How companies connect with people is changing faster than marketers are adapting. Control over our communication with the people who buy products and services has been taken over by third party platforms and service providers. Rules of engagement are no longer defined by the company doing the engaging. They have to conform to frequently changing terms of service.
Comparatively speaking, marketing was relatively simple in the past. Any company with enough time and resources could be successful. There were three channels – direct mail, storefront, and door to door. Channel integration wasn’t expected or necessary. Marketing plans were designed for specific channels and then updated as needed. There was little need for major changes.
Marketing plans are in a constant state of flux today. It seems that they are barely printed before channels, platforms, or service providers make changes that require a major revamping. Creating and implementing a customer focused strategy is the only way for marketers to keep their companies from being derailed.
Customer focused strategies are based on providing the shopping and service experiences people want not the exceptional experiences marketers tend to think they need. Studies by the Corporate Executive Board have shown that people want things simple and easy.
One study looked at what made consumers “sticky” (as in completing purchases, returning to buy more, and recommending the company to others.) It found that simplifying the buying decision dramatically increased the likelihood that people would make purchase from and recommend the company.
The second study looked at the effect of service on loyalty. The study found a direct relationship between ease in resolving problems and loyalty. The less effort required by the customer, the more loyalty and vice versa. Expending high effort to resolve issues is so powerful that 96% of customers participating in the study are more disloyal to the company. Providing opportunities for self-service is a win-win for customer and company. It turns out that customers prefer serving themselves. In the study, 57% tried to resolve the problem online before calling customer service.
These studies suggest that the efforts made to provide exceptional shopping and service experiences had limited effect on corporate success. Customer and company relationships are primarily transactional. The companies that simplify the buying decision and make it easy to resolve issues get loyalty and engagement. Basically, everything boils down to understanding what your customers want and consistently delivering it.
The following marketing game changers effect how well you can consistently provide the shopping and service experience that acquires new customers and keeps them coming back.
Mobile marketing has moved from optional to mandatory. According to Pew’s Research Center:
- 91% of American adults have a cell phone
- 56% have a smartphone
- 34% have a tablet computer
- 26% have an e-reader
- 79% of cell phone owners use SMS texting
The devices are used to search the Internet for products and service, banking, check out reviews and competitors’ prices, social networking, and a host of other activities. The questions that need to be answered for your company are: Are people finding us when they search? Is our website mobile friendly? Is it easy to read and respond to our emails on mobile devices? What do we need to do to optimize our mobile presence?
Understanding what your customers want begins with analyzing their behavior. The analytics that worked so well to grow companies in the past need more to keep your business moving forward. RFM (recency, frequency, and monetary value) analysis doesn’t identify hit & run shoppers, discount buyers, or seasonal activity. Failing to identify buying behavior so targeted marketing can be used to increase sales and reduce costs is high risk behavior.
Digging deep into online and behavior analytics provides insight into the drivers that motivate people to buy if the information is reliable and actionable. Much of the data available today has little use. Create a data management program that provides the information needed to best serve your customers and company. The business that best manages available data has a competitive edge.
Automated Email Inbox Management
Gmail’s new inbox provides a service that makes it much harder for email marketing messages to be seen in a timely manner. Incoming messages are automatically sorted into tabs. Filtering emails is not a new process. Most email service providers provide some form of filtering to help users manage their messages. Automating the process is new.
Your marketing messages automatically go to the Promotions tab. Order status emails go to the Updates tab. Maybe. They could go to the Promotions tab if the content includes promotional information. The only guarantee is that none of your messages will go to the primary inbox without the recipients’ taking action. A manual update is required to change the filters. Now, in addition to needing your customers and subscribers to whitelist your company, you need Gmail users to unfilter your messages.
The battle between Google+ and Facebook keeps going. Both offer local search options that tie into their social networks. Optimizing your company information increases marketing reach via search and social. Google+ has extra benefits for companies with a physical location for customers. They have a deal of the day in Google offers that uses multichannel marketing to notify participants of promotions via email, an app, and on Google+.
Maximizing your company’s exposure on local search requires optimization of your information. The best practices that work with regular search also work on the local level. Reviews are becoming increasingly important so make sure to monitor mentions and respond as needed.
Search isn’t limited to websites anymore. Facebook and Google are expanding their horizons to include social networks and friends’ activities. Google is taking search even further into email. The field trial that is currently in progress delivers results from Gmail in addition to the web. This means that your email marketing messages have a second chance to generate sales.
Optimizing your emails by including good keywords in text and alternate tags increases the chances they will be pulled during the search. Even if your target market isn’t participating in the field trial, your messages should be optimized for search on the web. Most business emails offer the option to view them online. Making them searchable increases the possibility that they will be picked up by search bots.