Why customer conversations and bloggers are trumping marketing copy and journalism


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The classic PR model assumed that there were well-read and well-respected journalists with a loyal audience. When traditional PR was at its peak, journalists were one of the main links to potential customers. Now potential customers can talk directly to each other. And that has changed the game forever.

It's not just that the communication channel has opened. It's that journalists never really did think like buyers.
Their mindset had - and has - little or nothing to do with helping a buyer make the right decision. They were more focused on "news" and wrote articles to please their editors (or each other).

Sure, there have always been some exceptions - people who reviewed products in magazines, for example. But even these reporters didn't necessarily ask the same questions and have the same concerns that a buyer would have. And of course, no self-respecting journalist would "rave" about a product or service; that would be beneath him or her. It was part of the journalists' code to always find the downside.

A buyer who was hoping to make a regret-free purchase, and who was looking for the best possible solution for his specific situation, often did not find his answers in published reviews.

Now that customers can easily speak to each other, they can get answers to the questions they are asking while attempting to buy something. They can find others who feel the same way about the desirability of certain product functions. In my upcoming book, I talk about the Critical Characteristic - the one function or feature that a product has to have in order for the buyer to even think about buying it.

Real customers know better than anyone what the Critical Characteristic is. A buyer trying to find out if a product has that Critical Characteristic is more likely to find it in reviews written by other customers with similar wishes and requirements. by real customers raving in social media channels, or by bloggers who actually use the product or service - and purchased it as any buyer would.

Customers and bloggers who have had a great experience don't mind raving - it doesn't hurt them to do so. They don't need to find the downside, although all of them will certainly mention it, if there was one for them.

If customers and bloggers do mention a downside in a review or blog post, they buyer may still buy it. One man's downside can easily be another man's shoulder-shrugger.

The beauty of the customer-to-customer conversations is that there isn't any filter in between - there is no agenda that would keep the customer reviewer from telling the truth.

All marketing copy has an agenda.
Everyone knows that marketers are supposed to write copy in a way that is all-positive. It's almost meaningless to today's buyer now. If marketers would 1) interview their customers and 2) stick to the facts (nouns and verbs - no adjectives), their copy would be far more helpful and relevant to the buyer who is hoping that the product will meet his need. 

Yes, traditional PR must still be part of your marketing mix, and there are still journalists worth wooing - Walt Mossberg from The Wall Street Journal comes to mind. But PR ain't the powerhouse it used to be. Customer-to-customer conversations and blogger articles are more efficiently answering the questions customers ask as they ponder a purchase.

This is where you want to reach your potential buyers. Include reviews where you sell your products. Find people who tweet about your type of product, and send them direct messages so they know about you. Make sure bloggers who cover your type of product know about it. Set up a community for your customers and potential customers.

These activities are now a mandatory part of the marketing mix. 

 

Comments

Interesting angle on PR

I think you summarized the changes in the PR/Journalism industry quite well. It gave me some ideas!. Thanks.

KP

Just the facts....

So much of the popularity of traditional journalism depended on being a gatekeeper that passed on only limited information to readers, viewers, and listeners. In the B2B world the main reason they passed along limited information was, as you say, because reporters do not evaluate and buy the products they write about.

In the days of selling mainframe software it was almost impossible to make a sale without arranging a customer visit for the prospect -- without the salesperson in the meeting. The Internet now enables prospect-customer conversations for every "considered" product.

The best reporters at trade publications would eventually go to work for some analyst firm, decreasing the quality of journalism at trade pubs. Combine that with the bias of marcom departments in promotional materials, and you have today's dramatic rise in the use of search engines and social media to research products.

Marketing operations have soooo far to go in improving their marcom and sales teams to provide more facts -- and helping prospects make informed purchase decisions.

This is the future of marketing

"Customers and bloggers who have had a great experience don't mind raving - it doesn't hurt them to do so. They don't need to find the downside, although all of them will certainly mention it, if there was one for them."

We at www.publishedin.com believe that the winners in the future will be the ones that have the largest network of relations with online publishers, bloggers and advocates who influence the purchasing decisions of others.

We are building Publishedin to connect businesses with online publishers, and make it simple for businesses to increase quality traffic from online publishers, and publishers to earn cash rewards from their online content.

How does it work?

Publishers continue write and link to products and services as they normally do. When visitors click a link, Publishedin reports a referral to businesses. Businesses reward publishers through Publishedin Reward-Per-Click program.

Businesses get connected automatically to all publishers who have link to them. Businesses can start Reward-Per-Click program, promote their business, increase quality traffic and acquire new customers.

Good points

Very good points. I've worked in web marketing/web user experience for a newspaper and can appreciate all your points. Customers love to hear the truth from someone with their perspective (a fellow consumer). Thanks for your comments.

conversations trump copy

Enjoyed your post!

Our buyers are shopping in new ways and the trust building begins long before the beginning of sales conversations.

Market leaders understand how their buyers buy and create content that is found where buyers shop.

Market losers continue to “create a need” for their product while telling sales to “just make it happen”.

Mark Allen Roberts

I Couldn't Agree More...

Thanks for the article Kristin. I agree with your assessment and yes, those conversations are shaping B2B buying habits throughout the entire sales cycle.

Marketing management at all levels needs this knowledge drilled into them. There is still much bias towards traditional PR/Journalism. I think you summarized the changes in these industries quite well.

Thanks!

Marty A. Muse

Connecting On A Personal Level

So true Kristin.

As an example some people may not care that "Littluns" is a very different reading experience. But after reading the book, they all care about how "Littluns" has become a very personal experience that in many ways has changed their life.

Best to you always,

Mark

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