Interactive Marketing 101: Listen. Talk. Repeat.

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mobile_revolution_small.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — I have a two-year-old daughter who is wonderful and amazing and I love her to death. She also won’t stop talking. I mean, the girl talks in her sleep! My wife and I have been trying to espouse to her the virtues of “being a good conversationalist.” So far, we have had mixed results.

The premise of being a good conversationalist is that you have to a) listen, and then b) talk — rinse and repeat. We’re hopeful that she’ll have this mastered sooner rather than later.

For many companies out there, though, my hope is fading. Fast. So many companies seem to have forgotten the basic tenets of business: listen to your customers, then talk.

How many times do we see a company put a product into market because it will soothe Wall Street, or promote a high-margin sister product? When was the last time you went to a big company’s site and were greeted with a “tell us how we can help you” widget? Not nearly as often as we should.

In this day of yottabyte data storage, is there any reason to continue using “Top 5 Deciles” marketing strategies? Absolutely not! Marketing to deciles is for the lazy and creative dullards.

Whether you are a direct marketer, a brand marketer, an interactive marketer, or a door-to-door salesman, it is time to wake up to the fact that you must listen to and then service each customer uniquely.

Now, before I get hate mail from all of those production managers and VPs of Operations, let me say one thing — perception is reality. I know, shady, but if the customer thinks you are servicing them personally, then you have won the battle, regardless of the reality of the operational inner workings.

How do you begin? With listening. That’s the easy part. Most companies can greatly improve their situation by asking their customers three easy questions:

1.    How would you like to receive communications? (email, mail, phone, SMS)
2.    How often would you like to receive communications? (weekly, twice a month, monthly)
3.    What are your specific interests related to our company?

Simply by gathering (listening to) the answers to these three questions, you have drastically improved your ability to get a customer to respond to your communications. Now all you have to do is make customized communications (talking to) that fit the answers. It sounds pretty gnarly, but it’s really just putting a specific face on the core content you should already have.

To make your content fit what your customers have asked for, be sure you:

1.    Use the right channel
Only use the specific channels they have “opted-into.” Banish all others. Your customers will appreciate that you have listened to them and will be more open to the messages you send on the channels they chose.

2.    Honor their choice of frequency
Never communicate with your customers more often than they said they wanted. You can lose their trust if you send weekly emails when they only asked for monthly.

Here’s where you start slicing and dicing. If a customer wants weekly updates, make them short and sweet. But, if they want monthly, a newsletter format probably makes more sense. If you have only one communication a month to connect with these people, make it count.

3.    Stay on topic

What if you told a retailer you’re a shoe fanatic and they sent you information about hats? You’d think it was a company of fools!

That’s why it’s of paramount importance to match the content of your messages to the topics your customers asked for. Sure, you can cross-sell and up-sell, but only after you’ve delivered on the promise to give them the information they want.

If you break your communications into topic, frequency, and channel, it isn’t as difficult as it sounds to create everything you need. The important thing is to categorize the customer’s responses into a manageable amount of options. By using dynamic content for emails and on-demand printing for direct mail and catalogues, you can easily ensure that what the customer is asking for is what they receive. For a bonus to your bottom line, tie this new profile information into your call center systems so that when a customer calls in, your reps know when and who to up-sell or cross-sell.

So maybe by the time my daughter has mastered riding a two-wheeler, she’ll be a good conversationalist. I hope your company is ready for her.

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