Ticking The Boxes

Nigel Arthur, managing director at digital marketing specialist ExactTarget, explains why marketers should be creating conversation and asking customers to ’tick the box’

Nigel Arthur
Nigel Arthur

Reaching consumers in a personal, targeted way is the key to successful marketing campaigns. While this is hardly news to marketers, it is surprising how many fail to put this in practice, especially in multi-channel marketing programmes using email, SMS, and social media.

While some companies get it right and are bearing the fruit of their efforts in increased sales and optimised customer relationships, many more are still struggling – treating email like direct mail and subscribers like lists instead of individuals.

A recent ExactTarget study found that 70% of Facebook users who “like” at least one company on Facebook don’t believe they have given companies permission to market to them.

Moreover, 40% of those users don’t believe marketers are welcome in social networks at all. This would also suggest that Twitter users who “follow” the Twitter feed of a brand, have not consent for that brand to spam them with information.

These statistics reflect the overwhelming discontent felt by consumers with marketers invading social networks and interjecting interruptive promotions and shameless company plugs amidst consumers’ wall posts and Tweets.

It’s an approach that has eroded consumer confidence and one that will ultimately prove disastrous unless marketers are willing to make social media engagement more about conversation and less about a call to action.

If marketers truly want to put the customer at the heart of their communications they need to incorporate permission-based, email, SMS and other forms of digital communications into their marketing outreach to subscribers, customers and partners.

This may seem rudimentary, but few brands offer consumers the ability to opt-in to communications, and even fewer give consumers the opportunity to identify what they want to hear, when they want to hear it and how often.

Marketers are missing out on the opportunity to understand customer preferences and drive increased engagement, and are instead focussing on amassing the largest number of fans or Facebook or followers on Twitter.

The good news is that marketers don’t need a huge budget or advanced technology to field great permission-based email or multi-channel campaigns.

What marketers do need is good planning, creativity and above all, a respect for their list members – the essential individuals that have ticked the box for marketing. The solution to developing powerful online engagement is simple – ask the consumer what they want and then deliver it in the channel in which they give permission.

Giving customers an easy way to identify how and where they want to hear from companies is achievable through adding a simple registration form on websites or expanding existing email registration page to include Twitter, Facebook and SMS are key.

It’s also important to give customers a reason to hear from a company, and offering discounts or early product announcements are tried and tested ways to drive increased engagement, it’s even more successful if these offers are personalised and relevant to the individual customer.

To increase the likelihood of customers ticking the box to receive communications, marketers should provide an easy process in which to do so whilst they are highly engaged with the brand – both in store and online. For example; customers should be given the opportunity to sign up to receive communications via SMS while they are shopping in store. This amplifies the sense of uniqueness around the brand experience and gives marketers the opportunity to extend the relationship beyond the visit.

The same holds true for online shopping, give shoppers a chance to subscribe to communications as part of the payment process.

Every customer is different in the way they interact with brands across various interactive channels. In order to achieve the all important permission to connect with customers via social media, marketers should provide multiple ways to join brand communications on Facebook, Twitter, email and SMS.

This allows marketers to identify individual customer preferences of channel, frequency and topic and clearly identify how marketers should use these to shape communications. Making communications more personalised across all channels creates an immersive brand presence that drives loyalty and increases conversion.

The explosive growth of social media and massive adoption of email has changed the face of interactive marketing. Consumers want engagement, not marketing, and expect it to receive relevant, meaningful content across all channels.

Now more than ever, marketers need to act on the fact that consumers hold the power. Market to them in the right way and reap the reward of new levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty; market to them in the wrong way and messages will be deleted with the brand’s reputation suffering as a result.

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