Back before the internet, flashy magazines and mail-order, there were Salespeople. And they were great.
If you needed a product or service, you’d nip down to the shops and the person behind the counter would tell you everything you needed to know about what to buy and how it would help you. The pitch was tailored, the customer built a connection with the brand and the product was sold.
When the internet came, it was a game changer. Businesses that could previously only sell to people within their local area suddenly had access to a global marketplace.
Advertising became cheaper because it didn’t involve half-page ads or postage stamps, and people could communicate faster. But human connections were lost. Where a business might have previously sold flowers to a mother-of-the-bride or a mourning widower very differently, corporate websites could showcase only a single voice.
Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen tells a brilliant story about a marketing project he worked on to increase university student recruitment. At first, he focused on the usuals: The university’s history of academic excellence, world-class teachers, case studies of successful Alumni.
But this didn’t resonate with students. Market share didn’t increase and enquiries didn’t come flooding in. He surveyed his staff and he interviewed parents who had helped their children make university choices. But in every instance, reputation and past performance were key motivators. He pondered for days what he might be missing.
Then he interviewed students. What he found, was that where the academic elements were of monumental importance to parents, students had entirely different requirements.
They were looking for a college experience. Funky dorm rooms, on-campus facilities, extra-curricular activities, team sport. Things that would make their college days memorable. The academic stuff was important, but these additional aspects helped students build an emotional connection with the university and contributed significantly to their ultimate choice.
As Digital Marketers, we have more opportunities than ever to understand our customers, to dig deeper and to provide customised, contextualised web, marketing and frontline sales experiences that truly connect. To advertise to the uni student and her parent. So that all bases are covered and we provide personalised experiences. Even with the pervasiveness of the world wide web.