On September 24th, 1991, Nirvana released their Diamond certified record, Nevermind. Before the release, I’d never heard about them or their music. But then I started hearing the buzz. My group of friends were talking about Nirvana. I heard them on the radio. I watched them on MTV. That next year, I walked into a record store and was greeted by an individual who clearly knew music. He asked me if I had Nevermind yet. After a quick reprimand from the employee for not having it, I grabbed my copy and walked out a happy customer.
Now, think about how a customer would go about purchasing Nevermind today. Most likely, they never set foot in a store. They probably aren’t hearing them on the radio. They likely didn’t even seek it out. There’s a solid chance that Spotify’s algorithm decided that they might be a fan of 90s grunge and throw Come As You Are into a custom playlist.
The motivating force behind marketing and sales has always been touchpoints. Hank Brigman, the father of touchpoints, defines a touchpoint as any piece of communication (physical, digital, or verbal) that occurs between a brand and a customer throughout their purchasing journey. A touchpoint could be a “50% Off” sale post on Facebook or a conversation with the cashier at checkout.
Throughout the last half of the century, the traditional marketing model suggested just 3 positive touchpoints were needed to convert someone into a new customer. The number of touchpoints needed today is between 7 and 30. At the very lowest estimate, the number of positive touchpoints needed to convert a customer has doubled in the last 30 years.
A landmark 2015 study (check it out here) breaks down touchpoints into six groups: earned media (basically PR), brand advertising, retailer advertising, in-store communication, word-of-mouth, and peer observation (such as seeing what other customers buy). The study found that in-store communication was the touchpoint that most positively influenced the customer to purchase.
With the increasing push toward digital sales, in-store communication (the most effective touchpoint) is largely disappearing. Need proof? Credit Suisse projected that 25% of all malls in the US will close by 2022. With customers ditching physical shopping experiences for an extremely saturated digital environment, finding customers has become increasingly difficult. This movement has caused many massive brands left wondering, "Where'd all the customers go?"
For the last 10 years, I’ve been working in an industry that still exists largely due to the fact that big brands are struggling to find new customers. Through my time, I’ve partnered with the top brands in the world like AT&T, Sunrun, and ADT. Our goal has been to bring the in-store experience directly to customer’s homes. Marketing, brand education, and sales can all happen in the customer’s most convenient location. We’ve become the secret weapon for these massive brands. We can penetrate markets and demographics that no other touchpoint can.
Door-to-door sales is a powerful marketing tool. I choose the word powerful because it can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, salespeople can provide an unmatched sales experience for a customer. On the other, salespeople can leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths. Some business owners and salespeople have marred the industry through shady and aggressive sales tactics.
When my partners and I set out to build the next generation of door-to-door organizations, we believed that understanding our industry in a broader context was key. Our goal isn't to get a sale. It isn't to acquire another customer. Our goal is to bring the human aspect back to the marketing and sales process. Not only do I believe this is a winning strategy, but I believe it will help create a better world. Rather than wondering where all the customers went, let's go build real, human connections through our marketing and sales processes.