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The Death of Personal Marketing ?

There was a new article posted today by Paul McCord called "The Death of Personal Marketing" and I wondered what others opinions were on the article. - by SpeedRacer
Personal marketing done right has, does and will continue to thrive in the future and there is a LOT more to personal selling than educating the consumer. - by Houston
Personal marketing done right has, does and will continue to thrive in the future and there is a LOT more to personal selling than educating the consumer.
Houston,

You're right. Personal marketing has worked in the past. To a large extent, it works today. The future is going to be substantially different.

As I mentioned in the article, personal marketing isn't going away. It will simply have to become ancillary to developing a public reputation as an expert. It becomes secondary to supporting the image and reputaton the salesperson builds. There is more to personal marketing than education, but we are moving into--actually already there--an enviornment where consumers no longer need salespeople for most of their purchases. And if they do choose to work with a salesperson, they are looking for the cheapest price on the solution they've already decided upon or they want someone who has the image and reputation equal to the experts they read and listen to via the media.

When I speak with executives, one of their concerns is how to stop the commodization of their industry. And this is true whether I'm speaking with executives in the financial services, IT, consulting, mortgage, real estate, insurance, data processing, and most other industries.

The problem is they can't stop it. All they can do is prepare for it by either giving in or finding ways to decommoditize their own products or services. The way to decommoditize a product or service is to reverse the process and turn it back into a decision that is based on expert advise.

The problem then becomes the salesperson, not the company, must be viewed as an expert. Marketing won't do that because everyone else is making the same claims. When everyone is making the same claims, no one believes anyone because the noise is too loud. The salesperson simply becomes a faceless salesperson in a sea of faceless salespeople, all trying to sell the same stuff, to the same people, at basically the same price, the same way.

This is the reason the USP is basically dead as a strong marketing tool. Years ago the USP was a powerful tool. It was a new concept to sales taken straight out of the pages of Madison Avenue. It worked and it worked very, very well. Today, everybody is encouraged to develop their own USP. However, no matter what you sell, there are only a few dozen or maybe a few hundred ways to express what you do--no matter how unique you try to be. With thousands upon thousands of salespeople in each industry using their own version of the same statement, it loses its impact. Prospects have heard it all before. This isn't to say it isn't helpful for salespeople to develop a USP. It is simply to say that it no longer has the impact it used to and that is was intended to have.

Differentation for salespeople has always been difficult. Even more so in a world where salespeople are perceived to be not needed by more and more consumers and where consumers have become numb to marketing. How then do you differentiate yourself? One way--publicity, becoming recognized as an expert, by literally taking yourself out of the crowd and putting yourself in a different group.

Unfortunately, commodization is a reality. One that is growing and will continue to grow. Of course, in a commodized world, consumers still want and need products and services, they just believe they no longer need or want someone they perceive to be biased involved in the purchase. - by pmccord
As I mentioned in the article, personal marketing isn't going away. It will simply have to become ancillary to developing a public reputation as an expert.
What are examples of the "personal marketing" that you're talking about Paul? - by Mikey
What are examples of the "personal marketing" that you're talking about Paul?
I gave a number of examples in the article, but here's a short list: cold calling; fliers; signs; emails; direct mail letters; magnetic signs on the side of your car; postcards; virtually anything that promotes you that is designed to highlight you, your product, your company.

as I mentioned, these are useful for supporting a public reputation but becoming increasingly ineffective by themselves because increasingly consumers are coming to the conclusion they don't need salespeople because they can get "expert" advice without the attached prejudice of someone seeking a commission from magazines, books, TV, radio, etc. - by pmccord
Cold calling, direct mail, etc. (personal marketing) are channels or delivery methods for a message. I don't believe these channels or delivery methods are at risk of dying anytime soon. - by Mikey
The delivery channels are the way salespeople market. Their message must be carried someway and it is the channel that gets the message out. The message is virtually identical from one salesperson to another.

How soon they die is dependent upon what you mean by soon. They are already in the process of dying. As I said, it will take years, but the process has already started.

