Customers need and deserve to be treated as they are: people.
That means meeting them with messages that move them to purchase, understanding their behavior, knowing their preferences and anticipating their needs.
But in order to provide excellent, personal service across channels, brands need to adjust their strategy.
Here’s how our four experts are using People-Based Marketing techniques to better respond to their customers’ needs and expectations.
How has your strategy and messaging evolved to respond to the changing dynamic between consumers and brands?
Gary Beck, Chief Strategy Officer at Endai, a data-driven online marketing agency: At Endai, we help clients create digital and direct marketing campaigns that drive results. We have seen our clients move to using systematic modeling and automated campaign management, based on customers’ purchasing behaviors. The end result is that customized messages are sent to consumers, essentially providing one-to-one marketing capabilities.
Alessandra Ceresa, Content and Engagement Specialist at GreenRope, a small business CRM: We’ve become more focused on data-driven efforts; for example, ensuring we have a consistent, company-wide data structure. This means that our data is collected, recorded and used in a strategic, systemized way to create personalized customer journeys. We use customer journey maps to send consumers down the paths they choose through their behaviors, demographics and actions. Depending on the rules we setup, each consumer can have a unique customer experience, specific to their needs and wants. This is still a work in progress, as we continue to gather data on our initial efforts. We also use testing pretty consistently to help determine effective messaging, campaigns, nurturing strategies and more.
Jason Oates, Chief Business Officer at LiveIntent, which connects brands to people along the customer journey: It’s all about the journey. For people-based marketing to work, we all have to focus on the customer journey. By focusing on the journey and consulting with brands and their service providers, we’re able to break down silos between teams such as branding, acquisition, retargeting, CRM and analytics. For example, when we work with Wayfair, AllBirds and Bombas we ensure that they don’t waste acquisition dollars by showing ads to current customers. And when we see a customer, we offer brands the opportunity to deliver a customer message or offer. Unlike the walled gardens, we also provide feedback loops so the brands can measure customer reach and frequency from the first-party emails they send and the customers they engage across our platform of more than 2,000 branded email newsletters.
Debbie Tolman, Senior Manager of Audience Engagement at Cox Media Group, which integrates broadcasting, publishing and digital media to create a local impact with real journalism: [Cox Media] recognizes the need to function across business units. We have projects going on to build a customer centric experience that is informed by data. Engagement tactics have taught us a lot. We are using those learning to influence are acquisition and retention tactics.
How can brands better understand and meet the needs of consumers?
Beck: The more we know about consumers, who they are and how they respond to the “relationship” they have with us and others, the better! This speaks to the need to collect and maintain relevant information about consumers over time. Demographic, psychographic, and purchase information are all important. Engagement information – such as site browsing and survey information – is also extremely useful. Promotion history tells us what works and what doesn’t. All of this information allows us to paint a comprehensive picture about the customer and how we can best meet their needs.
Ceresa: I think the first thing that brands need to do is actually look at the data they are collecting. So many marketers build buyer personas without diving deep into their customer insights. Without a deep analysis, you risk building inaccurate customer profiles. Start off with basics like industry, title, links with the most clicks, emails opened, etc. This will help you determine a basic outline of who your audience consists and what they enjoy content-wise. Next, you want to look at your funnel. How many leads are coming in and how many are converting? Is there a disconnect somewhere along that path? Where are your leads falling off, and why? Understanding the path your leads take down the funnel is crucial for optimizing your conversions. If you notice that leads are dropping off once they have had a live demo, then maybe you are not doing enough nurturing after the demo to engage and convert. Look at your processes and adapt them to the needs of the consumer. If you notice people opening your emails more at 7 p.m. than at 10 a.m., adjust your strategy. We have so many analytics coming to us with marketing automation and CRM that we have no excuse not to use this data to optimize our strategies.
Oates: It starts with identity resolution. For example, if you don’t recognize who a customer is when they appear on your website, then there’s little to no context that can be used to personalize the customer experience. Brands that leverage ID or people graphs have one view of the customer across all platforms and channels, and then can collect and activate intent to serve the needs and wants of the customer. The more relevant the advertising and marketing is, the better, as long as it’s not overly personalized or creepy.
Tolman: I like to think that I only have one sentence I can say to a customer at a time. It forces me to prioritize what I say, when and in which channel. I can’t waste that touchpoint with a message that isn’t relevant or I risk never being able to talk to that customer again.
How do you meet your customers across channels?
Beck: Customers are now in the driver’s seat when it comes to conducting business. People expect that they have the option of engaging anytime and anywhere they wish to. Some customers show strong preferences for specific channels, such as social. Direct mail is particularly effective with some segments, as well. As a result, marketing campaigns need to understand the channel preferences of their customers and tailor campaigns accordingly. We need to meet customers on their terms, which frequently requires that we cast as wide a net as possible across the channels available to us.
Ceresa: This is a tough one. We all want to be omnichannel, but the reality is that without the right technology and resources, along with money and manpower, it’s hard to be everywhere your customers are. In my experience at GreenRope, it’s best to be where you are making the most impact and converting the most leads or customers. A few of our big ones are PPC, social media and live chat. We can track the higher conversion rates that come from Facebook, but know that Twitter drives a lot of traffic. While both of these are effective, Facebook tends to generate the most revenue. So, if we had to choose where to max out our budget, we would choose Facebook – an example of a data-driven decision. We try to make sure people are getting the information they need without having to go look for it. That means using email marketing, social media, live chat, and our blog to help educate, engage and nurture our leads and clients. Again, you cannot be everything to everyone, so use data to determine where your efforts are most effective and focus on testing and optimizing.
Oates: Email was the first application that allowed marketers to reach customers anytime and anywhere across mobile phones, tablets, and desktop/laptops at home, in transit, and at work. Today marketers can not only send email to reach customers but also deliver personalized messaging in email in real time. And, by linking anonymous identifiers across devices, marketers can extend their customer reach from email to the open web and back. For example, LiveIntent offers technology to allow marketers to re-market to their customers who abandoned their online shopping cart in their first party emails and over 2,000 third-party branded emails in our ecosystem. What’s very complicated is generating and delivering the right creative and message at the right time you meet the customer. LiveIntent’s dynamic product ads do the heavy-lifting for marketers in automating messaging to the individual.
Tolman: I am learning. The first part is getting an assessment of all the places we are talking to a customer. Then, it’s figuring out what messages are being sent to the customer. My early assessment is we need to do a better job of prioritizing our messages. We are confusing the customer by not deciding internally what is most important.
There’s no one solution. Shifting to a People-Based Marketing mindset involves learning, understanding, tweaking and perfecting.
But one thing is certain: data is key. Customer data fuels segmentation, stronger automation and more personalized campaigns. It connects customers across channels and gives context to behavior. And it allows marketers to attribute their efforts to know what’s working, and what’s not.
In our next post, we’ll look at how data and emerging technology is empowering marketers to understand and meet their customers.