A New Approach in the Relationship Marketing Era (From Cleveland to the United States, to the World)

There is a shift happening in marketing. Many feel it was caused by the global pandemic that struck the world in early 2020. I, however, believe that COVID-19 merely accelerated the shift we’re seeing in consumer behavior. This shift does not only affect Cleveland, or Ohio, but instead has impacted marketing around the world. The most simple way to put it is that the “relationship era” is currently being redefined and new approaches are proving to be more successful than ever before. The approach that has been gaining the most traction, and the one I will be focusing on today, is the experience model. Let’s start by identifying two main data points: 

  1. What are the demographics of the consumers located in Cleveland, Ohio?
  2. How does this model translate to northeast Ohio and the rest of the country? 

The Cleveland Consumer and Market 

Let’s first lay some groundwork and begin to understand some insights surrounding consumers located in Cleveland, Ohio. A simple google search will show that nearly 384,000 people reside in the city and the median age is 36 years old. An average household income of $30,000 per year aligns with an average property value of $70,000. All of this demographic information is great to have, but it only tells a fraction of the story. 

Psychographic information is on the rise in popularity, but it is not so easy to get a hold of. When it comes to the consumers within Cleveland, there is a wide range of diversity in consumer segments, but the primary segments they fall into are as follows: Activists, Hip Hop Culture, and Hardworkers. Activists fight for a just world and commonly engage with protests, rallies, and spreading awareness of social justice issues to the public. Hip hop culture dives into the music, dance, movies, fashion they enjoy along with all other aspects of culture. As for the hardworking group, they take great pride in everything they do, whether fun or work-related, they put all of their effort into just about everything they do. 

The Nation in Comparison to Cleveland, Ohio

Over 2020, we saw many of the same activities as described above. Social justice issues, environmental protection, and social responsibility are some of the topics that have recently swept the nation. The professional lifestyle is becoming popular and so is the need to pave your own path towards financial freedom. These factors tie directly into the Cleveland market and support the global shift in marketing that is happening. 

The Experience Model

To put it straightforwardly, consumers do not care what you sell, how you market it, or even how much it costs. Instead, they care about how it was made, what initiatives the company is taking to enhance general living, and how the specific goods and services play a role in doing so. Features, upgrades, and all the bells and whistles used to be a great way to extend a product life cycle and drive higher sales. This is no longer the case. Your products and services have to do more than just provide basic value to the end consumer. You have to provide an experience.

When talking about providing an experience, this really starts from day one of the brand, product, or service. From discovery date all the way through the end purchase and ongoing relationships with the consumer. Whether they find you on social media or Google, whether they buy in brick and mortar or online, whether they like the product or not, if you offer an experience that stands out and resonates with them, you will have their attention and business for much longer than other methods.

If you think about it, it has been shifting for a while now, but the global pandemic pushed things along at a much faster rate than anticipated. People were already buying more products online, doing more research during the buying process, and even beginning to shame brands who did not meet their needs and expectations. Since everyone was forced to stay at home more, this gave them time to not only do more research but reflect and draw out what matters to them most. Between demographic and psychographic research, you can no longer attract attention with flashy ads that constantly try to sell to a consumer. They need to be able to relate with you and really feel that you as a brand are concerned with things other than driving maximum revenues. 

In the grand scheme of things, the line between B2B and B2C is becoming less relevant as things continue to trend in the direction they are. Instead we should all be thinking in the mindset of B2P (Business to person) because at the end of the day, whether business or consumer, the decision-maker is a human! 

Back to Cleveland 

Whether you are a local small business, a medium-sized organization, or an international company, this shift is going to be crucial in the long term success of the brand you have worked so hard to build. This is true, even in Cleveland, as the shift to experiences continues, you will find yourself struggling unless you immerse yourself in the community and become an active part in working to achieve goals, eliminate pain points, and provide an experience that is worth remembering. The younger generations (Millenial and Gen Z) are growing up quickly and they have already begun to demand change and shift the way the rest of the world thinks. Marketing to them is not the easiest, but if you take the right approach, you do not need to spend millions on ads, or dump your entire marketing budget into social media, it will come naturally. By treating the end consumer like a person rather than a sale, you will find it easier to draw in new audiences, make longer-lasting relationships, and build a brand that lasts beyond a lifetime! 

About James Warnken

James graduated in spring 2020 with a bachelors in marketing from Walsh University but has been practicing in the world of marketing for almost four years now. Although James specializes in SEO and Data Analytics, he has dabbled in a wide range of marketing activities ranging from social media, graphic design, website design, and even traditional marketing with billboards. Currently, James is a team member at Apex Communication Network where he assists in business strategy alongside running the SEO/Data Analytics side of things. James has one main goal when it comes to the clients he works with and that is to drive growth and long-term success, not static metrics.



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