Customers come and go, but enemies accumulate.
That was one of many digital marketing truisms from a digital marketing summit I participated in during February of 2022. The event was planned for San Francisco, but held virtually over Zoom due to the pandemic.
What does it mean enemies accumulate? Many companies are doing a poor job during the pandemic managing customer expectations. For instance, airlines are changing and cancelling flights, and when customers call to discuss they are told the wait time to talk to customer service can take hours. Others bombard customers with emails they “subscribed to” when that is an outright lie. Instead of winning loyalty, they are creating enemies in the marketplace.
Here are several other digital marketing truisms for 2022 from the summit:
Customers now have the power. “What’s happened here, and I am borrowing a quote that is attributed to Crossing the Chasm author Geoffrey Moore, is in the last 18 months, ‘The power has shifted to the customer and it’s not coming back,’” says Silicon Valley marketing consultant Mike Smart of Egress Solutions. “I think that affects all of us, whether you’re providing digital content or you’re doing what we do, which is enabling technology companies to make better products and move them into the marketplace better.”
Smart thinks the pandemic only accelerated this trend and the seeds were already in place.
“So, what we’re watching is a time warp,” says Smart. “This might have taken 10 years, previous to 2020, but now it’s going to happen in three years.”
Forget about the post pandemic solving everything. “Someone asked me what happens when we get to post pandemic?” said Silicon Valley marketing consultant Linda Popky of Leverage2Market. She is the author of the book Marketing Above the Noise.
“I don’t know that there is a post pandemic,” says Popky. “I think we are in the new world and the old normal is gone. I think what we’re going to see is an evolution of how things are done and those organizations and individuals that can evolve and take advantage of where we are today are going to rise to the top and everybody else is going to be left by the side.”
But is this evolution or revolution?
The revolution is going to be televised on Zoom. “Before we saw a lot of campaigns that were driven by integration between online and offline,” said Sweta Patel, founder of Startup Growth Mode. “But now we’re on Zoom instead of having an offline event; everything is just online. We don’t need a Twitter wall, we can’t post Instagram stories, we can’t interact with people like we can offline. People are going to have to figure out a way that they can still bring that sort of event vibe in with online events and be able to share that with other people.”
Patel says she sees people sharing Zoom screenshots, but they’re just not festive enough to catch attention or to create that discovery. She thinks digital marketers need to bring more creativity to this pandemic and post-pandemic world.
Ditch the transactional relationship with your customer base. “Some companies are still resisting, which I think is really interesting, because we’re in year three of the pandemic,” said summit organizer Lisa Apolinski of 3 Dog Write, a full-service digital marketing agency (we met when she asked me to help edit a book).
“We can no longer go back before the pandemic,” says Apolinski, the author of multiple books on digital marketing. “Back then marketers were happy and would say, ‘I’ll give you something and you give me money back.’ It was very easy to have this transactional relationship.”
Today, not so much.
There’s an increased interest in the customer experience. “There is also an increased opportunity to share data across that full customer experience,” says Ellen Grace Henson, founder of Marketing Mechanics. “Whether it’s software or hardware, companies are better able to gather information about their customer’s use of the products, what the customer values in the product and the experience and share that across the value chain so that they can integrate and deliver a more consistent and effective and high value customer experience.”
Beware, the customers might start revolting.
“I recently had an incident where the line connecting my house to the Internet just got ripped off my house,” said Henson. “While I’m waiting on the phone with AT&T, they’re playing their commercials about how it’d be much easier to reach them via the Internet. I just wanted to smash my phone. Human beings have emotional experiences.”
Lingering question: How can those in digital marketing understand what emotions our audiences might be bringing into an interaction with us and how can we help move them to a better, more productive, emotional space? If they don’t, a day of reckoning may be coming faster than you think.