Monday Morning Memo for March 21, 2005
Where Have Your Fingers Been Walking Lately?
A few years ago, your customer could compare you only to your competitor down the street. But information gathering and comparison shopping have since become effortless, thanks to the internet. Tens of millions of us are gathering and comparing info 24/7 in the comfort and seclusion of our own homes.
But we're not "your customer," right?
I recently spoke to an audience of 1600 businesspeople at a conference in Las Vegas. Just before I walked onstage into the spotlight, my host whispered into my ear, "It would probably be better if you didn't make any references to the internet, because this audience is almost exclusively 55 and older." I smiled and nodded at him just as the man at the microphone said "Roy H. Williams" and I walked out from behind the curtain to meet my fate.
Taking center stage, I raised my hand and asked, "How many of you have used a search engine in the last 7 days to research a purchase that you were considering?" At least 90 percent of the hands in the room were instantly raised. I looked offstage and shot a smile to my host who was staring bug-eyed at the ocean of fingers.
But I suppose none of those people were "your customer," either.
To get in step with the times, you must begin seeing the internet as an information directory at your customer's fingertips, because I can assure you that's how your customer sees it.
But unlike yesterday's yellow pages, this new information directory is consumer reactive, offering sights and sounds and detailed information. "To heck with letting your fingers do the walking. Let your fingers trigger the adventure." Today's new directory can deliver streaming video of your best salesperson making his best presentation on his best day, directly into your customer's home. It can answer all your customer's questions and calm their unspoken fears. But no salesman is going to schedule an appointment with you to make sure you're "in the book." This is a call you have to initiate on your own.
The times, they are a'changing.
Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's enough to tell your customer, "Call or come into the store before closing time and our friendly staff will be happy to answer all your questions." Yes, perhaps "your customer" has lots of free time and nothing better to do with it. Perhaps things aren't changing at all. Perhaps the old methods of marketing will always work.
But then I am reminded of C.S. Lewis, who said: "The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
Yeah. That's it. Just keep on doing what you've always done. I'm sure it will all work out.
Roy H. Williams
PS - Princess Pennie will open the 250-seat Tuscan Hall at 2:00 in the afternoon and Wizard Academy will open Chapel Dulcinea at sunset on April 23, 2005. We hope you'll be our guest at this Saturday afternoon and evening event, and perhaps even stay over for an insightful chat on Sunday morning with none other than Keith Miller, that legenday author of The Taste of New Wine and dozens of other inspirational books. You're welcome to attend even if you're not an Academy alumnus. There will be, of course, no charge, but we do need to know if you're coming so we'll know how many tables to set up and can tell the caterer how much food to prepare. We've got lots of delightful surprises to share.
PPS - The revolutionary new idea just 40 years ago was to use the yellow pages. The magazine ad pictured above was published in 1962.