The problem isn't with the channel--it is with the consumer--many, and a growing number all the time, don't want to deal with salespeople. They'd rather do it themselves based on the information they gather from sources they trust. The point isn't the channel, its the way people make purchasing decisions is changing--and we can't stop it or slow it down. But we can recognize it and make the necessary changes to take advantage of it. - by pmccord
The delivery channels are the way salespeople market. Their message must be carried someway and it is the channel that gets the message out. The message is virtually identical from one salesperson to another.
Do you agree that the problem isn't with 'personal marketing' but instead the 'message' being sent via 'personal marketing'? - by Mikey
Not really. The problem is a growing number of people don't want to deal with salespeople. It isn't a problem with the channels, nor is it a problem with the salesperson's message in the sense of what we're talking about (the typical salesperson's message is a totally different topic and within the way prospecting and marketing is done today by the majority of salespeople it's a huge problem, but that's another thread). The problem is a shift in the way people buy. Salespeople are no longer needed except to fill out the paperwork--and many companies are making it so that even then they aren't needed.

The role of the salesperson as provider of information and advice is being replaced with media--tons and tons of media that offer expert advice on every subject under the sun. So, when the salesperson's expertise and counsel is no longer needed, the only thing the prospect needs is a place to buy and the best price they can find.

And, again, this isn't to say there won't always be a segment of the buying population that wants the expertise and advice of a salesperson. There will always be that segment. But it is shrinking. And even then, they are increasingly wanting to work with someone they believe is as knowledgeable--and objective--as the experts they read and listen to. - by pmccord
Not really. The problem is a growing number of people don't want to deal with salespeople. It isn't a problem with the channels, nor is it a problem with the salesperson's message in the sense of what we're talking about (the typical salesperson's message is a totally different topic and within the way prospecting and marketing is done today by the majority of salespeople it's a huge problem, but that's another thread). The problem is a shift in the way people buy. Salespeople are no longer needed except to fill out the paperwork--and many companies are making it so that even then they aren't needed.

The role of the salesperson as provider of information and advice is being replaced with media--tons and tons of media that offer expert advice on every subject under the sun. So, when the salesperson's expertise and counsel is no longer needed, the only thing the prospect needs is a place to buy and the best price they can find.

And, again, this isn't to say there won't always be a segment of the buying population that wants the expertise and advice of a salesperson. There will always be that segment. But it is shrinking. And even then, they are increasingly wanting to work with someone they believe is as knowledgeable--and objective--as the experts they read and listen to.
Paul, I have to agree with you on this. It started in the mid 90's with the automobile buyer becoming more informed on product. I am sure that if you looked at consumer magazine sells, they have gone down due to the internet. It has be become a "consumer aware" society (sales practices, some of them, are often mocked - ie Seinfield's "what do I have to do to get you in this car today")

You are right, there will be those who want the personal attention. But in a society that has their kids in 3 sports, 4 clubs, and sets play dates - time is important to the consumer. I have heard people say they do not want to go to a store to purchase anything due to the time spent with a sales person going through the norm of upsales, etc.

I would have to say, as I know you know, that the internet changed sales. - by Ed Callais
I read the article - you can make any kind of statement with any kind of point to it that's going to have some truth to it. Some are better written or more truthful than others but that doesn't matter much.

I make a living in network marketing also called multi level marketing also called direct sales. I sell nutritional products directly to consumers and I sell the business directly to people also.

I don't know about any other kind of personal marketing - I only know that I sell directly and market personally and for what I do there's a market. It's a very challenging business I'm in and peresonal attention is a big part of it.

The best of the best to everyone.

MitchM - by MitchM
As Sharon Drew Morgan routinely points out, most people will try to solve a problem on their own before they seek outside help. This is another reason why some people don't want to work with a salesperson (outside help) if they don't have to.

With more and more information on almost any subject becoming readily available and recent advances in technology which facilitate the purchase process it is true that many people who otherwise would have sought outside help will attempt to solve their problems on their own.

