Today, online messaging is often the only communication that companies have with potential customers before those customers make a purchase.

Also, the days of the Marlboro Man ads convincing smokers everywhere that they’re all—deep down—rough-and-tumble cowboys are over. Content marketing isn’t about selling anymore; it’s about educating and facilitating—through online messaging.

If You Don’t Write It, Your Customers Won’t Know It

Before the internet, there wasn’t much communicating going on between companies and customers before actual human-to-human communication took place. Maybe customers saw an ad in a magazine or a commercial on television, and when it came time to look for a company they remembered the name from the ad or commercial and gave the company a call.

That was all there was between the initial contact (marketing material) and human-to-human communication. Customers might have a general idea about a company based on the ad or commercial, but the vast majority of discovery happened over the phone or in person.

Once on the phone, a salesperson could talk until they were blue in the face about what the company did, why they went into business, how great their products and services were and whatever else they wanted to talk about. They could cover everything.

But the world doesn’t work that way anymore. Shopping these days, with the internet, is more of an information-gathering exercise. Customers don’t really walk into a shop without knowing anything about what they want to buy anymore. It happens, but not nearly as often. And the role of the salesperson has evolved from one of selling to one of facilitating.

When customers need to find a company, they go online. There, they expect to find everything they need or want to know about a company and its products or services, in the form of online messaging.

If they don’t find it, they move on to the next company.

They May Also Assume Something Incorrect

People are good at and often enjoy speculating about things—from what their neighbors do to what the government does to what companies do. If given a void of information (i.e., a lack of or gap in messaging), they’ll simply fill in the void themselves, which often leads to misconceptions.

What you write about is what you care about. Or at least that’s what customers assume. And why wouldn’t they, if that’s all they have to go on? You may care very deeply about some aspect of your business, but if you don’t write it down, customers will assume you don’t care about it.

No More Tricking the Customer

With the entire world of the internet at their fingertips, customers can find out all they need to know about widgets before they buy one. They can figure out exactly what type of widget they need, who offers the best widgets and even how to use their widget once they buy it.

Every day, marketing gets farther and farther away from traditional advertising, where companies attempted to sell customers on something (i.e., convince them they need or want something that they may not really need or want—in essence, tricking them).

Think of the Marlboro Man ads of the 1960s. There was always a rough-looking guy in full cowboy regalia—the boots, the chaps, the shirt and hat—sitting on a horse or leaning against a fence, cigarette dangling from his mouth, a view from Brokeback Mountain behind him.

The assumption was that men were supposed to be masculine, every man felt he should be masculine and these kinds of images appealed to the masculine in every man. However, not every man is masculine or feels the need to be masculine anymore.

Look at the rise of the nerd in America over the last few years. In the 1960s, skinny guys in glasses might have felt less-than when compared to the cowboys in the Marlboro ads. They might have regretted spending the weekend at the pool instead of at the dude ranch.

Today, in America, nerds are cool. Most are more likely to joke about the Marlboro Man’s leather-like skin than to regret their own baby faces. And, certainly, not every guy in America wants to smoke cigarettes and herd cattle on the weekends or feels bad about not wanting to smoke cigarettes and herd cattle on the weekends.

That kind of advertising doesn’t really work anymore. People, in general, are more knowledgeable, savvy and comfortable in their own skin (because American society, in general, is more accepting). Today, it’s about finding out what they really want or need and providing that to them. The online messaging that goes along with that has to do the same thing.

Write It Down

If the typical sales process today involves information-gathering on the internet and then a purchase, companies have a limited amount of time to get their message across.

It’s not an easy exercise, but it’s one that companies need to do—to distill their businesses down to messages and place those messages where customers can find them online. Primarily, this means websites and social media.

Basically, if it’s not in your online messaging, most customers won’t find it before they make a purchase and they may also make assumptions about your company that aren’t true.


By Charlie Smith