“Don’t just advertise to me, talk to me.” That’s what our logistics manager said to me after cleaning out hundreds of spam e-mails from his inbox. Around 30 years old, he occupies the upper levels of the millennial generation and his comment got me thinking about the future Marketing. What I see coming is a generation, of what I’m calling, jaded consumers. For the digital generation that doesn’t know life without a smartphone, daily life includes being bombarded with animated web banners, salesy e-mails you didn’t sign up for and ads and product placements that work their way onto your pocket or purse through your phone. This upcoming generation has learned to manage a constant influx of information from a variety of sources and are wary of unknown links or QR codes (who knows where it goes or what it’ll do to your computer!?) With so much noise, and a consumer that’s largely learned to ignore any unsolicited blinking, flashing intrusion, how will you ever stand out and get your point across?
One way is to stop yelling at broad groups, and talk directly to individuals. Much easier said than done….how do you speak to individuals, on a global scale? How do you drive millions in sales by talking to your consumers one on one? Fortunately, the internet is here to help, and even better, many of its best and most helpful assets are completely free. Take something amazingly broad, like a web search. It may seem at first that this is as mass as you can get, it encompasses the ENTIRE web. However, the minute your consumer puts a word or two into that search box, everything becomes niche. Not only are they looking for headphones, but ones that are waterproof, and will work with their iPod touch. In a matter of seconds you’ve joined a very specific conversation, which gives you an opportunity to speak directly to this person and their specific needs. So don’t expect paid search advertising to go away any time soon. It can be amazingly effective, yet time consuming to set-up and manage. Spending resources on a good e-commerce manager can be an investment that pays for itself in no time.
So that takes care of the people who are looking for you…but how to you reach the people who aren’t? How do you find those customers who you have the perfect product for, but they just don’t know it exists? After all you can’t Google for something you don’t know about. And that’s where peer to peer marketing comes in, i.e your Facebook friends. Today, everyone has become a billboard. We all use products and services daily, and now we have more resources than ever to talk about them and broadcast our likes and dislikes. It’s much easier to ask a trusted friend for advice, or to post a simple status update, and have comments just show up with suggestions and solutions to your problem. Before making a purchase, consumers are talking about it with their friends, Stumbling across the web and perusing Pinterest boards, ignoring oodles of ads along the way.
So the real takeaway here, is to rise above the noise, you need to get out of it. Don’t yell louder, re-target more and become another blinking, flashing item to ignore; become a part of the conversation. Instead of being a big enigmatic brand that hides behind pretty pictures, let people in. Let them see your human side and be authentic. If you’re a reputable company, making quality products that people want, marketing should be as simple as just being the same space with your consumers. Not selling them stuff, but talking to them directly because that’s what they want, that’s what they trust and the resources are available right now to do just that. I predict that future marketing budgets will devote many more assets to maintaining good people and strategic communication, rather than costly campaigns. In the future you will need to be not just a company, but another person in someone’s network, approachable and credible. Being “liked” in the Facebook sense will be important, but not as important as being liked as an overall company. We’re entering a time when it won’t just be enough to be a company, brand or service. You’ve got to be a company, brand or service that someone wants to talk about, be a part of and add them to the space where their friends and family live. Respect that space and do an honest and authentic job of explaining to your consumer how your products or services will help them out and you’ll have no issue rising above the noise towards success.