We all know that things have changed -- buyers, not companies, are in charge and marketers are on the hook to play to customers' terms. And the terms that customers dictate require marketers to be prepared for being helpful with inbound inquiries to satisfy and persuade their prospects. That requires not only things like online search engine marketing to be found when customers are looking. It also requires multichannel customer analytics and intelligent systems to present the next best (i.e. relevant) offers on the spot while customers are inquiring by phone or still browsing the web site.
For example, within two weeks of moving to California, my family and I made a plethora of purchases to make ourselves at home. Yet, in our case, the telemarketers that were haunting our new phone number as soon as it got connected missed out on the opportunity of selling to us. From the moment when our Internet connection became live, we went researching online to make our buying decisions. At that point, the dialog was in our hands and any ads that we saw were relevant to our search and we were likely to click on them. As long as we believed that it was our own idea to do so, we were highly motivated, for example, to examine car financing options.
Although buyers are not listening when you talk, they have become more information hungry than ever in their research for buying decisions. This constitutes a great opportunity for those marketers who know how to be at the ready with the right information at the right time.
Another interesting shift is that while markets are increasingly concerned with their multi-channel strategies (as they should be), they also need to be aware that buyers do not think in terms of channel, rather the convenient way of accomplishing our goal. After all the product research my family did online during our shopping spree, we left most websites without completing a purchase.
For example, after narrowing down our choice of car make and model, the exact car and financing option that we picked was still sold to us the old-fashioned way—namely offline, and by a friendly sales person at the dealership. Of course, the opposite happened too. When we found products of interest in stores, we used comparison-shopping engines to find better prices online.
Marketers should take advantage of all inbound interactions to deliver the best offer, rather than just outbound messaging. If an offer doesn't work, they should have that next best (i.e. relevant) offer ready to present, regardless of which channel the interaction came through. And, most of all, because the buyer is in charge, marketers not only should, but need to focus on being helpful, not just on selling.
Akin Arikan is director of internet marketing at Unica Corp. and author of the recently published book, "Multichannel Marketing: Metrics and Methods for On and Offline Success."blog comments powered by Disqus
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