Earned media produces 4x the impact on brand lift versus paid media (Nielsen BrandEffect Study, 2011) and as a result is changing the way companies approach marketing. In this guest post, Jay Baer, author of Youtility, provides industry perspective on the shifting dynamic of consumer purchasing decisions and the increased importance of trusted endorsements on social media.
The Internet Has Made Us All Passive-Aggressive
One of the most interesting dynamics of the huge, recent shifts in consumer behavior is that we need more information before making decisions – we hyper-research everything now. But, we use synchronous interactions with other people less and less to do that research. This truly is the era of self-serve information.
How many times have you purposefully chosen to not fill out a contact form on a website because you didn’t want to be called, or even emailed? I’ll bet more than a few times. Even if it’s a product in which you have a genuine interest, you’ll avoid filling out that form until the last possible moment, preferring instead to kick the informational tires yourself, often via a mobile device.
”Smartphone” is a misnomer. We’re not using them to make phone calls. A decade ago I easily received 20 or more calls per day. Now, it’s three or four. Instead, I have a menagerie of inboxes, with asynchronous messages streamed to me from email, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram, Klout, my blog and text messages.
Usage data proves this point. From 2009 to 2011 American females’ use of voice minutes on mobile phones decreased by 12%. During the same period their text messages sent and received increased by 35%. For men, it increased 44%.
And, if middle-aged men like me are going the passive-aggressive, self-serve route, imagine the behavior pattern of tomorrow’s dominant consumer cohorts? As chronicled on the blog of Brian Solis, new media pundit and author of What’s the Future of Business?, Sitel and TNS released research in 2012 that determined that 71% of U.K. residents between the ages of 16 and 24 will search for a solution online before contacting a company directly.
Death of the Salesmen
We used to talk to a real person as a first step. To get familiar with the company. To learn more. To create bonds. Not now. Now we talk to a real person as a last resort when we’ve procured as much info as possible online, and have a query so specific only a human being can answer it.
This is most egregiously true in a category where the transactional stakes are often the highest: business to business marketing. In 2011 the Corporate Executive Board surveyed 1,900 B2B customers to uncover insights about purchasing behavior and found that customers will contact a sales rep only after independently completing 60% of the purchasing decision process. Sixty percent of the decision is made before the prospect identifies himself. Sixty percent of the decision is made before a call, or an email, or an entry into your lead tracking database. Customers are ninjas now. They are stealthily evaluating you right under your nose.
This has manifest consequences on the role of salespeople, whose job used to be to develop and nurture relationships. No longer. The role of the salesperson is now to answer specific questions capably and quickly, and to close deals that became possible due to the self-serve research performed by the customer.
This is why salespeople (and marketers) should be using social footprint and influence data to even the informational playing field with their prospects. If the potential customers knows more than ever about the company before contacting, the company should know as much as possible about that potential customer as soon as possible, using Klout, Rapportive, Gist and/or other sources of social footprint information.
Inspired by the New York Times best selling book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype by Jay Baer.
Jay Baer is a hype-free social media and content strategist & speaker, and author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype. Jay is the founder of http://convinceandconvert.com and host of the Social Pros podcast.