There’s been a sea change in the marcom business.

In the bad old days, the focus of marketing was reaching out to consumers to sway their purchase decision. The actual purchase, more often than not, was in the hands of retailers – supermarkets, department stores – and not something many brands felt they could have an impact on. And post-purchase? Certainly, some brands had warranties, and others engaged with their consumers to see how things were going. But without the benefit of digital CRM, the process was onerous, and consumers tended to fall off the radar after the transaction.

My, how times have changed.

from pre-purchase, to purchase and post-purchase

I stumbled upon a brilliant video by Scott Galloway on the dramatically shifting pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase landscape today. Galloway is emphatic that the pre-purchase marketing world (like the ad industry that championed it) is going away. Instead, we need to make the actual purchase and follow up experience our focus.

When it comes to making purchase an awesome brand experience, Galloway cites Apple as an example. Instead of putting his money into advertising, Steve Jobs create Apple Stores, a mecca for Mac lovers. These stores were a dramatic departure from old-school retail. Sure, brands like Sony had done monobrand stores long before, but the Apple store was more than retail space: it was an immersion into the Apple psyche.

What’s more, they were the personification of Apple post-purchase marketing as well. At the rear of every store was a brightly lit counter staffed by Apple Geniuses who helped you with every Apple problem you might have. Contrast this with the old-school retail approach, where service was always done in the dingy workshop ‘out back’, beyond the customer’s prying eyes.

Galloway uses an interesting example when it comes to getting post-purchase right: tobacco. Disallowed from advertising, then prohibited from doing in-store promotion, the cigarette companies put their focus on post-purchase consumer behaviour. If they noticed a smoker dropping off in their cigarette habit, they filled their mailbox with promotions and premiums to pull them back into the fold. Proof that you don’t need to be selling a big ticket item to have an effective post-purchase marketing machine.

This shift from pre-purchase marketing to purchase and post-purchase marketing has only gathered momentum with the ubiquity of digital. Today, every brand can sell directly to consumers, and control the service relationship one-on-one. Any brand that ignores these opportunities to deliver an awesome experience (and deliver their brand promise in the process) is missing out.

Empowering consumers to do your pre-purchase marketing for you

What I find fascinating is the new role of the consumer as a brand pre-purchase advertiser.

Come to think of it, if your brand works hard at making the purchase and  post-purchase experience awesome, it’s actually fairly common sense.

The cliche is that companies only care for you until they have your money. But if a company seems to be genuinely interested in your well-being long after purchase, they begin to look less like a company and more like a group of decent human beings.

As humans, we love the feeling that someone really cares. We buy from people we like. Moreover, we tell our tribe about them.

Add social media to the mix, and suddenly we’re sending out our recommendation on a product to our closest 5,000 friends.

What’s more, our reco has credibility, because we have no vested interest in the promotion. That’s powerful marketing.

topsy turvy marketing

In a curious way, this turns the world of marketing on its head. Instead of the focusing on persuading people to buy, we need to demonstrate appreciation at sale, and empathy after. Get this right, and the pre-purchase marketing happens for us, care of the happy customer.

Counter-intuitive? Perhaps. But very, very powerful stuff.

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