Posted: November 2nd, 2010 By: Jason Breed
You think marketer’s lives are rough, try being the customer. So much is being thrown at the customer these days, its hard to keep up.
B2B Customers: You used to have a few vendors that competed for your dollars, the agencies were simply creatives and technology vendors simply did technology. Without all the improvements in technology, manufacturing had many barriers to entry which reduced your choices. You never heard about how vendors were treating your employees (good or bad) and you never cared how they were performing with other peers in related industries. Marketing was marketing and technology was, well, technology and never did the two meet. Decisions were made independently without concern to the ecosystems that are in place today.
B2C Customers: You were able to make purchase decisions simply based on how the product tasted, handled, or felt. You did not worry about their greenhouse effects, the videos their employees were making behind the scenes or how much the same product cost at other stores within a 7 block radius. Your friends may have mentioned cool products but you did not have to worry about your friends seeing every purchase you make (remember that Dixie Chicks album you really want) nor did you have to remember if you had ”like’d” the Brand in one of your networks. You did not care what they were making next because if you did not want it, you would simply just not purchase it. Forget writing letters to your friends to warn them that the “new & improved” product really wasn’t.
Fast forward to today. Customers are more equipped through technology and network science to make purchase decisions than every before. Interestingly enough though, the buying cycle is getting longer, not shorter. Customer’s purchase paths have changed. No longer do they call you to see if something is in stock or what your hours of operation are. No longer do you get a chance to speak to prospects, they simply search online, visit the first few sites that come up, comparison shop through online and physical stores, review product ratings and comments. If prospects can’t relate to the things they find in that process, those potential customer simply go away without you ever knowing they were actual prospects.
While purchase patterns have changed, so have expectations. The expectation is that I, as a customer, can ask a question online to a company and get a response back either from other customer zealots or from the company itself. The other expectations are that you are being a good corporate citizen (because I’ll find out if you are not) and that my vote counts. I want to influence the direction of the next product, not as a shareholder, but as a product user and Lord help if my product breaks down before I think is reasonbly expected.
We know that customers are changing for both B2B and B2C and yes, even for B2B2C. The challenge is that customers have not yet fully transitioned from customer-of-old to customer-of-new so they are still in motion. They don’t know what they want in a Brand yet however the expectation is still there. So how do you handle this?