Consider this challenging juxtaposition: A digital marketing expert, who largely works with big corporations and government agencies, has the challenge to speak to a group of individuals who mostly work as home builders’ show home representatives. The speaker and audience see the world from two truly different perspectives, but both appreciate the mantra and the topic: “Best practices for customer service excellence.”
Andrew Milne, president and CEO of bv02, “a digital creative agency,” explained to the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association sales and marketing committee how big data coupled with mobile computing has challenged the traditional relationships and roles in marketing. Now consumers (and in this context, I would argue, business-to-business purchasing decision-makers) arrive at the model show home armed with far more information than they would have had previously. Their perceptions of the builder, its brand and the product have been shaped and defined even before they speak with the sales representative, and this can be good, or bad.
In some cases, Milne says, the sales rep has it easy — because of positive influences and data, the potential client will simply be ready to place the order. This results from the word-of-mouth in overdrive through social media, forums, and other sources. Here, the few carry the weight of the many.
“One percent are heavy contributors, they write something and mean it,” he said. “Nine per cent recirculate — they are intermittent contributors — we need these people.” The remaining 90 per cent “lurk” but base their impressions on what they see ahead of time.
Milne described how the data linked to mobile in-home and “computer of things” network devices, will become increases, will become increasingly powerful — where the computerized tools will allow marketers to “see”what you want and need and make recommendations and suggestions tailored to your needs, ahead of time.
As I listened to his speech, I thought on two levels: OMG, how can anyone at field level actually do anything about this stuff? I mean, if you really are that new home site rep, you can only, it seems, go with the flow, listening to the consumer, seeing if there is the online homework, and then in a courteous and respectful manner, answer questions, give physical demonstrations and allow the possibly auto-generated new home site “smell machine” to generate the right odours (which as yet, cannot generally be distributed online.)
Then I thought about the other key observation; the care and feeding of “heavy contributors” and smiled, because here big Google seems to have got it right. Four years ago, humans within the monolith decided that I qualified as one of about a dozen “Top Contributors” on the English-language AdSense help forum. Since then, we’ve been receiving expense-paid invitations to meet-ups and summits, where Google pays our airline costs, hotels, food and other expenses.
Why this generosity? Well, does it make sense to spend resources and capacity on influencing the influencers? Of course, I have a bias here, with the A-list status (especially ironic since it arose from a near trip to AdSense purgatory), but it seems logical that you should both listen and respond to the people who can say “yes” and encourage others to think well of your product/service, more in many cases than the direct clients. (The experiences here have caused me to decide that indeed Google would be a worthy place for some of my retirement plan shares.)
The key take-aways here: Keep in touch with digital trends, listen to the flow, and if you don’t have the money to gather and manage big data (which can be overwhelming), learn how to hear the signals around you — and consider a multi-tiered marketing strategy with special focus/attention on the digital market leaders.
Then, when new home purchasers show up in your show homes, or someone sends you an email inquiring about your product/service, you’ll be more prepared to respond (and you more likely will receive that initial inquiry in the first place.)