Building long-lasting relationships with consumers through conversation must become a top priority for brands argues Nigel Vaz, vice president and head of Sapient Interactive Europe.
The way in which we communicate is changing at an incredible pace. For marketers this means traditional one-way communication efforts are no longer as effective as they once were. Today, the tide has changed – consumers don’t want to be talked to, they want to be engaged with.
Marketing strategies need to reflect these changes or brands will fail to be as relevant as they once were. These strategies should adopt an integrated approach to marketing and embrace changes currently taking place within the digital sphere. For marketers keen to exploit the power of conversations here are some top tips:
1. Recognise the rise of the promiscuous consumer
According to the latest Retail Insight Report from Experian, the recession has caused a huge selection of the UK population to radically rethink how, when and with whom they spend their money. Today’s new breed of ‘promiscuous consumers’ are not as brand loyal as they once were and won’t think twice about going elsewhere if they feel a brand has failed to engage with them in the way they want.
This changing landscape may appear daunting to marketers and there’s no denying that it’s harder than ever before to build long-lasting relationships with consumers. Thankfully, developments online and changes in the way we consume media present new opportunities for brands to tackle this challenge and remove any excuses for not doing so.
2. Adapt to changing media habits
Media consumption has evolved and is continuing to change at an extremely fast pace. In the past, television advertising provided an effective means of engaging a captive audience. Today that same audience is likely to be less captive as instead of focusing on just watching a TV programme they may also be using their laptop and smartphone. The knock-on effect is that fragmented, mass marketing approaches are losing their effectiveness.
What’s required today is a more joined-up approach to advertising and marketing that creates connected experiences across all of a consumer’s touch points. For example, a TV advertisement needs to be backed up by an integrated digital campaign so that long after the TV campaign has ended brands can continue to engage with consumers online in a consistent manner.
3. Understand how social networks can fit into marketing strategy
According to a recent study conducted by comScore, 29.4 million people in the UK accessed at least one social networking site in May 2009, averaging 4.6 hours per visitor during the month. Although, unsurprisingly, penetration is highest amongst 25-34 year old Internet users, older users are now also frequent visitors to social networking sites. This presents a huge opportunity to marketers in terms of reaching a broad range of consumers in a highly targeted way.
Despite this, it would seem that marketers still have a lot to learn. In a recent survey of over 100 UK marketing managers and directors, we discovered almost half (41%) are not investing in social networks for marketing campaigns because of a lack of understanding.
This is clearly something that needs to be addressed as social networks offer an extremely cost effective means by which to engage with consumers on a one-to-one basis. What’s more, marketers need to ensure their conversations with consumers are not just used as an opportunity to sell.
This isn’t what consumers want. Conversations should be a value exchange in which knowledge and opinions are shared over a long period of time. This is crucial if brands are to ensure they establish meaningful relationships with customers and most importantly keep them coming back for more.
4. Adopt an integrated approach to marketing
Fragmented mass marketing approaches that push messages to consumers are losing their effectiveness due to developments in technology and the rise of the promiscuous consumer. Brands need to respond to these changes by improving their understanding of how they can engage with consumers using tools like social networks.
Activity today needs to be more about ‘pull’ and less about ‘push’ messages for brands to engage in meaningful dialogue with consumers. Marketing efforts should not be a quick burst of activity designed to drive sales but part of longer term approach to building loyalty.
These efforts should span multiple channels in order to stand the best chance of reaching consumers. Marketers have a lot of tools available to help them so now’s the time to start thinking about how to best use them in the most strategic way possible.
Marketers today have to work harder than ever to engage with key audiences, especially since the way in which consumers want to interact with brands has changed. Many brands are responding to this but there’s still some way to go and a lot more education is required. Traditional marketing efforts are dying a death – long live the conversation.
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