Michael Selissen of Case Mountain Communications and I had a good conversation about the new realities of developing business from the web today. This conversation came about because of my post on the topic of leveraging content across channels and strategies.
There’s a new context for customer consumption. No longer tied to desktops or even laptops, customers are using smartphones and tablet devices to consume media and interact anytime anywhere. That new reality has changed everything for customer’s lives and marketers as a consequence.
Today we can say, “People have mobile devices and they use them,” which changes everything for marketers, buyers are much more self-service, they prefer to use the web to conduct research, using the web to look a company’s website, competitors and what other customers think of a company.
I interviewed Michael on the topic and here's the result:
John: What are the new realities for marketers when it comes to developing business from the web?
Michael: For B2B marketers at least, it’s the quickness with which buyers have brought their consumer shopping skills to the office. They’re doing more self-service research on the web and consulting their business networks for referrals and opinions. You regularly see references to studies showing buyers performing upwards of 75 percent of the purchase process before contacting a vendor. That’s a significant challenge for marketers in terms of attracting and sustaining buyer interest during that stealth period.
Another more subtle trend is the coming of age of the digital natives. They’re starting businesses and moving into senior roles. Forbes published a report a couple of years ago showing how younger executives are much more hands-on when it comes to using digital to research business information and collaborate on decisions. So age has become a factor in how marketers communicate and who they communicate with.
John: Given the new realities from digital, what models do marketers need to adopt to cope?
Michael: Specific models will vary depending on the industry and complexity of the products or services. But the first step is figuring out how to tap into that secret 75 percent of the process. And the best way to do that is to talk to current customers and put together profiles of who the decision-makers, influencers and decision-breakers are. Then ask, what problems did they have? What types of information did the need? How did they go about informing one another? And why did they buy from you?
Then, translate that data into a system for structuring and disseminating content in a way that addresses those questions for each role. Not just the homegrown content, but things like relevant social media discussions, analyst and government reports, academic papers, and industry journal articles. The goal is to become the go-to source for the self-service buyer. And that takes a continuous and coordinated effort across marketing and digital disciplines.
John: How has the context of customer consumption changed because of mobile?
Michael: It’s changed in a couple of ways. First, the shift to mobile is much more significant than, say, the shift from desktop to laptop. Laptops enabled a mobility of sorts, by allowing people to bring their work home or on the road, or to check email while on vacation. But you still needed to fire up the PC and find an Internet connection. With the combination of mobile, 4G and the cloud, you now have anywhere-anytime access to entertainment, social and business networks, and information in all its forms. At least until the battery runs out.
The real significance of mobile, though, is the behavioral changes that are associated with it. How many times have you been in conversation with someone who couldn’t stop glancing at his or her smartphone? It can be pretty addictive. And because both personal and business stuff funnels through the same device, we shift contexts now almost without thinking – from sending an email to the boss, to checking Facebook, to texting the kids. All while waiting in line for that triple mocha latte. So from a mobile marketing perspective, it’s about balancing short but meaningful interactions.
John: How are agencies dealing with the new realities? What must vendors do today to cope the changes?
Michael: Some agencies now offer integrated services, for say, inbound marketing or lead management -- and even services that address the whole marketing and sales pipeline. And they’re using analytics more. They’re putting together teams that combine fulltime employees and contractors, depending on a client’s needs. I’m also seeing, and even participating in, virtual teams made up of independents, like content writers, graphic designers, SEOs, web developers and demand-gen consultants, for example. It’s a more holistic approach.
Vendors should figure out what outcomes they expect from digital, then look at their own core competencies and decide how much they can do in house and how much they should outsource. The one thing they should not compromise is control over the end product by handing it off to an agency and hoping for the best. They should either manage the process in house or work closely with a trusted marketing consultant who acts as general contractor. The big challenge for small and mid-sized vendors is ramp-up cost and cutting through the complexity, particularly if they’ve not invested significantly in marketing before. So the best approach there is to focus on the fundamentals.