Listen and learn

Kevin Slatter, managing director of G2 Data Dynamics, argues that in tough economic times direct marketers need to listen to what their customers are telling them.

Kevin Slatter
Kevin Slatter

The recession has been tough stint for direct marketers, and forecasts of slow economic growth promise more of the same in the near future.

Budgets have been slashed, and consumers have been keeping their wallets and purses tightly closed. Overall, there is nothing in the headlines to suggest that won’t continue for a while yet.

First there was the run on Northern Rock, then we had postal strikes to contend with, while direct mail volumes are down and response rates are also in decline.

TPS, MPS and Electoral Roll opt-outs are also on the increase. Meanwhile, above-the-line channels are experiencing similar challenges brought about by consumers being spread ever more thinly across fragmenting channels.

Marketers are being sent the clear message that sections of their target audiences no longer want to be bombarded from all angles with unwanted offers, messages, incentives and products. The era of push marketing being enough to boost sales has ended. What consumers want is not the hard sell, but a two-way dialogue with the brands they choose and across the media channels of choice. Engaging with consumers, and recognising that they are key contributors to successful marketing strategies, is the starting point. The end result is the creation of a time relevant conversation beneficial to both brand and buyer. This kind of ’mutual marketing’ process is now needed to bring about change in marketing practices and ensure that target markets remain engaged.

By bringing together the worlds of real-time online research and marketing data insights, marketers can ensure that spend is both highly targeted and measurable, and activities are more properly matched to interested audiences.

Marketers who aim to give customers what they desire, when they want it need in-depth insights into their purchasing behaviours. Consumers are more likely to willingly provide these key personal insights if they are guaranteed something useful in return – be it special offers, new distribution channels, a makeover of the marketing message or even tweaks to the product itself.

So make the most of your existing multi-channel data and real-time research: listen to what people are telling you. This, in turn, will strengthen an individual’s engagement with a product or company; they will want to know more about the brand and begin to feel it is a positive part of their everyday lives.

An individual is much more likely to stick with a ’friendly’ or useful brand. The more someone buys a product, the deeper the relationship becomes, until they can be counted as loyal consumers, or even brand advocates. And this loyalty should make it much easier for marketers to glean the greater insight into the profile of their customer base that they crave.

Those companies that don’t engage with today’s more technology-empowered, brand-savvy consumers risk damaging whatever relationship they had with them forever.

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