Interactive marketing has shifted, it’s no longer restricted to two domains… Duh, right? I say that with a slight smirk… Simply because I still find the need to say it…
Many marketers are still under the impression that interactive market-share battles are only fought within Google search results and on the corporate website. In reality, marketing spread its reach to other areas (where brand conversations actually occur) years ago: social networks, bookmarking and rating sites and blogs, just to name the obvious. And all of this happened right under the noses of Maxie Marketer and Polly PR while they longingly gazed at “The Good Ol’ Days” disappearing into the distance.
So, here’s the obvious:
Buying decisions are made BEFORE even considering the corporate website.
At lunch this afternoon, a college student, we’ll call her “Jenny Y,” told me that she and her peers make buying decisions based on peer-to-peer input like instant messaging, Facebook, (and other social networks) and rarely type in the brand URL or search for the corporate website. If this holds true, then we can only assume that prospects make decisions via OTHER interactive sites BEFORE they come to the corporate website.
Sure, legally, corporations need to disclose product details and pricing, this alone is a strong case for the use of the static corporate website. However in my conversation with “Jenny Y,” she continued to tell me that she only used corporate websites to get core features, stats and pricing… and this was AFTER she made a decision based upon her peer feedback. All I could think was,
“What do interactive marketers need to do to regain the attention of Jenny and her peers?”
And now, the vision:
Your future – How to stay relevant…
Successful (profitable) websites are created by the brand community.
For most straight-laced corporate communication departments, this is disturbing and disruptive, but the most successful websites will have their customers (brand advocates) building and adding relevant content right alongside the employees. The most effective websites will contain a balanced point of view of both the product team and customers –even if they have qualms with the product.
Your interactive brand presence needs to change from “Company-centric” to “Customer-centric.”
You’re no longer going to be the sole publisher of content to your webqsite. Customers, prospects, and other members of the community will have direct access to your website. Sure, there will be “controls” to make sure the content is factual or reviewed, but it MUST be obvious to everyone that the only voice is not the marketing one.
This means that you’ll put your customers first. No, really, I mean it. This means providing analysis of not just yourself and your brand but competitors as well, making comparisons, linking to them or their products… Sound crazy? Well, it’s not. Building an interactive community around your brand depends on the ability for your brand advocates to see you as the authority in your field (compared easily to all others).
With a “Customer-centric” brand, your content will be negative and positive…
This one is hard to swallow for most (let alone Maxie Marketer or Polly PR) , but how do you build the most trust? By being open, authentic, and transparent to your marketplace. We know from research that the highest degree of trust comes from those “like me.” The savvy marketer will allow content to appear from everyone – from employees to peers, to customers and their extended “internet” brood. And this content will not always be rave reviews, in fact they may be downright critical. The goal? To take that feedback, and demonstrate in public how your brand can stand strong in view of the entire world. If it doesn’t, you’ll know…
Customers will make your site the first place to go for information, trust will increase, you may be able to build better products and services through customer feedback. The constant input and growth of content within your site, about your brand and your marketplace will also help to organically improve your search rank on all fronts. And most importantly, you’ll be a community resource that will help you meet your customer needs faster.
Interactive marketing has shifted. If your brand isn’t prepared to shift along with it, then you’re looking at a pretty shocking future.
Keep Cooking (or go hungry)
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef