Congratulations. Everyone in your company is now in marketing, sales and service. They may not reside in any of those three departments and they may lack in specialized skills, but they can create a bridge of trust which is smart marketing. I recently wrote a white paper called The Digital Buyer. The document posits that buyers have changed in regard to their buying process over the last twenty years. This change is driven by technology and socioeconomic forces.
Buyers are more sophisticated than ever and they desire the most relevant information at the exact moment it is needed. For many, time is their most precious currency. Providers have a responsibility to stop depending on the centralized control models of the past and to strategize toward a more distributed communication culture that leverages existing relationships. It’s true that some parts of an operation need to be separated from other areas and managed by specialists. However, managing relationships is a bit like managing applications that are stratified, it’s not the domain of the simple-minded. It requires a well thought out strategy reflecting the buying process and layers of trust that help the buyer progress with the appropriate provider representative.
Millennials are going to take this new buying approach and run with it. They are fact hounds who are the digital natives of the early 21st century who will be buyers for the next fifty years. Customer Lifetime Value starts to get interesting with these folks and things will continue to evolve from here. Millennials will never go back to the information asymmetry of the past when they had trouble sharing with their peers. Millennials are dependent on hand-held devices to do their computing and they use social connections to choose. Providers should only hire those employees who are comfortable communicating what their company does through social media and who can write. These employees must thrive in a mindset of service and be trained to know how to get the buyer what is needed when the opportunity arises. Companies often have loyalty programs for customers, why can’t they have a reward system for any employee who provides an important touchpoint for a buyer?
Too many organizations are discovering that their products and services can be easily copied by their competition. The provider’s product offering is not the place to expect long-term unfair advantage. Authenticity between two people is much more difficult to copy in today’s environment and transparency rules. That’s the competitive opportunity providers should jump on. How do we get everyone in the building to become proficient at helping buyers get the right information at the right time through a trusted employee? This effort to persistently inform includes forums that help buyers help each other. Buyers that are part of a buying community get answers faster from credible sources and lower the support costs of the provider.
Buyers have clearly changed their approach. Providers can improve their relevancy by working hard to understand the common approaches of their buyers. They must then turn their organization inside out to get in alignment with the buyer’s process. To do so improves their chances of being the market leader who enjoys top margins.
John Ryan is a strategic marketing consultant and writer who resides in the New York City area. He likes working with young companies to define their positioning and get their overall go-to-market plans implemented. He is a former board member at Webtrends and marketing executive at IBM/Tivoli and Siemens. John has over two decades of experience in US and international markets for Internet, software and professional service companies.