Customers come and go, but enemies pile up.
This was one of many digital marketing truisms from a digital marketing summit I attended in February 2022. The event was scheduled in San Francisco, but was held virtually on Zoom due to the pandemic.
What does it mean enemies are piling up? Many companies are doing a poor job during the pandemic of managing customer expectations. For example, airlines change and cancel flights, and when customers call to chat, they’re told the wait time to speak to customer service can take hours. Others bombard customers with emails they “subscribed to” when it’s an outright lie. Instead of earning loyalty, they create enemies in the marketplace.
Here are several other digital marketing truisms for 2022 from the summit:
Customers now have the power. “What happened here, and I borrow a quote that is attributed to Cross the chasm author Geoffrey Moore, is over the past 18 months, ‘The power has gone to the customer and it’s not coming back,'” says Silicon Valley marketing consultant Mike Smart of Exit Solutions. “I think it affects all of us, whether you’re providing digital content or doing what we do that enables technology companies to make better products and get them to market better.”
Smart thinks the pandemic only accelerated this trend and the seeds were already in place.
“So what we’re seeing is time distortion,” says Smart. “It may have taken 10 years, before 2020, but now it’s going to happen in three years.”
Forget post-pandemic by 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 if there is a post-pandemic,” Popky says. “I think we’re in the new world and the old normal is gone. I think what we’re going to see is an evolution in how things are done and organizations and individuals that can evolve and take advantage of where we are today will reach the top and everyone will be left by the side.”
But is it an evolution or a revolution?
The revolution will be televised on Zoom. “Before, we’ve seen a lot of campaigns that were driven by integration between online and offline,” said Sweta Patel, founder of Boot 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 find a way to still bring that kind of event vibe with online events and be able to share it with other people.
Patel says she sees people sharing Zoom screenshots, but they’re just not celebratory enough to grab attention or create that discovery. She thinks digital marketers need to bring more creativity to this pandemic and post-pandemic world.
Abandon the transactional relationship with your customers. “Some companies are still holding out, which I think is really interesting because we’re in the third year of the pandemic,” said summit organizer Lisa Apolinski. 3 dog writea full-service digital marketing agency (we met when she asked me to help edit a book).
“We can’t go back to before the pandemic any longer,” says Apolinski, author of several books on digital marketing. “Back then, marketers were happy and said, ‘I give you something and you pay me back.’ It was very easy to have this transactional relationship.
Today, not so much.
There is an increased interest in customer experience. “There is also an increased opportunity to share data through this comprehensive customer experience,” says Ellen Grace Henson, founder of Marketing mechanics. “Whether it’s software or hardware, companies are better able to gather information about how their customers are using products, what customers like about the product and experience, and share across the value chain so they can integrate and deliver a more cohesive solution and an efficient, high-value customer experience.
Be careful, customers might start to revolt.
“I recently had an incident where the line connecting my house to the internet was just ripped out of my house,” Henson said. “While I’m waiting on the phone with AT&T, they’re running their ads about how much easier it would be to reach them over the Internet. I just wanted to break my phone. Human beings have emotional experiences.
Persistent question: How can digital marketers understand the emotions our audiences might bring into an interaction with us, and how can we help them move them to a better, more productive emotional space? If they don’t, judgment day may come sooner than you think.