These are the people who believe they know what they want/need and will shop around for the provider with the deal (not necessarily the cheapest price) they like the most.

Does this mean the death of sales, the salesperson or personal marketing? Does this mean salespeople will be replaced with experts?

No.

I already know how to mow my grass but I pay a landscaping company to do it for me. I could have learned from the Internet how to paint my house but I paid a professional to do it for me because I wanted professional results. In both of these examples I did not seek out a perceived expert. Instead I looked for a provider whom I thought would do a good job and who would give me a good deal. - by AZBroker
AZBroker makes a good point - a glut of information signifies a glut of information - people still seek what they want and when they find or are found by that person who has it they get what they want.

MitchM - by MitchM
AZBroker,

For the examples you cite, I agree. Most people don't look for experts for getting their lawn mowed or to paint their house. Unfortunately, not only are those simplistic examples, they are also are not the realm of most professional salespeople.

In the realm of financial services, real estate transactions, sophisticated IT applications, and many others people are looking for experts--or the best price if they already know their needs and wants and the solution.

There will probably be little change in the typical areas of the retail store clerk or the typical skilled laborer. But even with the examples you gave there is some application of the expert vs do-it-yourself movement. Change your examples to a complete landscape and the homeowner wants an expert--or they go to Office Depot, purchase a landscaping program, design their own, and then head to Home Depot to buy the merchandise--and then maybe get their lawn guy to do the labor. Or if they are looking at a faux leather wall, they want an expert, or they head to Lowes and buy the kit and do it themselves. If they have to settle for less than an expert, they may as well do it themselves.

I realize that for many the idea that the landscape is changing is uncomfortable and hard to grasp. The changes we've seen in purchasing behavior have only really been moving for a very few short years, yet it has already had a tremendous impact in many industries.

And even your real estate industry is seeing commodization taking place which is inevitable since every Realtor sells the same product. NAR and the state associations are fighting desperately to keep it from happening and have been fairly successful to date through a combination of legislative maneuvering and peer pressure, but it will happen eventually. Does that mean that every Realtor will simply be relegated to selling discounted commissions? No, just the majority will. There will be some who stand above the rest and will command higher commissions because of their reputation and image. - by pmccord
In the realm of financial services, real estate transactions, sophisticated IT applications, and many others people are looking for experts--or the best price if they already know their needs and wants and the solution.
In my experience with real estate, the majority of people who utilize the services of a real estate agent rarely seek out "Experts". Instead, when the decision is made to use the services of a professional real estate agent (outside help) to buy or sell a home the decision of who to use is most often influenced by referrals, word of mouth and/or other forms of marketing (Internet, Signs, etc.). When a homeowner chooses to use the services of a professional landscaping company (outside help) for complete landscaping I would expect a similar selection process. In many sales scenarios once a short list of candidates has been determined I would expect the prospective client to shop the candidates for the deal (not necessarily the cheapest price) they like the most. - by AZBroker
I agree. The question is in the future who is going to be on the short list?

For example, in the future in the real estate industry, once the commodization process has fully kicked in and the standard listing commission is in the area of 1 to 1 1/2, maybe 2%, the selection process will be the same--with the exception of a few high profile Realtors who will still be getting substantially more than that. The question isn't whether or not Realtors will get business, it's which side of the commission fence one will be on. Who will be making money and who will be fighting for the leftovers. Now, NAR and the state associations will fight to hold this off as long as possible, but eventually, it will happen. When? Don't know as the real estate industry has a very powerful lobby. But eventually they'll lose the battle with banks, the discount brokers will become more accepted (maybe hated, but accepted) and expand, and commissions will start to decline substantially. Even then, the FISBO segment of the market will continue to grow due to the help of the various FISBO marketing companies. Today the average agent and the high profile agent both can list a home at about the same commission rate. The average agent may give a slight discout, may not. The high profile agent probably won't unless it is a very high dollar listing. In the future, the average agent will be scrimping for a 1 or 1 1/2% commission, selling price, while the high profile agent is substantially higher in their commission structure, still much closer to their current commission structure. The high profile agent who has built their image and reputation as an expert will be able to hold their ground much better than the others. Because their are a better agent? No. Because they are known and recognized as a leader in their industry.

