Building bridges

Brands and marketers alike are currently facing a dilemma when it comes to managing customer relationships. Kevin Slatter, managing director of G2 Data Dynamics, explains what the problem is and how to remedy it.

Due to the recent influx of new channels, technology and customer touch-points, many brand managers are struggling to clarify how best to understand and interact with their audiences. Confounding this problem is the fact that agencies are failing to help brands engage with consumers, and as a result, consumers are becoming less brand-loyal and more trusting of each other.

Consumers often rely heavily on tweets or blog posts either recommending or criticising a brand, and many people won’t purchase a holiday or a hotel room without consulting sites such as TripAdvisor first. This consumer power may be seen by many as a positive force, but it is coming at the cost of brand credibility. Brands increasingly find the new wealth of user-generated data and information available to them overwhelming, and the result is that consumer led initiatives are often more successful than marketing pushes from brands themselves.

To counter this, agencies will need to make the shift from developing creative executions to nurturing consumer communities; from delivering push communications to creating pull interactions; and from managing campaigns to facilitating conversations and more than anything else, listening to what people are saying about their clients’ brands, products and services.

Agencies will therefore need to alter their offering to developing innovative technologies, applications and strategies that connect with consumer communities in an interactive world, enabling brands to become an integral part of those communities whilst constantly listening, learning, innovating and connecting.

However, it’s not only about making this shift towards innovation; it’s also vital that marketers talk to clients in their own language about the power these new techniques have and the impact they could have on sales and customer relationships. If clients are thinking in terms of sales figures, ROI and business development, then it’s up to us to be that conduit between marketing and sales; translating the benefits for the customer into tangible benefits for the business.

The holy grail for clients and marketers alike is a targeted solution that responds to consumer preferences and engages them with the brand, while remaining cost effective and profitable for the business. Agencies need to ensure that as well as developing and implementing innovative tools and channels to drive customer engagement for brands, they are also selling these techniques correctly to clients. Demonstrating the financial and business value of expanding or even changing marketing strategies is vital if the client is to buy in to ideas and campaigns, and marketers need to make sure they put as much effort into this as they do into the campaigns themselves. Backing all creative executions up with well-planned and accurate customer insight shows that marketers understand the audience they are targeting, but it also shows clients that they have ROI and value front of mind.

Agencies are, after all, a conduit between the customer and the client; it’s our job to deliver a solution that’s targeted to and suits both of these audiences, impressing the audience and reassuring those footing the bill.

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