The ever-increasing power of the consumer

Of all the tremendous changes the Internet has wrought over the last few years, one of the most profound is the ever-increasing power of the consumer. Twenty years ago, companies marketed at people. Consumers were pinned to the wall; marketers just had to write big checks to reach them. Consumers had just a few media options-three TV channels, the radio, a handful of magazines. We were all sitting ducks waiting for whatever the marketers wanted us to hear.

Today, the two enemies of interruption marketing - clutter and time drought - have led consumers to ignore almost everything. It takes an awful lot to get a consumer to read an ad, answer a phone call, visit a dealership, or actually buy something.

Thanks to the Net, though - and the ability of consumers to respond instantly to an ad - the television industry now has click-through envy. As well it should. But novelty on the Net is hardly a panacea for the complexities of digital marketing. As eyeball-ravaged media buyers are learning, getting a click just is not enough.

The new reality? Marketers should spend a lot less time worrying about sagging click-through rates - and throwing money at gimmicks such as animated cursors - and a lot more time thinking about and planning what happens after the click. Instead of interrupting as many people as possible and hoping that a tiny fraction will be interested enough to buy from you, it often makes sense to target a smaller number of volunteers - consumers interested enough in your offering to ask to be marketed to. In fact, it's a lot like dating - a much better way to get married than visiting singles bars.

Flirt Banners that make online customers a promise work better than those that don't. Banners that make a compelling promise you can keep work best of all! After you have made a promise and earned that first click, the most important thing in the world is to get the consumer to give his permission to be marketed to.

Think of it this way: The Net is a trade show with 37 million booths. It's dark, everyone is wearing a mask, and the chances of selling to someone wearing a mask are almost zero. But the moment the consumer types in his email address and asks you to market to him, he's taken off his mask.

Most companies should have a Website for potential customers of no more than a page or two in length. Promise a benefit in exchange for having the user volunteer receive information from you. Make it as simple as that. And keep your promise.