Monday, May 11, 2009

Are we going back to Main Street?

Just read Return On Influence, a thought-provoking article by digital marketing guru George Benckenstein. George is one of the real thinkers in this field, and often comes up with a new perspective that is worth sharing.

In this article, he says "None of us remember the era when all commerce was localized — meaning, anyone you did business with lived in your immediate community. There was no such thing as advertising, marketing channels and brands. You did business with people you knew."

The thing is, George, I do remember this, or at least something not far removed from it. When I was a kid, shopping meant physically walking down the street from the grocer to the hardware store to the dry goods store, each owned by the guy behind the counter. The merchants knew your name, your childrens' names, and the items you liked.

They would make a point to tell you when a shipment of your favourites had just arrived. They'd often hand you a sample or a free treat over the counter. One smart store-owner would regularly give me a free ice cream cone when I tagged along with mom as she shopped. A time that has long passed.

Or has it? George says this was a "Trust Economy," and history is about to repeat itself, but not just on a local level.

He says people are fed up with the constant pushiness of mass marketers who obviously have no interest in us beyond the checkout counter, and advises those selling stuff to "let people get to know you, trust you and befriend you... Relationships are back."

I like the sound of that, and hope the shouters are listening. It remains to be seen whether Home Depot can "relate" as well as my local hardware store. The one they put out of business. Doubtful. They're even automating their checkout, so I don't even get a phony "Have a nice day" any more.

Lots to ponder on his website.

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