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Don’t blame the economy. Good old days of marketing are over.

There’s been a fundamental shift in the way people buy products and services. It affects small businesses and mega-brands alike. Sadly, just about everyone is missing it.

Author: Jeremy Harrison

October 17, 2011

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Marketing has changed. Don't blame the economy.There’s been a fundamental shift in the way people buy products and services.

It affects small businesses and mega-brands alike. Sadly, just about everyone is missing it. If you’re involved with a small or medium-sized business, understanding this shift may mean the difference between success and shutdown.

I have a friend here in Ohio named Bill. He’s been running the same local business since I was a kid. Things have become a lot harder for Bill the past 10 years. He recently lamented to me over breakfast.

“Do you realize how much easier this stuff used to be, Jeremy?”

“What stuff?”

“Advertising! Marketing! All of it. I could buy weekly ads in the local newspaper or magazines and the phones would ring. We tweaked the ads over time, but as long as you knew what you were doing, it always worked.”

“Yeah, I remember those days.”

“Back then, every marketer looked like a genius. But today, we think long and hard before we buy any advertising. ROI on our marketing used to be a sure thing, but today it’s a crapshoot.”

“So what have you done about it?”

“We’ve tried everything. We tweaked our offers in the papers and magazines. We tried radio. We bought mailing lists and used direct mail. We tried cold calling for a while. We spent more than I’d like on a new website a few years ago. We tried email blasts, blogging and Google AdWords. Now we’re trying Facebook & Twitter.”


“Not enough! Some of it works for a short while, but since this recession hit it got even harder.”

Are the good old days gone for good?

Over the past decade there’s been a fundamental shift in the way people buy products and services. You may, like most people, blame an unpredictable economy.

Can you afford to wait it out? Make no mistake. The economy will bounce back. It always does. But when it finally starts booming again, will your marketing strategies still work?

Others pour all their time and money into whatever new online trend the experts are buzzing about this month. But that misses the point. Without understanding this shift in how people buy products and services, it’s all a waste.

Don’t blame the economy.

The epic shift I’m describing has little to do with the economy. That’s good news because we can’t control the economy anyway.

It has everything to do with the way you relate to your customers. If you will begin to understand this shift you can break out of the frustrating rut that Bill ranted about over breakfast.

Mad Men Don Draper Peggy OlsenTo help understand this shift, let me quote my favorite television show; “Mad Men.” If you aren’t familiar, Mad Men is about a 1960s advertising agency in the midst of a cultural revolution. At the end of the third season, JFK has just been assassinated. The agency’s top advertising man (Don Draper) is trying to persuade a talented young copywriter (Peggy Olson) to help him start a new agency as they avoid a buyout from a competitor:

Don: “Do you know why I don’t want to go to McCann?”
Peggy: “Because you can’t work for anyone else.”
Don: “No. Because there are people out there who buy things. People like you and me. And something happened. Something terrible. And the way that they saw themselves is gone. And nobody understands that. But you do. And that’s very valuable.”

The 9/11 Generation

The day that began the epic shiftLike the JFK assassination of the 1960s, 9/11 created an epic shift in the minds of “people who buy things” today. Ten years later, most marketers still fail to understand it.

Your prospective customers see themselves completely different than they did a decade ago. This affects the way they see you too. Here are a few examples of how the conversation has changed: 

Before 9/11: “I consider big companies more trustworthy and stable.”
“Big companies are selfish and unreliable. (Remember Enron?)”

Before 9/11: “I’ll buy what I want and figure out how I’ll pay for it later.”
Today: “I’ll buy what I need and save more.”

Before 9/11: “My friends will be impressed with how expensive it was.”
Today: “My friends will be impressed with the deal I got.”

Before 9/11: “I saw this on television and just had to buy.”
Today: “A friend told me about this and after reading lots of reviews and researching my options, I decided to try it.”

Did all these changes happen on 9/11? Nope. But 9/11 was a traumatic start to a revolutionary decade. When you hear conversation shifts like these, you may assume it’s the economy. But, I believe that these conversations are driven by a cultural shift that will affect your customers behavior for an entire generation.

To this day my 85-year-old grandpa will bend over to pick up a dirty penny because of the lessons he and his parents learned in the Great Depression. It didn’t impact my parents a generation later, but even as a child, those experiences affected his generation for a lifetime. Our customers have changed over the past decade and they will never be the same. Our marketing must change as well.

We’ve talked about the epic shift that has changed a generation of customers. Next week I’ll follow up with part two, where I’ll share practical new marketing strategies to reach this changed generation. We’ll talk about a simple experiment you can do that will uncover enough new customers to double your business, and I’ll tell you exactly how you can make it happen.

Part Two of This Article Is Now Available!
4 Steps Savvy Marketers Use To Double Sales

Jeremy HarrisonJeremy Harrison is an experienced marketing expert with a passion for helping leaders at small organizations get results. He owns Spire Advertising, an Ohio web design and internet marketing company. Get a free web marketing training video at www.SpireAd.com/video

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