There was some great thinking at Forbes.com this week from Christine Crandell on what she calls “preference marketing” – the idea that the marketing game has been flipped on its head, and buyers have all the control now.

“Buyers took control when information became ubiquitous on the Web. No longer dependent upon marketing for information on trends or new ways to solve problems, and equally no longer dependent on Sales to navigate the pros and cons of solutions they were considering – buyers threw off the shackles and rewrote the rules.”

Crandall writes that her firm conducted a study that showed that, for Fortune 100 companies, 80 percent of the purchase cycle is completed before the buyer contacts potential vendors or partners. Eighty percent!

That means your marketing needs to dramatically shift its focus – Don Draper can’t help you anymore. As Crandall writes:

“… preference [marketing] requires a mindset shift. It’s not about the type of relationship YOU want to have with your target markets but about aligning to the expectations buyers have of you.”

That means you need to get inside the minds of your prospects and understand their world. It means that you need to provide them with information that helps them better understand their own world. It means you have to deliver them value, and you need to start now because, as Crandall writes, “preference … is built over time.”

You can’t buy preference; you need to earn it. A snappy commercial might get you some attention, but it isn’t going to build confidence that you can execute after you’re hired.

By understanding that you’re working in a world dictated by customer preference, you can begin to deliver. You can begin to build trust by your actions.

And here’s the best news of all. You can do it efficiently and without throwing and seven-figure budgets at marketing and hoping something works.