Bob Buday and I just published an article on the six new rules of thought leadership marketing, about how it has changed, especially with the advent of social media. The article is not about the technology – it’s primarily about how behaviors and expectations have changed, and the changes are substantial.
The new rules are:
- The customer has become the hunter, the marketer the hunted
- An author’s admirers now do the promoting
- Influencers have become critical marketing targets
- Online columns are a potent new channel
- Microsites are superseding downloads
- Communities are displacing campaigns
I am going to serialize the rules in this blog, so here’s the first.
Rule #1: The customer has become the hunter, the marketer the hunted
This phenomenon started with Web 1.0 and has been growing in importance for the last 15 years. The Web has now become the best source of business information for U.S. executives, topping references from colleagues, print and broadcast media, conferences and personal networks, according to a 2009 study by Forbes and Google. Some 73% of senior executives at large companies surf the Web daily, with 64% doing six or more searches a day for business information. These numbers will only increase given the generational differences in Web usage. Some 81% of executives less than 50 years old surf the Web every day for business information; less than two-thirds (62%) of those over 50 do likewise.
Buyers of consulting, IT services, and other costly and complex offerings to business are now in control. Today, they initiate the search for information on their business issues. With search engines able to pour through more than 1 trillion web pages in seconds and find material posted by marketers around the world, the customer increasingly takes the lead in securing the information she needs. In a world of search engines, the customer has become the hunter, and the marketer the hunted.
This has huge consequences for thought leadership marketers. It wasn’t long ago that marketers with the widest distribution (think McKinsey Quarterly and its 100,000 print and 2 million online readers) had a far greater chance of getting their points of view in front of prospects than did smaller firms with much smaller mailing lists. But today, the $20 million consulting firm with a white paper on scenario planning can end up on the first screen of search results if the article is good, and has generated links from other sites. If it isn’t good, of course, it will be invisible.