Other industries are experiencing the same dilemma.

This isn't going to happen tomorrow, but I suspect we'll be seeing a substantial change in the market place within 5 years. It won't be in full fruition by 2012, but noticeable more advanced than today in many industries. - by pmccord
Commoditization is countered through differentiation. Is "perceived expert" a differentiation strategy? Yes. Is it the only differentiation strategy? No. - by AZBroker
Precisely the point. Differentation. In today's selling environment and in the future enviornment one must have a differentation strategy. And my point is that those being used today are dying. They were designed for and evolved out of very different market conditions than what are currently developing.

Now, unfortunately we won't know for several years if I'm right or not. I'f I'm right, as I believe all the indicators point in that direction, those who haven't prepared will find themselves out in the cold. I'f I'm wrong--well, that won't be known for some time to come, but even if I'm wrong and many have taken the opportunity to establish their public reputation, all they've done is make more money than they would have.

Companies are preparing for this monumental shift but unfortunately salespeople aren't. - by pmccord
The problem isn't with the channel--it is with the consumer--many, and a growing number all the time, don't want to deal with salespeople. They'd rather do it themselves based on the information they gather from sources they trust.
Wouldn't you agree that if the consumer sees the value in using a intermediary they will, no matter what the industry, and that this value can be communicated through personal marketing? - by Mikey
Wouldn't you agree that if the consumer sees the value in using a intermediary they will, no matter what the industry, and that this value can be communicated through personal marketing?
Today, still, yes. In the future. No, not as a stand alone marketing method. The point is people are 1) growing very tired of the non-stop marketing; 2) don't believe salespeople are honest in the sense of giving objective information and advice (makes no difference whether their belief is factual or not, we have to deal with their beliefs as they are, not as we wish they were); and 3) they don't need a salesperson any more. They want expert advice and guidance, not sales. They view expert guidance as being objective, and sales by its very nature isn't.

With the proliferation of highly targeted expert advice, more and more people are demanding that the people they deal with be experts. Marketing doesn't establish expertise, it establishes only that the salesperson exists, which is no longer good enough. The problem with marketing is not only that people are tired of it, but everyone looks the same. They can't pick the expert from the crowd because everyone claims to be an expert; everyone claims to be unique; everyone claims to be the best. And they know that if everyone is, then no one is.

This, of course, could become an issue with those who work to create the image and reputation of an expert. The advantage is that few will do it--it's too hard, too much work, too difficult, takes too long. They have to learn a new set of skills and the skills they currently have are working at least well enough that they don't want or feel they need to change.

The executives I speak with recognize the change and are trying to figure out how to either diminish the issue or take advantage of it. Some, of course, are deciding their solution is to get rid of sales and cater to the do-it-yourself buyer. Others are trying to have it both ways as they figure out their future strategy. And, still others, are sitting, contemplating their direction.

It's a problem companies are addressing or trying to figure out how they are going to address. Unfortunately, few salespeople are looking that far ahead.

Now, will there still be a small segment that won't care either way? Of course. Unfortunately, these will more than likely be consumers who are very price sensitive. Those aren't the consumers that will be providing salespeople with the incomes they desire. - by pmccord
In the future you envision if a salesperson/company markets a unique value proposition are you saying it will fall on deaf ears for no other reason than it is viewed as 'marketing'? - by Mikey
I'd argue that the USP as originally intended is already dead. Still a useful side tool to help people remember you, but as a marketing tool--dead as doornail.

Certainly, there was a time when the USP was a powerful tool. Taken from the marketing guys on Madison Avenue and applied to sales, it worked extremely well for two or three decades. Then it begain its growth in popularity to the point today that everyone has their own USP.

