If you are older, you remember a certain phenomenon of years gone by: the door-to-door salesman. If you are younger, you may still be familiar with same methods the hard-nosed vacuum and encyclopedia salesmen used. You probably experience this at the mall: The fragrance counter girl ambushes you with scented lotion before you can squeak out “allergy,” or the kiosk operator drapes a Shiatsu massager around your neck while you innocently check out the window at Wet Seal. This is what sales and marketing traditionally called a “hard-sell.” It is high time to put hard selling in the past and approach today’s consumers from a perspective they can identify with: real education and collaboration.
The door-to-door sales push is one that consumers typically find invasive, exhausting, and offensive. Moreover, it is not as if companies enjoy engaging in them. They are more effective than doing nothing (for now) but they are also not wildly successful.
In lieu of finding a new strategy, this has resulted in many companies taking one of two routes:
- They avoid selling entirely, relying solely on viral marketing and word of mouth.
- They engage in hard-sell tactics begrudgingly, finding it difficult to keep employees who find it distasteful; or watch their sales dwindle as customers become more likely to withdraw from hard-sellers.
Consumers Have Changed
During the door-to-door heyday, literal word of mouth and salesmen were pretty much the two ways a consumer could discover a product’s benefits in an in-depth way. Aside from commercials or newspaper/magazine ads, they were for the most part flying blind when it came time to making a significant purchase. Without a salesman clamoring to demonstrate a product’s features directly, how was a consumer to know the full range of benefits offered by any product?
Today’s marketplace works differently. Consumers are able to research products on their own, and do so. Word of mouth is no longer limited to one’s immediate social circle but is function of the vast landscape of social media. Not only is hard-selling unnecessary in this new information climate, it is unwelcome too, as consumers are eager to obtain unbiased opinions. They watch YouTube reviews, ponder what’s on Yelp, ask questions of consumers via Facebook and Twitter, and discover their new coveted products on Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
These resources serve to provide consumers with a wide range of opinions and information. Unlike the hard sell, these opinions and information sources are usually unbiased. However, companies are still are not taking steps themselves to embrace what consumers are looking for while choosing a new product or developing brand loyalty—namely “education”, not “selling.”
Education is Marketing
Just because information about your product originates with your company and your agents, it doesn’t limit its usefulness to hard selling, or require that all information be biased. Many organizations are discovering that a sincere, genuine attempt to educate consumers regarding their products, providing them with further resources to educate themselves, is the most effective way to market goods.
For example, the Knowledge Network services offered by my company, EdCast, provide companies and brands with an ideal platform for engaging with their consumers in an educational way. Companies should focus on providing consumers with education not only about products but also the industry and marketplace. Education should not simply be a method for increasing sales but a value-added feature to build brand recognition and brand loyalty. Instead of viewing education as another channel in which to push sales, consider it a service. It’s a service that proves (if it’s true) that your products or services are superior, and it provides you with ideal audience. Thus it will lead to sales in an organic way.
Knowledge Networks can bring this opportunity for education and communication to your customers and partners in a more cohesive, less fragmented way than juggling multiple social media accounts that are usually better for less in-depth interactions.
What Else Can Knowledge Networks Do for Your Organization?
In addition to providing consumers with the information and opportunity to network and collaborate, Knowledge Networks can help your organization in other ways. To create a community focused on learning and collaboration, one in which you view consumers as partners in your enterprise rather than targets to hit, your organization will open up clear channels of communication. These communication channels work both ways. It means your consumers and prospects will be coming to you with their needs, concerns, complaints, and (best of all) praise.
Instead of waiting months for market analytics to identify pain points based on sales patterns, which may or may not pinpoint the actual issue precisely, you now have a direct source of information–one that updates instantly.
The EdCast Knowledge Network is designed to celebrate and facilitate an era in which consumers and companies need not struggle with geographic or time constraints in their communication, a period in which knowledge can flow freely in all directions.
If you are determined to keep your organization ahead of the curve and maintain a competitive edge against rivals, you must embrace this new perspective. Platforms such as Knowledge Networks are no longer experimental–they are absolutely necessary. This is the future of sales and marketing: Stop selling; start educating.
To learn more about how EdCast can help your organization, visit EdCast Solutions.