People shop and buy in a whole new way than they did just a few years ago. The days of old school marketing techniques like direct sales, tv, radio, and print are getting pushed aside for more technological methods. We all see it because we’ve moved in a new direction of searching, researching and buying. According to Pew Internet, 78% of internet users conduct research online and a whopping 80% of all browsing begins with an online search. So let’s translate that to the real world. If those numbers are to be taken seriously, can we then conclude that users are finding more value with online searches than watching tv or radio ads, going to trade shows, or listening to sales reps? I’m sure there’s an argument to be made that it is not a choice of one or the other, but we can deduce with a certain amount of certainty that users are finding increasing value with their online experiences.
What then is attributing to this increase in value? This is what I believe is the major shift in attitudes. When the internet began and websites first came online, they were more brochure-like, a one-way monologue with their users. With the advent of social media like twitter, facebook, and youtube, this has turned into a dialog as it’s given users a voice to not just one or two people, but with thousands. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial have successfully monetized on this ‘dialog transformation’. With the advent of blogs, companies are no longer just an online brochure in the business of telling and selling. They are now in the business of building relationships. A blog has profound implications that benefit a business:
- Helps build trust, credibility, and good will.
- The more you give, the more you can expect to get.
- The increased amount of blog pages directly increases the amount of inbound links.
The Cost Benefit
Hubspot touted some interesting figures after performing a survey on costs-per-lead on organizations that focus on inbound leads (seo, blogging, twitter, facebook, etc) vs organizations that focus on outbound leads (direct mail, telemarketing, trade shows). The survey showed that the cost per lead for inbound leads was 60% less than outbound leads. This number was further rationalized by secondary data on the methods of inbound leads:
- Companies that blog get 55% more website visitors.
- 57% of businesses have acquired customers through their company blog.
- 42% of companies have acquired a customer through Twitter.
- 2/3 of marketers say their company blog is “critical” or “important” to their business
- The number of marketers who report that Facebook is “critical” or “important” to their business is 83%.
- 67% of B2C companies and 41% of B2B companies have acquired customers through FaceBook.
- 79% of Twitter followers are more likely to recommend the brands they follow.
So, in short, we can see the power of community-based marketing in terms of cost-savings and growth. It does not make sense to send an advertising message to the many in hopes of persuading the few.
Adapt or Perish
The online world is changing rapidly. This has a direct implication to your business model. Start thinking about your business as a community-driven entity. Communicate and learn what your customers want. We all know that it’s easier said than done sometimes, but we also know that it is critical. If you’re not doing this now, you need to change. You may not like change, but you’ll like irrelevancy even less.