Why do we buy things? Not so long ago, the answer was simple. We either bought things out of necessity or out of desire and the proportion of our purchases falling into the second category was directly proportional to our disposable income. Then came marketing. Marketing convinced us that luxuries were in fact necessities and created a desire within us for things we did not need and shortly after having bought them, things we often never used.
In the 21st century, our determination to buy things is additionally fueled by rampant consumerism and a heady mix of the following:
- Accelerating technological innovation
- Technological convergence
- Shortened product lifecycles
- Rapid obsolescence
- Peer pressure
- Need to be different or to conform
- Access to information
I have tried hard to shield my children from these effects and they certainly are not over-indulged but consider my 12 year-old daughter. 3 years ago she was desperate for an iPod Nano. Everyone else had one, the new models (released less than a year after the last) had video capability, a built-in camera, they came in a range of cool colors. It cost roughly the equivalent of my entire Christmas list when I was her age but a year later, it just didn’t cut it. Because it was not a phone and her friends had all moved on from iPods – they all had phones. By the time we got around to buying her one (in spite of my wife’s protests) we now faced a dilemma. Buy a now-obsolete iPhone 4 and risk her being ridiculed by her school-friends or spend another $100 on an iPhone 4S…which looked identical but which listened and talked back. Of course, as loving parents, we had no choice but to buy the new model but this week I have sensed that change is once more on the way…
I should point out that though they had phones, none of my daughter’s friends ever actually made phone calls. Oh no! Phones are for messaging when you’re 12. And now apparently, it’s cool to use Blackberry Messenger amongst soon-to-be-teenagers. Sure Blackberry’s are outdated, in no way cool, they have very few apps and their manufacturer may soon be consigned to the history books if sales volumes are anything to go by.
But they are less common than iPhone’s and therefore they make their owner stand out as an individual. Because my daughter does not have one, she is excluded from the ‘club’ that IM’s using BBM…an outsider. Can I really do that to my own daughter?! Scary isn’t it?
So what has the story of my daughter and her Blackberry-envy got to do with B2B marketing, collaboration and communication you ask? Well the factors affecting her buying decisions (or my own more accurately) are, apart from being downright scary, indicative of a subversive shift in marketing tactics and the influencing of behavior. You see, my daughter’s generation is influenced far more by their interaction with other people and companies on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube than by press, radio or TV commercials. They’re too smart for that. My younger daughter is 10 and when asked about commercials she told me, “they just tell you to buy their stuff, but they would wouldn’t they?”. Smart kid!
This is changing the world of marketing forever. Here are a few facts:
- Print media is in decline
- Market cap of “new media” players Google and Apple each greater than top 5 “old media” combined
- Radio and TV advertising spend is declining rapidly
- People are or will spend more time on the internet than reading or watching traditional media
- Social media advertising revenues are growing rapidly
There’s been a drift toward online marketing for the last 10 years of course – nothing new. Only the nature of that online marketing is changing rapidly. Online page advertising is no longer working (if indeed it ever did).
B2C marketing follows the audience. In just a few short years, engagement in social networks and using social media apps has risen to be the number one online activity. No prizes then for guessing where advertising spend is growing most rapidly. What’s also changed is the platform or device upon which the engagement is taking place. There are already more smartphones on the planet than PC’s.
By 2015, Gartner predicts that there will be 5 times as many. Mobile internet access is set to exceed fixed internet access this year and it’s set to grow rapidly. The rapid expansion in 4G connectivity will facilitate and speed this growth.
And with 4G comes more time spent watching media on mobile devices so yet more advertising spend will drift toward online and mobile.
Of course another great strength of social marketing is that it often comes with the endorsement of our friends and colleagues. The phenomenon of Liking and Sharing products and the companies that manufacture them not to mention the viral YouTube video campaign have changed the way marketing comes to us. A referral is so much more powerful than an unsolicited advertisement or mailshot and far more likely to be consumed by the recipient.
So it works. But does it work in a B2B context. This all hinges upon whether or not communication preferences and behaviors are changing in people’s private lives in isolation or whether they’re changing across the board. Clearly, it’s the latter and employers are accelerating the transformation by introducing enterprise social communication and collaboration tools either as extensions of CRM or stand alone. Many employers actively encourage staff to participate in their business social networks and to help promote their products and services.
While email remains the number one communication tool in business and volumes continue to grow, response rates are declining. There’s a whole new generation of employees joining the workplace from university who have never used email to communicate and simply don’t get it. Their expectations of communication are fundamentally different to earlier generations:
- Instant messaging = instant communication = instant response
- Activity streams provide a steady stream of updates from people and about topics you have an interest in
- One-to-many and many-to-many communications displaces one-to-one
- Collaborative conversations displace traditional communication
- Communities displace managed relationships
Once upon a time, the only way to communicate was through face to face meeting. Then came written communication, then printing brought mass media, then the telegraph and the telephone. Cinema, radio and television then eMail arrived in the 90′s followed by SMS, the internet, BBS’s, video conferencing, websites and portals and now social communication and collaboration facilitated by the internet has entered into the mix. With only one exception, none of these mediums has disappeared from daily use but more so now than ever before, we live in a world of multi-channel communication.
Effective marketers need to exploit each and every channel to be effective and reach their audiences wherever they may be and whichever technology and platform they choose to use for communication. They must be mindful that their audiences will select the voices and topics that they themselves want to hear from and quite literally won’t choose to follow those they don’t. And since the mobile device will play such a crucial role in communication and the use of smartphones and tablets will accelerate leaving fixed devices far behind, marketing has to be tailored to the device at which it will be targeted like never before.
They must also be mindful that an increasing amount of time is spent using mobile apps as opposed to mobile browsers. While much of this can be explained by the rise of the mobile device as a game console, many leading companies are deploying free mobile apps as means of getting their messages directly to their audiences exploiting inherent features like location awareness, instant updates and notifications.
So my Christmas message goes out to all of the B2B marketers out there:
- The behaviors and expectations of your audience are changing
- Social marketing is not just for B2C
- Collaboration is the new relationship management
- Multi-channel communication is essential, you audience demands it
- Your audience is three times more likely to receive your messages on a mobile device already
- Harness the power of the platform and consider using a mobile app
Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a happy and prosperous 2013!