The problem is just how many ways can a Realtor, insurance agent, attorney, networking salesperson, telephony salesperson, or anyone else describe the results of what they do? A few dozen? A couple hundred? There's no longer anything unique about a USP. They are accepted as just another way someone describes themselves. Although when adopted from marketing it had great impact, today it is useful primarily to help a prospect remember you--if they don't get it mixed up all the other same sounding USP's they've heard.

Does this mean it isn't still being preached as part of the gospel of sales by many? Certainly it is. And I don't disagree that it's a somewhat useful tool. But it isn't going to get anyone to stop and say, "Wow! How do you do that!" anymore. Today, the typical response is "Oh, you sell insurance, huh?" - by pmccord
In the future you envision what type of personal marketing will still be in use by the "experts" and how will it be different from what we see today? - by Mikey
Many of the same things as used today: referrals and networking will be prominent. highly targeted direct mail, targeted advertising, highly specific email, event sponsorships, and newsletters will be heavily used. The difference is they will promoting the salesperson's reputation and image, not their "sales" aspect. They draw people to themselves because of their status and reputation, not because they sell.

The very things they use to build their reputation is also their marketing--the articles they publish, the speeches they give, the white papers they publish, the interviews they give, the quotes in news articles is more effective marketing then marketing is. Marketing is used to give information on how to get hold of them, not to sell. The educational stuff they do does the selling, the marketing simply makes the available. - by pmccord
Many of the same things as used today: referrals and networking will be prominent. highly targeted direct mail, targeted advertising, highly specific email, event sponsorships, and newsletters will be heavily used. The difference is they will promoting the salesperson's reputation and image, not their "sales" aspect. They draw people to themselves because of their status and reputation, not because they sell.
The experts will use many of the same personal marketing channels however their message will shift from a "sales" aspect to promoting their reputation and image. Is that right? Could you please give an example of promoting reputation and image through highly targeted direct mail?

The very things they use to build their reputation is also their marketing--the articles they publish, the speeches they give, the white papers they publish, the interviews they give, the quotes in news articles is more effective marketing then marketing is.
How will these 'experts' reach the market that doesn't read the articles they publish or listen to the speaches they give, etc.? - by Mikey
1) Highly targeted: local investors with an estimated portfolio of over one million. Promoting reputation: instead of the typical direct mail piece, the piece could promote a local news interview scheduled, an upcoming newspaper or magazine article, an upcoming educational seminar sponsored by the chamber or other organization.

2) Same as above. - by pmccord
1) Highly targeted: local investors with an estimated portfolio of over one million. Promoting reputation: instead of the typical direct mail piece, the piece could promote a local news interview scheduled, an upcoming newspaper or magazine article, an upcoming educational seminar sponsored by the chamber or other organization.
I'm struggling with this. :dun

If people hate marketing as you say, how is it that the 'experts' unsolicited marketing receives any better reception than any other unsolicited marketing? - by Mikey
One is selling--a biased activity from another salesperson just trying to make some bucks.

One is offering an opportunity to learn something from an expert on the subject.

You don't see a difference between someone trying to sell you something and someone offering to educate you? - by pmccord
One is selling--a biased activity from another salesperson just trying to make some bucks.

One is offering an opportunity to learn something from an expert on the subject.

You don't see a difference between someone trying to sell you something and someone offering to educate you?
I get plenty of phone calls, emails, and direct mail pieces inviting me to this, that or the other each offering free information/education from some well known 'expert' or 'guru'. This is still SPAM. Unsolicited marketing is unsolicited marketing. - by Mikey
I guess personal marketing doesn't work and is dead then, hun? Thank you for proving my point. - by pmccord
It's funny how anything can be taken to prove this or that when nothing is ever proved from one or a small sample of anything other than it's funny what people do to prove - in their mind truthfully or sarcastically - this or that.

It's also funny what people consider spam or not spam - when something is emailed it might be called spam by someone who wants to judge it a certain way - when it's the same thing in the mail or on TV, the internet ads, the radio - whatever form - it's called something else entirely.

I do personal marketing and what I do works meaning through what I do sales are made.

