Columnist Jordan Elkind says if you want to stay relevant, you need to strive towards always-on, one-to-one marketing to better understand your customers.
The traditional marketing campaign is a topic long debated by industry experts and novices alike. For every article declaring that the campaign is dead, there’s another celebrating its virtues. And while the future of marketing will likely be about continuously engaging customers with relevant content seamlessly across channels, that world can seem like a far-fetched fantasy compared to the current day-to-day rush of getting even basic campaigns out the door.
Ideally, marketing is like a great conversation with a customer. The customer speaks (through actions), and the brand listens, thinks (by layering on intelligence), and responds. This is a continuous process whereby the customer manages their own journey, and the brand is continuously adding value.
Unfortunately, getting to this type of always-on, one-to-one marketing at scale is a real challenge. Luckily, you can start working toward the ideals behind this approach, namely engaging your customers at the right time and as individuals, today.
Unsurprisingly, the first step is understanding your customers better. You may not be able to speak with your entire customer base one-on-one today, but using customer analytics, you can find the right customers to focus on first. Choosing the most impactful customer segments and running a few smart programs is the first step toward delivering the marketing of the future.
Here are three ways you can get started today:
1. Behavioral triggers
One of the easiest ways for customers to communicate with a brand is through their explicit behaviors. Whether someone liked a company post on Instagram, searched the website for “ripped jeans,” or put a pair of cargo shorts in a shopping cart, actions can often speak louder than words.
Marketing triggers based on relevant actions are a great place for brands to start with always-on marketing. Once the relevant customer actions have been decided, and some evergreen content drawn up, the marketer can let their marketing execution tools do the rest of the heavy lifting.
Although today, many companies are sending this messaging over email, almost any marketing channel can work. In fact, for customers who have opted out of email, alternate channels such as social, display or even direct mail may prove to have a higher return.
2. Lifecycle messaging
Customers aren’t always interacting with the brand directly, so to reach them at the optimal time, the marketing team must infer likely future actions based on their past behaviors. By studying engagement and purchase patterns, the team can understand where the customer is in their lifecycle, as well as when they seem to be veering off their individual pattern.
Segmenting your customers by their current lifecycle segment (one-time purchaser, repeat customer, multiple purchases but cooling down, at risk, lost, etc.) is a great way to break down your customer base for more relevant marketing. The messaging you send to your first-time buyers is likely drastically different from the messaging for long-term loyal customers.
By dynamically assigning customers to different lifecycle buckets, you can better deliver the right messaging to guide them along their journey with your brand.
3. Loyalty cultivation
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of marketing without campaigns is that there isn’t always a direct call to action. In fact, the future of marketing will be much like the early days of marketing: all about telling stories, building trust, and most importantly, fostering loyalty.
While building this type of long-term messaging for your entire customer base is a large-scale project, you can start to lay the foundation today with a small group of consumers. Start with a program that addresses your high-value and future high-value customers.
These customers are key to your future success, so they’re a great place to start fostering long-term loyalty. Analyze what makes these groups of customers different, and let that inspire the content you send.
A VIP program with weekly or bimonthly touchpoints is a great place to start. These programs can leverage brand messaging, special offers, and exclusive sneak peeks to let your best customers know you care.
While additional touchpoints with customers can seem like an engagement risk, relevant content and enticing offers will keep them away from the unsubscribe and unfollow buttons.
As we move toward always-on marketing, the way we think about execution will change. Rather than one-off campaigns, we’ll strive for continuous storytelling and contextual interactions.
We’ll be able to move away from optimizing for short-term gains and campaign-level engagement metrics, and toward maximizing lifetime value, loyalty, advocacy, and other business KPIs (key performance indicators).
During this transition period, it’s more important than ever to allocate your resources efficiently. By starting with some key audiences, you can begin to test the infrastructure you need to provide your customers with more relevant messaging.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.