True, search engine optimization, social media and content marketing are all Web-enabled. But so are many contemporary lead-gen tactics. No, the real significance of these three is something else:
They all conform to customer behaviors.
In one way or another, these three, interrelated marketing approaches leverage activities customers are inclined to make of their own free will, through their own initiative.
Which brings me to the debate about gating or not-gating content. As you may know, David Meerman Scott is a big advocate of open access as the way to go viral. Michael Stelzner, however, makes a compelling argument for registration as a means for capturing leads. After all, how many readers will voluntarily contact you? Not many.
I see this conflict as one between two very different business models:
The Sales-Centric Model in which marketers gather leads that are fed to salespeople who in turn move prospects along the pipeline to an eventual sale. Hopefully. This is the traditional business model, the one most of us are familiar with, the one backed by decades of experience and numerous vendors who can help us generate leads, enable sales teams and accelerate cycles. Frankly, it’s a model that works. Mostly.
The Market-Centric Model in which the business serves as the hub or host of a place, virtual or real, in which people gather to exchange information, learn new things, amuse themselves and buy things. Hopefully. This is the model SEO, SM and CM all point to. But unlike the sales-centric model, it’s a whole lot less real and more speculative. How many companies are actually doing this? Off the top of my head, two come to mind: Bottlehead for audio nuts and MyEstateManager for all of us, like it or not.
You might think that in this contest, the sales-centric model is the heavyweight champ. After all, it’s here, it’s proven, and it delivers the goods.
But there are two fundamental and inescapable facts that lead me to believe that ultimately, the market-centric model will prevail:
- People HATE sales people. At best, they can be disguised as “advisors” or “consultants,” but even then, they’re merely a necessary evil. Let’s be honest: if you could avoid it, would you ever deal with a salesperson? Voluntarily?
- People LOVE marketplaces. Historically, vibrant marketplaces become vital cities. And today, where do people choose to spend the larger share of their leisure time? In places where they can shop: malls, the shopping districts of cities.
This is exactly why the Web is changing everything. Before, customers had no choice; they had to deal with salespeople. But the Web has transferred power back to the customer — they deal with whom they choose to deal. SEO, social media, content marketing — they’re all different aspects of the same phenomenon: customers taking charge of how they want to buy.
I don’t think many choose to engage with a salesperson. But they will choose, they do choose, to participate in marketplaces.
What say you?