By Leah Quesada, VP of Marketing, Enterprise Business Group

I was at a community function when I bumped into my neighbor.  She owns a couple of small, but well stocked art galleries in this city. She knows I work for Xerox and shared with me her experience of a recent purchase of “one of those multifunction printers that use those solid ink block sticks.”  She said she had another colleague in the industry that had recently purchased one too – the image quality was perfect for showcasing art pieces because the “colors popped out.” She explained, “I did the rest of my research on the web… some on Xerox’s website, some blogs, IT communities and articles about the technology…then I decided to call my local sales dealer.”

My neighbor, the art gallery owner, is a representative of the newly empowered customer.  With intense price pressures for suppliers in the market, customers enjoy the benefit of evaluating and selecting with more information sources at their fingertips than ever before.  According to the Corporate Executive Board, B2B customers consult an average of 10 sources when researching a purchase, many of them not supplier controlled. Customers are 60% in the sales cycle before they even call a sales representative.

Chart showing influence score by channel from Marketing Leadership Council

Marcom channels ranked by effectiveness via Marketing Leadership Council's Wide Angle Blog

In this new paradigm, there is this space called “No Man’s Land,” according to the Marketing Leadership Council, where customers want and need information to evaluate, without sales support. In a paradoxically old fashioned way, word of mouth, personal or digital, is the most popular way customers’ decisions are influenced.

The internet has truly shrunk the world.  In the business world, the power has shifted from voice of the supplier to voice of the individual – it is expressed and heard.  It has the power to influence others.  We’ve seen this phenomenon likewise with the more recent citizen uprisings in some parts of the world.

Coworkers talking outside over coffee on their laptops

Image Credit: Getty Images®

Here’s another paradox – today’s marketplace has returned back to how it was in the 20th century, where sellers and buyers knew and influenced each other.  Today, the digital marketplace has shifted things: from mass communications to personalized communications and from one-way message marketing to two-way conversations that foster transparency and customer intimacy: un-marketing and re-connecting to the customer.  It’s back to basics.

Social media is one tool that provides these connection points. Customers are empowered by providing feedback through blogs, forums, and ratings and reviews.  The best companies embrace these new interactions across the different parts of their value chain beyond marketing to engineering, sales, and customer support because they realize customer engagement and intimacy is everybody’s business.

How do you un-market and re-connect with your empowered customers?