Beals: The way to reach customers may change, but the path to success still starts with fundamentals

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Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 12:00 am

Once upon a time there was an invention so amazing that it permanently changed the way products and services were sold.

This fascinating new medium became a transformational technology. Because of its creation, the marketing and sales professions were forever changed. If you weren’t using this new medium, you were like a dinosaur, in danger of extinction.

So exciting was this cutting-edge marketing channel that some customers bought things they really didn’t need or want just because it was so exciting to make purchases in such a novel way.

Are you thinking of the Internet or email-based marketing?

Sorry, that’s not it.

Are you thinking of social media?

Nope, it’s not that either.

Are you thinking of some really cool marketing channel that harnesses the power of your mobile device and sends a message totally customized to your needs and wants?

Strike three. Not that either.

What cutting-edge technology changed the world of marketing forever?

The telephone.

Yes, that’s right: I’m talking about the lowly telephone, a device invented nearly 140 years ago.

Believe it or not, there was actually a time when consumers purchased things just because they were available over the telephone. There was a time when outbound telemarketing was so new that some people actually enjoyed receiving such calls.

At one point in history, the perpetual growth of telephone-based selling appeared to be endless. Everyone rushed into telephone selling like lemmings on a mad dash for the nearest cliff.

Eventually, telephone marketing suffered from the “too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen syndrome.” Consumers grew to hate telephone marketing so much that some people disconnected their home phone lines when they came home from work each evening. Telemarketing became so abusive that Congress eventually created the Do Not Call list.

Remember the dotcom bubble that burst in 2000? Speculative investors were so euphoric over the Internet’s selling potential that they threw billions of dollars into dotcom startups, many of which were selling ridiculous products and had meaningless business plans (if they had any plans at all).

The bubble inspired jokesters to make up fictitious corporate names such as “TieClasp.com,” “eSocks.com,” and my absolute favorite, “PimentoLoaf.com.”

New technology comes and goes. As I write this, marketers are coming up with new and creative ways to sell through newly invented channels. That’s great. Innovation is a critical component to economic success.

Companies and individuals are working hard to come up with new ways to harness the power of social media and to figure out the right approach to mobile marketing. We now hear people say that if a company isn’t engaging clients on social media, it’s in danger of going the way of the dinosaurs. In general, for most companies, that’s probably true.

But when it comes to marketing and technology, all must be kept in context and viewed through the proper prospective.

The medium used to communicate with your target audience is just that — a medium. Whether you are using the phone, direct mail, email-based marketing, social media engagement or door-to-door salesmen, the product or service must stand on its own merit.

Fundamentals matter. If your product has a viable market, it will sell.

Just because you purchase LinkedIn ads, have countless likes on Facebook and capture clients’ imaginations with your creative presence online doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed success.

Regardless of the medium and where we might be at any given point in technological history, human beings are essentially the same. They make purchases based on what they value and do business with individuals and organizations they trust.

Whether you’re doing business in 1914, 2014 or a hundred years from now, you will be successful if you figure out exactly what people want and give it to them on their terms.

Sure, there may be temporary occasions where some new innovation whips up a frenzy of irrational buying, but over the course of time, good marketing fundamentals will win the game.

Jeff Beals is an Omaha author and speaker who can be reached at www.JeffBeals.com.

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