Marketing is much more complicated today. The number of channels and customer touch points is growing. The mobile Internet, social media, and the ease of online shopping are changing how consumers decide to buy. Your next customer is on a decision journey that is unprecedented in terms of buyer intelligence and transparency of brand offerings.
Consumers are doing their homework before purchasing. A report by the E-Commerce Foundation shows 88 percent of consumers, pre-research products of interest on the Internet before making a purchase.
It is no surprise the majority of online experiences with a brand begin with a search engine. In fact, a quarter of American adults say they are “almost constantly” online, according to Pew Research.
Making things more complicated for marketers is the recent proclamation: “the traditional sales funnel is dead.” Buyers can easily jump in and out of channels, do comparison shopping on their mobile apps, read product reviews, and even be influenced in the store aisle by a sales associate, product packaging, or an in-store promotion.
At the same time, consumers simply don’t trust brands, according to the latest Edelman report: “The 2018 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER reveals a world of seemingly stagnant distrust. People’s trust in business, government, NGOs and media remained largely unchanged from 2017 — 20 of 28 markets surveyed now lie in distruster territory, up one from last year.”
How can brands address these many growing challenges?
For one, marketers are embracing cloud computing technology, leveraging “big data” for enhanced customer insights and more personalized communications. Witness the growing adoption of storytelling by brands, building stronger emotional connection and relationships with their customers.
The humanization of brands is a growing trend, by making a corporate brand more human like and relatable. The easiest way to accomplish this is by having a leadership team participate and engage with followers on social media, as well as share educational content with their audience. This in turn, helps build industry recognition and thought leadership.
Secondly, brands are increasing their digital media focus, developing marketing campaigns for two often cited goals: awareness building and driving website traffic.
“Getting more visitors to your website is nice, but think about the quality of the leads being attracted and conversion rates”
Your website is the most important digital asset you own. Brands that can create relevant and engaging content on it, are often rewarded by Google with a better search ranking and more website traffic.
Getting more visitors to your website is nice, but think about the quality of the leads being attracted and conversion rates such as downloading a white paper or signing up for a newsletter. If your conversion rates are low, fix the problem first, before investing in driving more traffic to your website.
However, once consumers arrive on a website, only as little as one in four of initial website visitors may be in active purchase mode. The vast majority of prospects are not ready to buy, needing to be placed in a lead nurturing campaign. It’s critical to turn passive buyers into active buyers.
“For business to business (B2B), creating a subscriber list is an essential lead nurturing tactic for moving prospects toward conversion”
For business to business (B2B), creating a subscriber list is an essential lead nurturing tactic for moving prospects toward conversion. Your marketing automation can be as simple as using email marketing services such as MailChimp or Constant Contact; or enlisting more comprehensive automation solutions from HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, and InfusionSoft, to name but a few.
B2B prospect development using lead nurturing and lead scoring
For B2B, where high value and more complex products are typically being sold with a long sales cycle, it’s important to examine two key marketing automation practices in prospect development:
Lead nurturing is all about building customer relationships. The goal of lead nurturing, usually in the form of email marketing, is to build relationships with prospects, by providing the information they have interest in. Examine the interactions prospects have with your brand not only for customer profile development, but helping ensure the right content is delivered, at the right time, to the right person.
Lead scoring is an important complement to lead nurturing. A lead score is a measure of how likely a prospect is going to convert to a customer based on their profile information and online “digital behaviour.” The score represents the value of each lead collected, and helps assign tasks for future sales follow-up and lead nurturing campaigns.
For example, different points or scores can be awarded, depending on the activity of your prospect: attending a webinar, downloading a whitepaper, or visiting a particular page of a website.
“The core of digital marketing is content marketing.”
Digital marketing is leveling the playing field
Digital marketing is leveling the playing field for businesses of all sizes, offering a number of key advantages over traditional marketing such as targeting, segmentation and personalization, together with greater cost effectiveness and measurability.
A study by marketing research firm Ascend2 listed the most anticipated and effective marketing tactics for 2018: social media marketing (18%), content marketing (17%), and marketing technology (16%), round out the top three tactics by marketers:
- The most popular tactic, social media, can be instrumental in humanizing brands, creating important emotional connection and strengthening customer relationships. Having an engaged audience, not only keeps a brand top of mind, but can amplify audience reach. Your customers can be your best brand advocates when liking and sharing your content.
- The core all all digital marketing is content marketing. One of the best ways to build a brand and deepen customer relationships is via content marketing: The creation, publication, and distribution of relevant, high-value content, tailored to the needs of targeted groups.
- Marketing technology provides brands with the opportunity to enhance their communications with more personalized, content rich stories, better meeting the needs of their customers.
When it comes to metrics, it’s important for marketers to demonstrate the effectiveness of their campaigns. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 B2B Benchmarks report (a must read for all B2B marketers), more than 70 percent of respondents agreed they can demonstrate with metrics, how content marketing has increased audience engagement and the number of leads.
However, marketing departments are still struggling with sales attribution, and are less likely to be able to show how content marketing has increased sales (51%) and decreased the cost of customer acquisition (25%).
Indeed, it would be helpful to demonstrate sales attribution to senior management, but audience engagement and lead gen metrics – especially good quality leads – is moving the sales needle.
“McKinsey determined two-thirds of the touch points during the active-evaluation phase involve consumer-driven activities, compared with only one third company-driven marketing.”
Marketers must respond to consumer empowerment
Consumers are now more empowered. McKinsey research indicates that traditional “push” marketing is far less effective, because consumers gain more value by “pulling” information, on their own terms from various sources such as company websites, internet reviews, word of mouth, in-store interactions and past experience with a brand.
McKinsey determined two-thirds of the touch points during the active-evaluation phase involve consumer-driven activities, compared with only one third company-driven marketing.
The consultancy recommends marketers need to understand how their customers research and buy products, and be aware of the importance of reaching customers at the right moments or touch points in the buyer`s journey that most influence purchasing. This is where marketers should allocate their attention and resources. This also reminds me of the Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT, expressed in Google research studies, when describing the buyer’s journey.
Additionally, brands that can familiarize themselves with the entire customer experience cycle will be more successful, by not only shaping positive perceptions of their brands, but increasing the likelihood of being included in the buyer’s initial consideration set when a purchase trigger takes place. You have to be playing in the same sandbox, right?
Delivering on your brand promise strengthens customer relationships
Customers understandably receive tangible benefits from a product or service, and usually go a step further: creating an image of a company in their minds and constructing an expectation – or a promise.
A brand promise is the cumulative value and experience customers can receive during each interaction with a brand. A well crafted brand promise describes an organization’s responsiveness to its customers and how it delivers a consistent brand experience.
The growing adoption of Omni-channel marketing reflects how brands are embracing brand experience, providing a seamless and consistent shopping experience across all consumer touch points: on-line (across multiple devices and platforms), telephone, and bricks-and-mortar stores.
Brands that can deliver on their brand promise are better able to elevate the consumer trust barometer and their brand value. Both are important precursors for instilling brand preference.
When a trigger or purchasing event takes place, creating a sense of need (or urgency), will your brand be top of mind? Your brand needs to be present, or else the chances of being selected are greatly diminished.
The brands that have consistently delivered on their brand promise, staying in touch with prospects and customers through best practices in content marketing and lead nurturing programs will be most successful.
Brand selling has been transformed into brand relationship building. Each one of us gets to feel special. We buy from brands that we have relationships with and trust.