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In June 2009, research was conducted by marketing firm, McKinsey and Co. that disputed the validity of the traditional marketing purchase funnel metaphor by studying 20,000 consumers across five industries and three continents. The standard process of going from many brands to a final choice was replaced with something called the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ) where consumers consider, evaluate, buy, enjoy, advocate, bond and are loyal to a brand.
Though the traditional funnel was a standard philosophy for decades, technology seemingly changed everything. Not simply because of the Internet, paradigms were flipped on their head with new, slick software solutions and research technology that began to expose the folly of big-budget broadcast, print, radio, outdoor, database marketing and public relations.
Today, consumers have gained new confidence through third-party research and word of mouth. As a result, marketers have been scrambling to catch up with a new way of thinking. Call it customer obsession, customer centricity or customer relationship management, it comes down to knowing your customer and putting your message in front of them at the right time and in the right place.
Although the old ways are still in some cases expected, how do we start over in our thinking and learn our existing and future customers’ new approach to purchasing products? Smart companies are already actively using these strategies to replace the old school approaches with excellent results.
Build your brand’s strength in the current culture.
Brands have always tried interjecting themselves into popular culture. Typical approaches such as using celebrity spokespeople, product placement in movies and television, sponsorships at music events and any number of lifestyle partnerships, were meant to “connect” with a desired culture. But in the new thinking, infiltrating the cultural preferences of a specific target customer runs much deeper. It’s based around a two-way conversation of listening, sharing, facilitating and helping to curate the desired cultural change or movement your customer cares about. Taking this conversation online puts your brand in a place of earning the kind of respect and credibility that you cannot get with a traditional promotional partnership.
Increase the odds of new customer purchase consideration.
In traditional marketing, there was awareness, familiarization, consideration, which led to ultimately purchasing the product. This “funnel” approach was thought to create loyalty. But today consumer purchase behavior initiates with a short list first, then, through extensive online research, ends up with an expanded list of choices. Loyalty is easily abandoned in this process when competing brands are welcomed by the consumer and rewarded for getting them the right information at the right time.
By developing new ways to get people information about your brand on third-party Internet sites and talk about your brand on social marketing sites, an advantage can be gained as your competitors lose visibility in the mix. Attracting consumers to your brand with initial ads is no longer enough. Instead, offer them all the information they need during the research phase and win new conquests based on this new behavior.
Cultivate your brand’s consumer influencers
Every company pursues established influencers — movers and shakers within the industry you preside — to tout your products and services to less informed potential customers. The idea was always to cozy up to those with established audiences in the hopes that they would speak well of your products when asked. Although these experts are still an important part of the mix, cultivating your own customers as influencers can cost less and have more satisfying results.
Thanks to online blogs, forums, social circles and countless other forms of personal expression, your customers have created a name for themselves within a smaller, but sometimes more influential group of potential buyers. Finding them and cultivating their influence is your job. Give them access to future product launches and other “insider” perks which provide them with “social currency” to share with others. Give them the tools they need to be successful in spreading the word about your brand.
Evaluate your brand’s overall effectiveness in the marketing mix
The old way was to spend 80% of the budget on traditional advertising and 20% Internet marketing. Those percentages have largely swapped places in today’s new consumer-driven economy. The challenge is to find the point in a consumer’s online research behavior that addresses your company’s competitive advantage. There are innovative marketing research tools available today to help identify the best messaging for your particular customer, making it easy for people to use your product or service. But most importantly, align all your customer-facing activity to your brand marketing goals and measure the results.
In a recent study, 73% of CEOs and decision makers revealed that they believe their company’s CMOs lacked the credibility to generate sufficient business growth. Brand equity is a term no company president wants to hear these days. The old way of spending to saturate a market by interrupting and irritating consumers is gone. The truth is that the outcome of these old practices only accomplishes two things: Wasting money and alienating consumers.
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