Living in southern California I love going to restaurants, cafes and retails stores to experience what companies are doing to attract customers. From merchandising to customer service, I'm gradually seeing three popular marketing trends that everyone is doing to spread their brand voice.
First, almost every company is in on the social media bandwagon specifically leveraging Facebook and Twitter to engage with their fans and broadcast their offerings.
Second, companies are finding ways to collect your contact information to build their email list by offering discounts, coupons or customer loyalty programs.
And third, businesses are aware of their reputation online on places such as Yelp, Consumer Reports, OpenTable, BizRate, Amazon and CNET. Some of using these information as a way to improve products and identify service gaps.
All three marketing tactics are proven to be somewhat cost-effective in terms of managing their reputations online while funneling leads and converting sales. There is enough free information out there that business owners and marketing managers can find to start immediately so I'm not surprise that everyone is doing it. In fact, I always check out the Twitter or Facebook page of where I've visited to see what level of engagement and following they have as well as to identify how the platform was utilized.
The result I found is that companies fall into two categories of social media marketing buckets. First are the highly engaged profiles with regular updates and a large following that creates instant social proof. Second are the uninspiring profiles with the lack of updates and little to no interactions.
This is the same observations made by Jeremiah Owyang, who recently posted on his blog that, "many brands are jumping on the social media bandwagon, without giving proper thought about the impacts to their marketing effort. In particular, many brands are putting 'social chicklets' on their homepage to "Follow us on Twitter" or "Friend us on Facebook" without considering the ramifications."
This is the problem with low barrier to entry tools such as Twitter and Facebook that many brands are using without a real deliberate strategy. I encourage those of you that are serious about your digital marketing efforts to use Jeremiah's matrix to help make your decisions.
Keep in mind, you must understand not just the rules of the game but also how it applies to your specific industry, your customers and your organization.
There is no doubt that the internet has made it easier to find what you're looking for while connecting you with like-mined individuals from networking to referrals, relevant information is available in abundance. The questions is where do people get those information and how will these content providers be perceived?
First you need to realize that all of the answers have changed.
Same Questions, Different Answer
Although the internet has forever changed our expectations in media consumption and in communication, one thing remains constant for businesses today: the question of how do we attract more customers to us? How do we get customers to spread our brand? How do we get customers to buy more and buy often?
As a marketer today you must realize that we've been asking those same questions for decades and in order to answer them now you must first understand the following 6 fundamental social change in customer perception and behavior:
1. Choice overload: Customers are bombarded with choices; the market is saturated with selection. And people get frustrated when they have to make a decision from tens and thousands of product categories, brands and price points. Everything looks the same, everyone sounded alike and it doesn't help when people have shorter attention span as we become more distracted everyday.
2. Conflicting information: We're in a hyper-connected marketplace where people are using social media to discuss new products, do their own research, cross referencing information in the blogosphere and everything goes from frustration to confusion. There is simply too much information and how can an average consumer know who's right and who's wrong?
3. Customers know marketing: Over time, customers understood the game of marketing regardless of B2C or B2B. Described by Tom Asacker: We're no longer passive consumers but active discerners participating in how products are marketed at us. This is why there is an increasing trend in banner blindness and average web users will give you only 8 seconds to decide if they're going to stay or not.
4. Lack of trust in the marketplace: There is a sense of distrust in the marketplace. People simply don't trust individuals let alone corporations. We're conditioned to identify the tactics such as sense of urgency (buy now and save!), risk reversal (money back guaranteed!), or scarcity thinking (for a limited time!). Watch any TV infomercials and you'll find those tactics in most of them. Simply put, these tactics are losing their effectiveness and even if they worked that led to engagement opportunities, you must meet the customer expectations otherwise it's hard to fool them twice.
5. People define your brand: Brand messages only sets the initiate expectations of your target audience and ultimately people make meaning out of things themselves. When push comes to shove, people go with what feels right not your product features or service benefits. It's how you make them feel, not what you tell them how they should feel. If they can relate to your message, it only means they'll give you a few more seconds to keep going down your path to purchase. Your brand is defined by how you make people feel about the decisions they've made not just your messages.
6. The shift towards frugality: This is the simplest concept to grasp as the recession has permanently changed the way consumers behave and perceive value. It goes beyond pricing strategy and product promotions. Whether you're a retailer, a B2B service provider or a marketer, this means extracting deeper customer insights to build meaningful, differentiated messages that communicates relevancy. This is best described by a recent article "The New Consumer Frugality" in Strategy+Business, by Booz & Company, in which the authors defined six frugal consumer segments.
After a thorough understanding of the above trends, you should also be aware of the fact that brands are becoming publishers creating opportunities that's leveling the playing field. And in order to be successful moving forward, you either have great content strategy or you have unique customer experience (in product or service innovation).
Content Marketing Creates Relevancy
Recently Joe Pulizzi of Junta42.com, a content strategy evangelist published a post after speaking at the Online Marketing Summit 2010 on how companies focus solely on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and social media that produce without a real content strategy. Specifically he noted that "any online marketing, whether social media, email marketing, search engine optimization, landing page conversion, etc., does not work without first having content strategy."
As a brand strategist that focuses on marketing integration, I couldn't agree more. I've heard business owners and marketing executives realize the need to change their strategy, but it's often due to the need to "keep up" with the current trend. "We must get into social media because everyone's doing it," or "We need to engage our customers on Facebook and Twitter." But what does engagement mean to your organization? How will that benefit your bottom line or increase sales?
It's easy to setup a Wordpress blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page or a LinkedIn Group. The key is what will you be pushing out to generate meaningful conversations? How will you provide value that sparks engagement? Why would people spread your idea or pass on your name? What's the call-to-action when people get to your website, your blog, or your social media pages?
Product Innovation Creates Loyalty
The other way to win in the marketplace is to deliver awesome products or services that build brand loyalty via innovation. An easy example would be what Apple is doing with their continuous innovation in products from iPod to iPhone to last weekend's release of iPad. Amazon's endless pursue to have everything available, fast and easy via their online store regardless what you're looking for. Zappo's unmatched customer service in finding and delivering not just the shoes you ordered but what you may also like.
For restaurants, it's the food you cater, the service you provide, the price tag you put on as the total experience that says "we're different." Customers will automatically go on to Yelp and OpenTable to give you reviews and recommendations. Your customer will decide what quality is and what value means to them.
I love what James Surowiecki wrote in an excellent piece in The New Yorker: "the more information people have, the tighter the relationship between quality and price: if you can deliver a product or service that is qualitatively better, you can charge top dollar. But if you can't deliver the quality you can't get the price."
You're going to struggle if you don't deliver brand experience that's worth talking about. Everyone have access to the same tools and resources, if you can deliver a mix bag of value using content marketing strategy on your innovative products, you win.
The take away: Brands must adapt to the new realities that everyone is a content producer and we are no longer competing on eyeballs and clicks only, but value that builds long-lasting relationships in a trust-driven era.
It is essential to establish clear, integrated marketing strategies for various media channels in order to deliver personalized messages that properly aligned with your business objectives. If you don't know your desired outcome, why are you implementing tactics where you can't see what success means to you?
If you don't have exceptional products perhaps its time you should rethink your product strategy.
Are you ready to get actionable to integrate your marketing efforts?
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