The connected buyer in the social networking age: welcome to the ‘pull’ customer

Connectedcustomer When looking back at this week’s earlier post regarding the shift from selling to buying, I remembered an article I wrote a while ago about what I then called ‘the pull customer’. 

The marketing and communication reality has changed dramatically since the arrival of new digital media. Whether we call it Web 2.0, social media or any other buzzword, we tend to summarize these changes as the end of mass communication as we knew it, an explosion of new communication channels, the fragmentation of media, the participation of people in the marketing and communication process, customer-centricity, more focus on value and relevance and so on.

One of the changes, that is going on since many years now, is the fact that communication and marketing have increasingly become a ‘pull’ instead of a ‘push’ process. Remember those words? Push versus pull marketing?

Instead of businesses pushing marketing messages and information, people ‘pull’ information, they stumble upon it, search it, they discover it, and it discovers them. This evolution can be seen everywhere: in the online behavior of the customer, in the ‘pull’ tools he uses (think for instance RSS feeds in comparison to email newsletters) but also in the sales process.

We like to think that marketing and communication finally have become bidirectional, with a fancy word ‘conversations’. In sales, conversations have always existed. After all, a sales call, is a conversation. It would be quite useless otherwise, wouldn’t it?

But the sales process becomes less and less a face-to-face conversation in this digital day and age. In fact, the customer can do many of the things, he used to “need” a sales person for, himself. 

In practically all stages of the sales cycle the customer can get information about products, companies and so on where and when he wants. And it’s not on your corporate web site alone. It’s social networks, peer reviews, you name it, and you can’t control it (which doesn’t mean you can’t steer and manage it).

Facilitating buying processes: the right messages and content at the right time

The impact of this phenomenon on the sales process is huge. As a matter of fact maybe one day we might even need to stop talking about sales. Because selling has become more a matter of being ready for the customer that wants to buy from you.

Does this mean sales people have become useless? Of course not. But it means that companies have to rethink their sales strategies. It means that it’s time to narrow the gap between marketing and sales. Maybe one day we will even stop talking about marketing and call everything we do simply ‘business’.

The focus should be on facilitating buying processes and following the customer in every stage of the buying cycle.

Sales are and remain very important but the rules have changed, as have the conversations we are having with our customers.

With the right attitude, the right focus, the right strategy, the right processes and the right tools sales, in fact have more conversations and selling opportunities than before.

Or should we say opportunities to lead customers and prospects through the buying process and sending them the right messages at the right time and being ready when they are in that crucial decision stage? With the help of content…

Are you ready for the ‘pull customer’?

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