Technology is advancing so rapidly that marketers often have their hands full understanding their new and evolving capabilities, and how to best use them. The same challenge can apply to their internal resources; too many marketers are drowning in their newfound data and scrambling to coordinate their reach across channels. At the center of it all, of course, is the customer – a more empowered customer than ever before, click-ready to jump ship if they feel annoyed, ignored or under-appreciated.
To help guide that ship on a high ROI, customer-centered voyage through these waters, here is a look at marketing best practices that will keep marketers on course and on-target to create mutually profitable, lasting customer relationships.
The key now –just as it has always been – is to reach the right people with the right message at the right time. But that simple yet elusive goal can get buried beneath data, deadlines, technology and budgets. Here, then, are the four principles for marketing best practices to reach that goal and deliver on the promise of marketing done right.
1. Data & Targeting
At its core, the true value of Data & Targeting is about marketers understanding their audience and reaching the right people. What’s the right audience that will help you reach your goals? Yes, real-time analytics can uncover business’s unique insights and customer actions, but first you need to consider what data you can access and what shortcomings you may face.
Is it siloed so that each “compartment” only delivers an incomplete customer picture? Customers and competitors alike leave today’s marketer no option but to build a single customer profile from all available customer data– an accurate, up-to-the minute view that anchors that customer relationship.
The financial institution practice of whipping up quarterly sales goals then pounding customers with sales messages to make quota can no longer stand on its own. The product, service and campaign all need to be based on a deep dive into complete customer data, emerging with a strong, objective understanding of their needs and preferences, then targeting those customers on their own terms.
The Message is your opportunity to show customers that you not only recognize them – you value them enough to understand who they are by communicating what is not only relevant but is also meaningful and valued. It’s personal — which is the foundation of any relationship. Getting it right consistently has provided plenty of evidence that it’s worth the effort, both in terms of customer spend and retention. Getting it wrong has provided plenty of evidence, too, some of it fatal to the relationship.
What differentiates your brand? Often, the most accurate answer is not your carefully crafted benefits message, it’s how you understand the match between their needs and your service. Make it about them. And make it on-target.
It isn’t just what you’re saying to customers, it’s how you’re saying it. Are you speaking directly to their pain points? Are you presenting your message in a context that shows understanding and empathy? What you’re saying should appeal to both emotions and logic. Even the tone should vary according to the demographic. Although there is a time for more formal communications, messaging should generally sound conversational, reflecting the way they speak. Sounds like a lot, but that is the expectation now, in the age of personalization.
The offer is where personalization drives action. Not only does the offer need to incent customers to act on their immediate desires, it should anticipate their future needs and concerns. Bottom line: it must represent enough value to make the customer step forward and engage.
You make them act with an offer that precisely targets their needs while creating a sense of urgency that pushes your offer above the flood of offers they receive every day. Maybe you want them to act today. Or maybe you are nurturing the relationship to thoughtfully sell a service that requires more understanding and investment. Maybe, at earlier stages, the offer is just advice. In any case, the offer is the key to the relationship.
The offer may reflect an over-arching theme, like a holiday, a birthday, or a graduation. Or it may be a sales incentive like “Make 10 purchases with your debit card and get a $20 gift card.” But the success of either relies on a segmented offer that mirrors their interests and preferences by brands, categories, products and price.
The message reflects your understanding of customers’ central question, “What’s in it for me?” The offer answers that question.
4. Timing & Channel
None of the above is possible without making contact with your audience. And just like all the above, contact must be made on customers’ terms. The right timing and channel can help you reach customers who are closer to deciding on a product because of where they are in their lives – instead of just firing away with quarterly-goal-driven sales messages. Or they can help keep the brand in front of the prospect and move the customer along the pipeline with solutions and timing that matches or anticipates their needs.
Financial institutions, particularly, have mountains of data about their customers. Yes, you can time communications according to your sales goals or seasonal offers, but you can also turn to your data and shift into a more powerful, personalized approach that matches customers’ life-event needs. Instead of sticking with rigid campaigns, banks need to get relevant: if a customer is out looking for a loan, the bank should be present in that discussion. Does the data tell the you that your customer will need help buying or selling their home — or buying a new car, planning for college, or to save in a CD for an event two years out? The right timing matches customers needs, which means it matches their lives.
The channel – where the actual customer touch takes place – also needs to fit their needs. Have they visited the website regularly, or responded well to email? Are they more reachable on social or, at the other end of the spectrum, through direct mail? Maybe they are a good candidate for a sales phone call, or retargeting? No matter how compelling or well-timed the message, choosing the wrong channel can undermine an opportunity to connect, or sever the relationship itself. Chances are, the customer expects you to know how they want to be communicated with. If that expectation isn’t met, they can — and will — quickly go where they feel more understood and valued.
Wrapping it Up
Together, these four principles for marketing best practices — Data & Targeting, Message, Offer, Timing and Channel – can help marketers not only understand the value of their data, they give marketers the ability to act on those insights most effectively. Without that ability, genuinely personalized marketing is impossible. And without personalization, financial institutions’ relationships with today’s empowered consumer are not only weak, they are in jeopardy. Reaching the right people with the right message at the right time isn’t just a marketing slogan – it’s a plan for survival.
Laura Costello is director of marketing at Saylent, empowering financial institutions to proactively and confidently meet the individualized needs of each customer through data-driven solutions that build customer loyalty and growth.