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Support Is the New Marketing: Why Web Marketing Is So Different From Offline Marketing

by Gerry McGovern  |  
November 2, 2010

In this article, learn...

  • Why old-school marketing, when applied on the Web, drives customers away
  • What tasks your customers come to your website to perform
  • How to help customers (and yourself) by making those tasks easy to achieve

This article is based on the new book, The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.

Customers Behaving Differently

These potential customers were not behaving as expected. They were avoiding all the classic marketing material on the website and were instead digging deep into the technical details and spending considerable time in the support section.

Strange, considering that they hadn't even bought the product yet. The organization's marketers were surprised by such behavior. They thought it strange.

But it's not that strange, really. I've seen that pattern occur again and again on the Web. Customers want details, facts, comparisons, and feedback from other customers. They avoid the fluff and waffle and marketing hype.

In fact, when applied to the Web, old-school marketing drives many customers away. That's because old-school marketers, when on the Web, are like needy children tugging repeatedly at the customer's sleeve while whining, "Pay some attention to me!"

"This is marketing," one customer complained as he sought to do product research on the website. "I don't have time for this."

Many people associate marketing and advertising with deception, lies, half-truths, and manipulation. When marketers talk about wanting customers to have an emotional engagement with the brand, what many customers hear is an attempt to exploit human emotions to make profit.

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Gerry McGovern ( is a content management consultant and author. His latest book is The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online, which teaches unique techniques for identifying and measuring the performance of customers' top tasks.

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  • by Alan Charlesworth Tue Nov 2, 2010 via web

    Hi Gerry - excellent article that has met its objective as I just ordered a copy of the book on Amazon [and yes, also one by Steve Krug which Amazon recommended].

    Can I be a bit picky, however?

    Are the negative points you direct at 'marketing' more relevant to 'promotion' or 'advertising'? Don't many aspects of 'old-school marketing' already address the issues you laud as being 'new marketing'? Relationship marketing, for example, is about retaining the customer whilst any sales person worth their salt will lose a sale rather than supplying a product that the customer does not need [with a view to future business]. And isn't 'the long neck' a distant offspring of the concept that is segmentation?

    Whilst I agree [totally] about website content and development - and, indeed the title of your article - my reason for being picky is that I teach both marketing and e-marketing, and I feel strongly that you cannot teach - or learn - the latter without a pretty comprehensive knowledge of the former.

    And here's the kicker, some lazy folk will see headlines such as this article's and assume that they can leap straight into web marketing without the fundamentals of the subject. This - from my experience - is particularly true of folk with 'techie' backgrounds who think that e-marketing is a brand new discipline that owes nothing to the good practices learned over thousands of years prior to the Internet.

    I like to think of the 'new marketer' as one who appreciates the role the Internet can play in effective marketing - at both strategic and operational levels. And it is the role of the website within them that your article [and book?] is about.

    There you go, mini-rant over - keep up the good work.

  • by A S Prisant Wed Nov 3, 2010 via web

    Seems to be a contradiction here. Author first says this market wants more details and facts, then gives examples of how deleting or hiding that hard info boosts web response. So which is it?

    Alexander Prisant/Prism Ltd

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