Sunday, June 24, 2012

In Marketing, More Isn't Necessarily Better

About once a month, I am publishing a post that shares insights I've discovered at another blog. This month, the insight comes from the Harvard Business Review blog. The HBR blog publishes content that is written by numerous authors and includes posts that discuss a wide range of business topics.

Last month, Karen Freeman, Patrick Spenner, and Anna Bird with the Corporate Executive Board wrote a series of three blog posts discussing the findings of a recent CEB survey that involved over 7,000 consumers worldwide. Those three posts were:
While the CEB study focused on consumers, the basic findings are applicable to business buyers and are therefore relevant for B2B marketers.

For me, the most significant finding in the CEB survey is that consumers are overwhelmed by the volume of information they're exposed to and the choices they're presented with, and as a result, many are making purchase decisions differently than in the past. The authors of these blog posts refer to this condition as "cognitive overload."

Because of cognitive overload, the traditional purchase funnel (consumers moving from awareness to interest to desire to action and reducing the number of options they consider along the way) no longer describes how most consumers actually buy. According to the study:
  • Only about one third of consumers now use the traditional funnel approach when they buy.
  • About 30% of consumers follow an open-ended purchasing path. The perform a lot of research, and they add and drop brands along the way.
  • Another 30% of consumers don't perform a search at all. They simply zero in on a single product or brand.
What does this mean for marketers? In the last post in the series, the authors identify three myths that they believe are "dangerous" for marketers.
  • Most customers want to have "relationships" with brands - Only 22% of consumers in the CEB study said they have a relationship with a brand. The authors argue that most consumers reserve relationships for family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Interactions build relationships - The CEB study found that shared values, not frequent interactions, are the main reason that consumers decide to have a relationship with a brand.
  • The more interactions the better - The authors say that there's no correlation between the number of interactions with a consumer and the likelihood that he or she will complete a purchase, make repeat purchases, or recommend the brand.
This last myth may be the most dangerous one of all. The conventional wisdom among marketers today is that producing new and valuable content on a frequent basis is a critical success factor. And with marketing automation technologies, it's never been easier to communicate with prospects and customers on an individual, personalized level.

The problem is, even relevant and "helpful" interactions are adding to the avalanche of information that's inundating business buyers. Most of these buyers might well appreciate marketers who understand that less can often be better.


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  2. The most significant finding in the study of SAD is that consumers are overwhelmed by the amount of information they are exposed, and the choices they are presented.

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