When the concept of large-scale advertising really took off in the 1950’s, it became increasingly impersonal. Businesses that advertised were no longer having a conversation with customers, but looking at a nationwide market of “potential consumers” and talking at them. Companies went from being businesses headed up by a real person in the eyes of buyers to being a series of logos, slogans, and smarmy commercials aimed at focus groups and not individuals.
Buyers today aren’t happy with marketing campaigns that treat them like commodities. They’re looking for a personal relationship with a business they’ve made an informed choice to work with. They want a company interested in having a conversation, not giving a sales pitch. Most importantly, they’re looking to work with businesses that embrace authenticity.
We’re calling it the “New Buyer Mentality”, but it really isn’t new at all.
As marketing becomes more and more ingrained in every aspect of life, buyers have become adept at knowing when someone is just trying to sell them something. They reject inauthentic marketing and will go out of their way to work with companies they feel a personal connection to. They follow them on Instagram, interact with them on Twitter, like the company’s Facebook page, and create communities based around those products and companies they like best.
Successful businesses have recognized this trend and taken up a focus on authentic digital marketing utilizing social media. Even huge companies like Denny’s, Zappos, Taco Bell, and Dove have all hit on the need to be talking with buyers, engaging on back-and-forth interaction and inviting their buyers to basically be involved in marketing right along with them. While these techniques are new, what’s at their heart is an echo of what our great-grandparents might have been looking for. It’s a little different than asking the butcher to recommend a great cut of meat when you see him on bowling night, but only on the surface. Really, it’s the same search for the best option from someone they can trust that buyers have always been looking for.
The best way to take advantage of that search for connection is to invite your customers to get to know the personality of your company, to get to know you, without trying to force a sales pitch in the process. Let these conversations happen naturally, or you’ll have potential buyers turned away by feeling like you’re just seeing them as dollar signs, not human beings.
The old story about the con man selling his products with a slick smile and fast talking only to be gone the next day is a great example. After all, isn’t that what so many businesses try to do? They spend all their money on an impersonal ad campaign or a cool website to get attention, but can’t be trusted to communicate, answer questions, or build any kind of relationship. They look at examples like the ones mentioned above and wonder why those companies put all this work into inbound marketing and social media. Why pay someone to just sit around talking to customers or potential customers all day? Surely they could do better with real marketing, like a new commercial or magazine ad, one that doesn’t involve having to invest their time or manpower.
Providing great personal connections is marketing. A buyer who is personally invested in the conversations they’re having with you is a buyer who will not only keep coming back, they’ll be telling everyone they meet about your funny Twitter account or the great photos you’ve been loading onto Instagram. This could open up a whole new market of buyers looking you up and finding a solution with your company they didn’t even realize they needed before. They’ll feel like they really know you, and they’ll be personally rooting for you to succeed.
On the other hand, if you act like the snake oil salesman and rely on slick advertising and a “take the money and run” mentality, your buyers will sniff that out in a heartbeat. You’ll be left selling to an empty room.
Maybe everyone doesn’t like the actual neighborhood grocer, but everyone likes the idea of him. A true member of their community, the neighborhood grocer knows their names and asks after their children or their health. He remembers their regular purchases and always has something extra on hand. He asks how their day is going and if they liked last week’s special. That is who you want to be.
Of course, you can’t possibly actually get to know all these personal details about every single buyer you deal with. That’s why creating buyer personas is so important. It allows you to get to know the kinds of buyers you’re most likely to interact with, so you can target your marketing to create the most authentic conversations with them. Once that connection is made, you can work to fill in the details of the buyer persona with the real thing.
Thirty years ago, companies would have shrugged and said there wasn’t any reason to pursue a conversation with their customers – they could just throw a new commercial in the mix and sit back and watch the dollars roll in. That wasn’t entirely true then, and it’s definitely not true today. Buyers today are just like buyers have always been. They’re searching for a true connection and rejecting the snake oil salesman in favor of the neighborhood grocer.
Hit on that new buyer mentality – which is really just the old buyer mentality – and create the kind of personal connection that used to be just a part of doing business. It’s a great way to ensure that your buyers really connect with you, keep utilizing your services, and you can take advantage of the power of word-of-mouth in a truly global community by turning into their “Neighborhood Website”.