It’s not news anymore. Customers and consumers are empowered like never before. They have wrested control of their relationships with brands from the marketers who formally held all the cards. Now consumers and customers have all the information they need at their fingertips. They can buy nearly anything, anywhere, and at any time—and at the best price around. Another change is emerging simultaneously. The brand experience—which includes many things small and big, intimate and shareable, ad-hoc and user-generated—has become nearly as critical as the quality or price of the product itself.
So what to do?
The first thing is realize that this is an opportunity, not a disaster. A more empowered customer can also be a more valuable customer. She can be your advocate and fellow marketer. And she can collaborate with you up to and including being your partner in developing products.
If you want to unlock all of that advocacy and partnership—the untapped value inherent in your newly-empowered customers—you need to engage more deeply and genuinely than you ever have before.
Here’s your new mantra:
Don’t just sell – engage!
Don’t blast messages – create compelling content!
Don’t just rely on your outbound channels – be findable!
Don’t brag – win advocates!
And lastly – be responsive, agile and always on!
That’s great, but how do you achieve this? This kind of customer engagement requires a change in your mindset. You have to be willing to engage customers on their terms, conceding the driver’s seat to them. And it all starts with 3 simple questions:
- How relevant is this for my customer?
- How valuable is it for her?
- How work differently to make this engagement possible?
In order to be relevant, you have to be able to understand your customer’s needs and intentions on an individual, not segment, level. What is the journey she is on as she engages with brands like yours? Data will help you to get there—demographic data, purchasing data, search data, social data, and web data.
In order to be valuable, you have to create content that relates back to the needs and intentions you’ve uncovered. Your content has to be more than just marketing messages; it has to provide one of the values your customer is searching for—anything from information, to education, entertainment or utility. And, yes, it could be a coupon, but don’t start there.
Finally, in order to succeed in your engagement efforts, you will have to work differently. You need to bring together different kind of talent, and this is true for marketers as well as agencies.
Capabilities that were once distinct and processes that used to be sequential and separate now have to link up. Most notably, data, technology and creativity have to be tightly tied together, mutually informing and stimulating each other to create meaningful, relevant, valuable and engaging content:
- Data is the ability to listen and understand the needs, desires and mindsets of customers, based on their actual behavior and customer journeys.
- Creativity is the ability to make the engagement and relationship interesting and desirable, not just practical and economical.
- Technology is the ability to develop a rewarding user experience, being agile and responsive at an individual level, always on, millions of engagements at a time,—and always just a click-away from a buy.
Without data, marketers will second-guess their customers and struggle to cater to their wants and needs. Without creativity, brands will become commodities in both engagement and product experience. Without the technology, brands will age and fade away, and marketers will not be able to keep up with where their customers are going.
The world is full of opportunities for brands and direct response marketers. Brands who succeed in creating deep customer engagement will reap the benefits.
Are you ready to engage?
Günther Schumacher is President and Chief Operating Officer of OgilvyOne Worldwide.
Flickr image by Sara Björk