For many years, marketers had it easy to market brands to consumers. All it took was a good product, distribution, money to advertise in mass media (to “shout loudly”) and soon enough sales were coming in. Of course, advertising in mass media such as TV still works but it seems that it does not do so as well as it used to. This trend seems to be further enhanced by social media websites such as Facebook that are now really getting serious advertisers’ dollars. In fact, what marketers are currently doing is simply starting to move their ad dollars where consumers are: in a way, they are smartly continuing to fish where the fishes are. Along the way, they are also (most of the times) learning the hard way that to “deliver the right message at the right time”, “talking” is not enough any more. Indeed, to remain relevant, nowadays, brands need to be in consumers’ daily conversations, and in order to do so they need to “listen” much more to their customers. Not an easy task for marketers: data suggests that the ratio of “talking” to “listening” for brands is about 20 times greater. The first irony about this statistic is that it suggests that much of the “listening” expenditure of brands made in market research consists of “questioning” rather than truly listening to consumers. The second irony is that market researchers are mostly “buying samples” to listen to their customers… whereas many consumers are willing to share ideas, insights, feedbacks, daily (and freely) with brands! Where? Through call centers and brand websites of course! Since the early days of the Internet, the website has been the place where engaged consumers have been going to voice their opinions, gather ideas or simply pay a visit to their favourite brands. They were and still remain the best place where brands can develop strong relationships with consumers, seed new products and ideas and of course listen. I know, this may sound a bit odd in the current all social media age, but although twitter accounts and facebook fan pages are must have, a recent ad age column rightfully stated “websites are not going away -- they might be more important than ever - but they serve a different and evolved purpose today,… if we're truly entering a POEM (paid, owned, earned) media mix model, brand websites are key. Websites anchor the owned, reinforce the paid and incubate the earned”. We can not agree more of course. Year after year, brand websites appear to be the most trusted source of “advertising”. In fact, they have this ability because of their unique listening capabilities. When you think about it, the website is indeed the only media that is fully owned by the brand, an always on 24/7 platform, ready to help out or redirect consumers in search of information and in the best cases open feedback to listen. For over 10 years, we experienced this benefit at crmmetrix. Continuous open feedback on websites made us discover that websites are real joys that can truly act as a marketing hub for the brands. For the most advanced of our clients, they consider the brand website as an ideal “listening hub” that for example helps them measure their “consumers pulse” around the globe. Using a mix of proprietary metrics (including the Net Promoter Score), brand managers know in real time how well their websites do, and by extension, where their brands stand in their consumer minds (the website is the brand!). Imagine having this global and multi-local listening capability available to market with consumers. This is exactly what companies such as the Coca-Cola Company have at their disposal with WRIS (Website Research Intelligent System from crmmetrix). Developed as software as a service application (“Saas”), global marketers in Atlanta track in real time where their brands stand locally and globally while local marketers have the ability to “listen in”, anticipate issues, test and evolve new ideas, etc. We always thought the future and the present of marketing as a test, listen, learn and evolve process, where the brand websites had a central role to play… And as our long time friend Pete Blackshaw recently stated:
“So again, don't throw away the website. Listen, adapt and restock the exploding network of brand stands. Think less about "web master" and more about social "spoke caster."”
Start now before it becomes too late!
 This has always been the key and will remain the key to all, specifically in the current social media and word of mouth times.
 A recent Emarketer forecast states that Facebook will gain over 1 Billion dollars of revenue from advertising in 2010: http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=145359 .
 We simply computed the ratio of global ad spend for 2007 (ZenithOptimedia estimates for 2007 is 457 billions US$) to global market research expenditure provided by Esomar for 2007 (28 billions US$).
 Pete Blackshaw, “Do we still need websites?” http://adage.com/cmostrategy/article?article_id=145351
 See for example Nielsen global studies on advertising trust.
 Many research companies report declining “surveys participation” rates year after year, SiteCRM does not show any such signs, a good proportion of consumers are not only willing to provide feedback once but also willing to re-engage further with the brand.