web with webinars and white papers trying to convince prospects to buy. The playing field now was more even where the customer had more options and control over the process.
Introduction of Social Media: More and more information is available now, and it’s not necessarily from your web site. People now access LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to see what’s been said about your product or ask questions of their peer group on which products are better and why. There are blogs, forums and online communities where you can go and get an honest answer (recommendation) from another consumer. You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned anything about the company sales force being engaged to this point. With social media now on the scene, buyers take control of the buying process and as a result, don’t engage a salesman until they are much farther down the sales cycle.
For those who still aren’t convinced Business.com recent Social media best practice:Question and Answer forum report interviewed over 1400 individuals of which 69% currently work at a business that uses social media.The chart below indicates what social can do for you.
So what does this mean to us old timers?
- It means times are changing.
- It means that the consumer is now driving the bus.
- It means if you don’t jump on in some fashion, the bus will leave without you.
- It means we all have to change.
We as humans don’t necessarily like change. It makes us get out of our comfort zone. Social media is just another way we can do our jobs better. It can be a place to follow market trends, monitor brand sentiment, network and even identify unhappy customers. Don’t be afraid of it and don’t be overwhelmed. Start somewhere, go slow, ask for help. As marketers, we need to adapt.