I recently bought a car. A Gunshot Grey Volkswagen Golf TDI. As I discussed the sale with my dealer, Arthur, I asked him how his business had changed over recent years. Arthur said that only 5 years ago, he would have spent money advertising his stock in car magazines and journals and would have placed details in the classified ads in the daily newspapers. Now, however, fewer and fewer customers pick up magazines and journals let alone newspapers. Rather, they are turning to the internet.
Arthur, after 35 years in the trade, knows little or nothing about content marketing, but had to adapt to how his customers wanted to buy. I am sure he would have agreed with Peter Johnson in his article “Is it time to move on from Marketing Automation?” in which he describes the four ways customers have changed in how they buy:
1. Buyers no longer look to vendors to provide them with information. Advertising, push messages and interruption sales methods such as telephoning have lost their impact.
2. Sales calls and visits are no longer at the beginning of the buying process. Instead, buyers use readily available internet sources and social media to discuss ideas with other similar companies, independent sources and a variety of vendors and advisors. They share information internally and make most of the buying decision themselves from online research before calling in vendors or permitting sales calls.
3. Social media transformed the way buyers use the internet. Buyers seek to engage with vendors interactively, clarifying, sharing ideas and asking questions rather than simply being an audience for sales and marketing messages.
4. Vendors are no longer in control of timing or process. People look at vendor information after putting the kids to bed, over breakfast or on the train. If information is poor or difficult to access (for example, insisting they fill out a form), another vendor is just a click away. Marketing must thus be ‘always on’, rather than working in campaigns.
Although he doesn’t know it – Arthur is engaging in content-driven prospecting and his business will continue to change as our buying behavior does.