Some things don’t change – and some do. Among those that stay the same from decade to decade (and, probably, century to century) are the qualities a business person needs. Tenacity. Resilience. Commitment and vision. Thomas Edison had all of those. Edison, though, did not operate in today’s environment. If he had, he’d have known what we know: that the only way to guarantee business success today is to social media.
When it comes to knowing how people make decisions, the star name to which everyone turns is Fleishman-Hillard International Communications. Along with Harris Interactive, Fleishman-Hillard produced the Digital Influence Index – an assessment of how customers make buying decisions. The countries surveyed were, USA, Canada, China, Japan, France, need Germany and the UK. Between them they represent more than half of the world’s online population and more than 60% of GDP.
What the latest Digital Influence Index tells us is that the single most important factor in deciding what to buy and who to buy it from is the Internet – and the Internet’s margin over other factors is wide and growing wider. TV advertising is in an increasingly distant second place. The study goes further than that, though. It tells us what forms of online contact our most persuasive. The data is so clear that anyone who wants to succeed in business needs to follow this advice.
What consumers want is a consistent message across almost every online channel. They want to be able to find suppliers to their website, through Facebook, on Twitter, in forums and in reviews. That “almost” is because there is an online channel that does not enjoy the trust of the others: the blogosphere. Only 26% of respondents said that they trusted advice and opinions found in blogs.
The conclusion could not be clearer. If you want to be a winner, you need to be in all of those places with a coherent message in the right strategy. And it goes further than that, because you have to be there not just to be the winner – the best in your field – but to survive at all.
Consumers are technically aware – “tech-savvy” in the words of Fleishman-Hillard CEO Dave Senay. In today’s marketplace, they take more notice of what they find online than what family and friends tell them and they know where to look for the information. As Senay says, “Marketers need to maximise their online channels to make it easy for consumers to interact with and access information about their brands.”
Those three words “make it easy” are at the heart of the message. Today’s consumers are more urgent – and less patient – than ever before. If they’re going to buy your product, they need one of three things:
- A search engine to send them to it
- Some other way to find the website for the brand or product
- Guidance from a product review site.
It is the Internet that is driving customer behavior and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. The Digital Influence Index shows that 46% of respondents believe that the Internet will continue to be as important to them as it is now, 51% believe it will grow to be even more important and only 3% think that in the future they will be paying less attention to the Internet than they do today.
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