The Wild West days of search are over

The Wild West days of the Web are coming to an end as people settle down and select their favorite websites as the starting points for an increasing number of their tasks.

In 2014, when Raymond James asked people where they typically start when looking to buy products online, 55% said a search engine, 38% said Amazon. In 2016, 26% said a search engine and 52% said Amazon.

As people mature in their use of the Web, this sort of trend will accelerate. People will find their favorite places and stick with them. Again, this is just one more example of the inherent rewards in building up a loyal customer base. Those chasing leads and new customers will have an increasingly difficult time.

Areas such as search engine optimization will become less and less effective. Traditional banner-driven advertising will approach a vanishing point of effectiveness as adblockers proliferate and attention evaporates.

The old models and practices simply don’t work as well as they used to. Organizations whose business model involves capturing lots of new customers will struggle and fail. Organizations that focus on delivering an excellent customer experience for the customers they already have, will thrive.

As the traditional channels of attention either get closed off or clogged up, the only channel that will remain vibrant is the current customer channel. In essence, social media is the current customer channel. By and large, it is a place where real people tell real stories of their experiences with brands and organizations. Certainly, there are attempts to game social media with fake reviews and fake customers, but it will remain a resilient channel through which quality brands can support their current customers.

The current customer is the new marketer and advertiser. Marketers need to provide the reasons why current customers want to market and advertise the brand. Essentially, that means ensuring that customers are getting a great customer experience.

There is no more important place to deliver customer experience than in support. When the customer has a problem is when they truly discover the real customer experience. Support is the new sales and marketing. That means that the marketing and support departments need to work very closely together.

Support in many organizations has been underfunded, downsized and outsourced. That is because most organizations see support as a cost to be managed rather than an asset to be maximized. It is like having a bucket with a big hole in it. Instead of addressing why the organization is leaking customers, it decides to get a marketing and sales hose to pour more water into the bucket.

That model is well and truly broken, and yet in organization after organization I meet it’s standard practice. It’s like some rigidified custom, some archaic behavior, some unhealthy habit that marketers can’t break. Marketers need to break their obsessive habit of focusing on leads, or else their future will be bleak as they are broken and made redundant by the new customer-centric model.


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