Are potential customers giving you the cold shoulder?

Being salesy with the scouts

The other day I conducted a content marketing experiment, right here on the streets of Ipswich. I wanted to see how many people were put off by a salesy sales approach.

The Setting: My seven year old son and I were at Bunnings Hardware Store helping the Scouts raise funds for their den.

The A/B Test: As people walked by, my simple, friendly “Hello! Would you like a sausage on bread?” saw paces quicken, eyes avert and heads shaking “no, thankyou!” However, when I said “Hello, what are you building today?” with no implied call to action, even if potential customers walked by, they at least engaged with the question a little bit and they often came back for a sausage on bread and a chat.

What did I do differently? I made it all about them. Simple!

If you are still part of the traditional boys club that is message focused and views marketing as the ultimate human manipulation tool, listen up, because your potential customers are increasingly giving you the cold shoulder and quickening their pace as they pass you by, and you’re probably not even realising it.

In marketing, we used to talk about marketing messages and getting our messages “out there.” Not now though. Everything in marketing has changed. Consumers no longer follow a linear trajectory in the buying cycle and the first step in the decision-making process is no longer making the choice between rival products. Consumers are highly attuned to marketing-speak and salesy sales people and they are turned off big time when businesses still use this approach.

So, what is happening?

A report by Google highlights a significant change in the way people buy products and services. I came across this report through this blog post (hat tip to Pixels & Clicks) and felt inspired to share my own take on this.

Basically, the report shows:

  • Consumers are doing more research than ever before and they are often introduced to a new product or service via their friends and contacts on social media. And they’re not just researching big ticket items like houses and cars. They are researching everything, from kids clothing to where to go out for dinner on the weekend.
  • Marketers can no longer send a message and hope it gets through. Potential customers want to find product information on their own terms. And when they ask a question, they expect a prompt reply. Marketers need to be prepared to be a part of the conversation. Marketing and customer service are more enmeshed than ever before.
  • Social media is amplifying word of mouth like never before. Instead of having to recall a product recommendation that came up over coffee with friends, we’re now doing a search on Facebook and google for the conversation thread. Every conversation is able to be archived and retrieved.
  • Consumers are researching, even as they’re standing at the shelf, ready to make a choice. Thanks to smart phones, customers can now compare prices and find product reviews on the spot, in the shop. It certainly saves a lot of legwork! That means marketers need to be able to demonstrate their value to potential customers like never before.

If you’d like to download the report, it’s available here.

For marketers, these trends show that content marketing is more important than ever before. If you want to market your products and services, you need to be a part of the customer conversation, stop making it all about you and focus outwardly. Otherwise your potential customers will give you the cold shoulder and your brand will miss out on business.

Over to you: So, what are you doing to join the conversation?

  • @KrishnaEverson

    Fantastic post Cas. I can honestly say that 100% of my clients come via a mix of networking/social media/referral. I know that my clients have checked me out thoroughly before getting in touch, and coming with a recommendation means they are prequalified! The wonderful thing about this mix is that it means that the conversion rates are high. For those of us in business who have low conversions, I think they need to print of this post and display it on the wall in the office as a reminder of what’s importing in this new economy. Brilliant stuff! Tweeted and google+d

    • Cas McCullough

      Thanks Krishna! It’s so great to have your feedback.

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