Post by Bill Wagner, Chief Operating Officer, Vocus
Google calls it the Zero Moment of Truth. Vocus CEO Rick Rudman refers to it as the new buying cycle. I describe it as online-centric. Whatever you call it, the process leading up to a purchase of virtually any size has changed forever. In today’s digital, connected, social, mobile, anytime/anywhere world, the buying process is consumer-led and based on online research and socially-harvested recommendations.
The statistics are everywhere.
- 61% of Americans read news online, vs. 50% from newspapers. (Pew)
- 90% of shoppers use search engines to research products/services.
- Search is the #1 way to find local businesses. (BIA/Kelsey). Remember the yellow pages? Their revenue has declined by 50% in the last five years. 50 percent!
- Over half of Americans have a profile on a social media site and a third of them follow a product or brand (Edison Research)
Still not convinced? Take two minutes to watch this video, then keep reading.
For most readers, this is nothing new. We’ve been witnessing the behavior change wrought by search engines for a decade. Most of us have spent the last several years trying to understand the impact of social media—moving quickly from denial (“it’s just a fad”) to superficial reaction (“we need a Facebook page”) and finally to a deeper recognition of the profound impact that social media has on the way people interact with businesses and each other.
What hasn’t kept pace with these changes is software. The landscape for marketing software today consists on one hand of “heavy” enterprise platforms trying to move to a flexible cloud model and trying to bolt marketing onto their CRM and ERP applications (they know who they are). On the other hand, there are dozens of “point” solutions vendors who offer things like email, social monitoring and engagement, public relations, daily deals, Facebook timeline apps, etc. An offshoot of these groups are the marketing automation vendors, necessary for large organizations but often overwhelming for mid-sized companies and just unnecessary for smaller organizations.
What’s missing is software that includes the tools to leverage today’s online centric buying cycle—social media, email, search—and integrates them into a software suite that is more than the sum of its parts.
That’s what we’re doing at Vocus. Easy-to-use, integrated software that provides instant results (i.e. more sales). We’ve also added publicity to the mix, not just because we grew from a start-up to a public company by selling software to PR professionals, but because it’s the one thing all businesses want but generally can’t do by themselves. More to the point, storytelling, once thought to be the domain of PR professionals, is now called “content marketing” and has been embraced by savvy marketers at companies of all sizes. Especially in this economy, marketing spend has to be tied closely with customer acquisition and retention. Small and even mid-sized businesses require PR to be contributing to the growth and sustainability of their business. That’s why it’s part of our suite.
We believe publicity, along with social media marketing, search marketing and email marketing are mainstays of the modern digital marketing suite. They’re not the only components for sure. Websites and mobile marketing are obvious components. Over the next several years, we expect companies on both ends of the software market—platform vendors and point products—to begin to talk about an integrated marketing suite. It will be good news for anyone trying to attract, engage and retain customers in today’s online-centric buying cycle.