The traditional marketing-sales model, based on the vendor controlling access to a product’s availability, price and features, has been fundamentally and permanently changed by the web.
Today, customers can research a product, its features, price, availability, and even make comparisons against similar products based on third-party reviews and customer feedback using the web. They can do all this before they ever speak with a prospective vendor. So while all sales power once resided with the vendor, it now resides with the buyer. Welcome to the brave new world of web marketing.
The New Paradigm
Image via Flickr by BTO – Buy Tourism Online
The web has caused fundamental changes in marketing, accelerated expectations and compressed time frames needed to satisfy customers. One study found that 25% of customers who complain about a product on Facebook expect a company response within one hour. Web companies have also found a direct link between social media outlets (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter) and web site visits and lead generation. These same social media sites are also turning out to be new customer portals. This may also explain why social media lead generation conversions are 13% higher than the average lead conversion rate.
Power to the People
Image via Flickr by Medialab Prado
One of the more difficult new realities brought about by the new web paradigm is that information control no longer resides with the vendor. The rise of chat rooms, followed by other opinion discussion boards now means customers and any other interested party can now post company and product reviews without any pre-approval from anyone. This has put an added strain on the traditional public relations function, as well as other reputation management operations based on customer and product satisfaction.
Managing a Company’s Reputation
This fundamental shift in power between marketers and customers also means companies should be alert to organized and random efforts to intentionally defame an organization, according Reputation.com founder Michael Fertik an expert in reputation management. The field of reputation management focuses on issues of privacy, reputation, identity theft, defamation, and public relations, which have all changed as a result of the huge amounts of data that are now easily accessible. These issues are especially important now as the web moves towards greater social media access and interactivity. This also has a huge monetary impact because reputations affect brands, and brands which are damaged can take years to recover at a cost of millions of dollars.
The Rise of Customized Messages
But all the news about web marketing is not bleak. The web has made it possible for small business to literally reach a global market. Product benefits, price and reputation can trump market capitalization, so it is easier for upstarts to compete against established brands. This is possible as marketers adapt to the web’s new levels of expectations. Among these are fast response times and customer accountability. Marketers now have to provide all types of customer contact media (tablets, web, e-mails, and smart phones) and be able to give the needed materials and responses in a variety of formats.