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We still laugh (and buy) for the same reasons

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Technology is changing culture - and culture is changing the way businesses are marketing their business. The internet, cell phones, and social media have completely transformed the way people are communicating today. As a result companies are also adapting by reaching their audiences in creative ways - through the new mediums.

BubbleboyConsider what would happen if a cell phone or the Internet was introduced into the 90’s sitcom Seinfeld. George Costanza would have never gotten lost on the way to the cabin to meet the Bubble Boy if he had MapQuest or in-car navigation.

Larry David would have simply found a new way to introduce the unlikely encounter. In both cases we would have laughed for the same underlying (albeit awkward) reasons.

Similarly, marketers are conforming to changes in culture in how they reach their audiences while not altering the core message or strategy. People still buy (or laugh) for the same reasons. It is only the delivery of the message that has changed.

Take for example Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet. Witty, creative, and timely. They captured the attention of millions of tweeters and lots of press to boot. And I am sure their sales benefited as a result - after all 3 out of 4 grocery purchase decisions are made in store. Creating a buzz that improves brand recognition is perfect for cookies. But what about more serious purchase decisions, like those in service-related industries?

With financial services for instance, 87 percent of buyers turn to friends or colleagues first for recommendations, while only about 1 out of every 10 shoppers start with independent research. The same holds true for most insurance, health care, veterinarians, salons, etc.

Due to change in culture, many referrals have shifted from direct personal contact to interactions over Facebook, Twitter, email, and even online reviews. Yet the underlying reasons why people choose one company over another remain. Personal recommendations are still king.

Therefore, it is important that companies that rely on trust pay close attention to how their customers are communicating with their friends and family. There are certainly ways to directly influence the propensity of loyal customers to actively give positive referrals.

My advice is to pay attention to how your customer base is making their purchase decisions and not simply conform to what’s popular in the marketing world. Yes, technology will certainly influence how you reach your customers, and how they communicate, but the core message should target the specific reasons they buy.

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