Everything does begin to sound the same and melt into the same running colors of blobs and blurs in people's minds mostly fixed on fleeting images and dominated by emotional and instinctive urges and drives, needs and fears.

Still, some want and others don't want what I offer and whether I use the radio to advertise/promote/market or classified ads or phone calling - if what I do is called direct marketing [that's what I call it] it works for me.

BUT again, I'm not in conventional sales like I believe most are who post here - I've found the discussion on real estate one of the most instructive so far.

Good luck everyone - well, make it a great day!

MitchM - by MitchM
I guess personal marketing doesn't work and is dead then, hun? Thank you for proving my point.
People see what they want to see Paul. msnwnk;

... which is exactly why well targeted messages make it through people's selective perception and why personal marketing is not dead or dying. - by Mikey
Mikey,

Neither one of us is going to change the other's mind. Unfortunately, we won't really know for some time to come just what the radical changes in the selling environment will bring. I, of course, think it imperative for salespeople to begin thinking in much broader terms than they are today. You are very satisfied that there won't be much change.

If I'm right, there are a ton of salespeople who will be in serious trouble if they don't change their thinking. If I'm wrong but some have implemented new, powerful marketing strategies, they simply make more money. - by pmccord
You are very satisfied that there won't be much change.
I'm sure there will be change.

I'm not sure that in the future if you're not an 'expert' you'll be out in the cold or that contacting the right person at the right time with the right message (personal marketing) is dead or dying. - by Mikey
I would agree with Paul. I have tried 2 approaches with my business. The first was local sales coaching for businesses in my area. The second was targeting myself to those selling high end luxury goods.

The local sales coaching was a bust. As soon as I started marketing myself to a very specific niche, I started getting coaching clients. It's because people in that niche see me as a credible expert and are willing to pay my fee for training.

I think if you have a message targeted at a specific niche that will see you as an expert, you're likely to be in demand with that market.

Susan - by susana
I think if you have a message targeted at a specific niche that will see you as an expert, you're likely to be in demand with that market.
If you have a message targeted at a specific niche that does not yet perceive you as an expert would you be out in the cold? - by Mikey
If you have a message targeted at a specific niche that does not yet perceive you as an expert would you be out in the cold?
Hard to say. If you have good credentials and can communicate well (phone and print), I don't see why you'd have a problem setting yourself up as an expert. You also have to gain exposure with the right group of people. This can be done throug advertising, speaking and networking.

Susan - by susana
Hard to say. If you have good credentials and can communicate well (phone and print), I don't see why you'd have a problem setting yourself up as an expert.
What would 'good credentials' be for someone who sells used cars, insurance, real estate, etc.? - by Mikey
What would 'good credentials' be for someone who sells used cars, insurance, real estate, etc.?
I'm sure everyone has their own benchmark, but for me it would be someone who has been succesful in that particular field. And, can clearly communicate ideas and principals that helped them be succesful.

Susan - by susana
The answer is: a lot of satisfied customers and very few unsatisfied customers. Also, the person I buy something from can be brand new in sales and not an expert at anything other than being attentive and assisting me in getting what I want.

For the past eight years I've done hundreds of trainings face-to-face and in conference calls and my experience leads me to believe that most people aren't attentive to simple things which make all the difference in the world. Also, attention time or focus for anyone beginning something is generally three days - three weeks is long, and three months is exceptional.

The reason is people continually distract themselves from the essentials of what they have to know about their business and what they have to know about people when it comes to making a sale.

Lack of focus, lack of paying attention, and letting the imagination over run and fog up the mind and hence communication is what's commonplace.

AND that often comes from the inability or unwillingness of someone to be trainable and teachable. Letting go of bad habits and replacing them with good habits produces lots of problems as everyone knows usually from looking at the motes in everyone else's behavioral eyes yet totally missing the big chunks of rock in their own.

I speak from experience having experience both big chunks and little motes and lots of observation.

The best of the best to everyone.

MitchM - by MitchM
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