10. SUPPORTING TACTICS
Email may be the primary vehicle for nurturing leads, but it’s not the only one. Social media, texts, direct mail, mobile apps and even good old fashioned telephone calls, can all have their place as part of a comprehensive cultivation plan.
Social media would seem to be an excellent way to engage with prospects as well as consumers. We know that consumers value recommendations from their friends and others on social media more highly than anything else, so it would make sense to focus on it. Research from Mckinsey & Co., for example, confirms that the impact of social media on decision-making is growing. In some categories, such as travel or OTC drugs, they found 40-50% of consumers looked to social media for guidance. They also found that first time buyers are 50% more likely than repeat buyers to turn to social media; a finding that underscores how important a brand’s social media can be. This is even though Facebook, and others, are turning it into more of a Paid and Earned channel than an Owned channel.
Unlike email, the dynamics of social media have become complicated by the big social platforms. Facebook has narrowed and almost entirely eliminated the free access that brands have enjoyed to their own fan communities, a practice that other social networks seem to be following.
ADVERTISING IS BECOMING THE ONLY WAY TO RELIABLY GET A MESSAGE TO CONSUMERS IN SOCIAL NETWORKS, EVEN THOSE ON YOUR OWN PAGE.
While this can be costly, it can still assist the nurturing process. If a known customer on your website explores a product, but does not buy it, you can target an ad on Facebook to just that person. This is a form of re-targeting, an effective practice of advertising to people, by following them to other websites while their interest is still active. There are other things brands can do as well, such as simply placing sharing buttons on all their emails, or using MAP to be alerted when known leads are actively researching in social media. But short of paying for targeted ads, social is proving to be less effective in the lead nurturing process, despite the hype, and lends itself more to brand awareness with shared content, such as user generated reviews.
With the proliferation of smart phones, texting has gone from the domain of teenagers to a general communications channel, with 97% of Americans using it at least once a day. Of course a brand has to use it correctly. Text is not the medium for brand messaging or anything complex, but as part of tactics to keep a brand top-of-mind, especially with time-sensitive communications, it can be excellent. Texting is often best used as a trigger mechanism activating a mobile app, for example. Mobile apps are a rich opportunity for most brands, but with thousands of underused or unused brand apps sitting in app stores, it is essential that brands think through the consumer rationale for an app before they invest in it.
IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT BRANDS THINK THROUGH THE CONSUMER RATIONALE FOR AN APP BEFORE THEY INVEST IN IT.
The purpose of a brand app is to provide consumers with functional value on an on-going basis. If an app only provides a one-time value it shouldn’t be an app, it should be a web based tool. Apps should be designed for repeated use. If they cannot give a consumer easier access to information or content they need on an on-going basis, or deliver some on-going functional value that a consumer cannot get elsewhere, then consumers will not waste any time on them.
One app my agency developed for Allstate is a good example of inserting a brand into consumer’s lives. The app provides a digital utility that helps anyone easily inventory and store a database of their personal belongings in the cloud, easily accessible in the event of a catastrophe. It guides consumers through the process of cataloging their home for insurance purposes by using their phone’s capabilities, like the camera, to make an inventory and keep it up to date. A challenging task that we’ve all set ourselves at one time or another now becomes easy and reliable, courtesy of the brand. Synchronizing the data between iOS, Android, the desktop and the cloud, ensures that if someone loses their computer or phone in a catastrophic event, they have an easy roadmap to recovery. The app is available to anyone, whether they are an Allstate customer or not, making it not only a bonding tool with customers, but a way to insert the brand into the lives of prospects too.
Regular mail and even telephone calls can be effective because they offer a counter-point to digital tactics, but that has to be weighed against what can be a significant cost. However, innovative tactics using these traditional methods seem to appear with regularity, such as a data approach that my agency is exploring that deciphers mailing addresses from IP addresses, enabling companies to direct mail prospects who have visited their website, but not provided their email address.
IN THE BUSINESS OF IDENTIFYING, FOLLOWING AND NURTURING PROSPECTS, IT PAYS FOR BRANDS TO THINK ABOUT HOW TO ZIG WHEN EVERYONE ELSE IS ZAGGING.
Consumers are peppered with marketing approaches from all sides so part of the challenge is to consider how to deliver your messaging in an uncluttered channel, so that it stands out more clearly and sets you apart. That’s why creativity in channel planning is often rewarded almost as much as creativity in content and messaging.