Marketers: keep it cool, not creepy


“We are living in the era of the connected customer -
one in which normal customer behavior is to capture moments and share it in near real-time.”

- from "Customer Love - it's All About the Connection" by John Balla

One message does not fit all anymore.

Remember the days when marketing would use one message for all channels? It wasn’t uncommon to see the same brand message in a printed ad, on a billboard, on TV, or on the company website. Consistency was key. Those were the days, some would argue, when marketing actually controlled the message.

Celeste Taylor, VP of Marketing at Thompson's Markets

Celeste Taylor, VP of Marketing at Thompson's Markets

Then in marched the social networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and more recently, Pinterest and Instagram. When these new channels arrived on the scene, marketers continued to do what they’ve always done: they extended the same message to these new channels. That is, until they realized that these channels were different. Not only were they 100% digital, they also talked back. They quickly learned that customers didn’t want to be talked at anymore (as in a one-way monologue); they wanted to be talked with (as in a 2-way conversation).

Today, marketing executives like Celeste Taylor (to the left) know that the one-message-for-all approach doesn’t work. Marketers need multiple messages, namely the right message that will work for each channel. Granted, this message will most likely be similar across channels, but how it’s conveyed in a printed ad or email blast will most likely be different than how it’s presented on Facebook or Twitter. Or, at least, it should be. The message now needs to be fine-tuned to the audience each channel pulls in.


How to keep it cool: Engage in the conversation in your social channels. Be approachable, personable and responsive. And now more than ever, it’s important to keep your cool even when your customer has lost his. Everyone’s watching 24x7.

Experience trumps relationship.

Back in 2001, my boss, Jill Dyche, released The CRM Handbook: A Business Guide to Customer Relationship Management – a best-selling book on CRM to this day. In a nutshell, CRM was all about collecting relevant information about our customers so that we could develop more meaningful relationships with them. Why was this important? Simply stated, it’s because we wanted to increase customer satisfaction (their “win”), which, in turn, would increase our bottom-line (our “win”). The story is the same today: We still want happy customers and we still want to be profitable, but now customers want more than just a relationship with us. They want an experience.

No matter how a customer chooses to interact with us these days – by mail or phone or email or our website or a text message or on Twitter or Facebook – there are three things she expects:

  • To be able to approach our organization through the channel of her choice and not be forced down a certain path;
  • To be remembered and known across channels; and
  • To be acknowledged and responded to as an individual – and not as part of the global “we” – in a timely manner.

It’s no longer enough to know our customer’s dog’s name or where he took his last family vacation. These new digital channels have raised the bar. Even though our customers’ expectations may seem unrealistic at times, and for some organizations and industries very difficult to meet and manage, this new social “big data” age is forcing marketers to reexamine how they engage with their customers. To do nothing could be the kiss of death.

How to keep it cool: Remember that we don’t control or dictate our customers’ experience with us. They do. Meet them where they’re at and give them a reason every time through every channel to come back again and again. And hopefully, they’ll bring a friend.

We’re living in a mobile world.

As if these social channels weren’t enough, then in marched our smartphones, tablets and mobile apps. Long gone are the days when we would write letters to loved ones or sit out on our porches and have face-to-face conversations with our neighbors. Today, we sit in our living rooms with our families or we go to dinner with some friends - and what do we do? We text each other and take pictures and upload them to Facebook and Instagram. All without lifting our heads.

All kidding aside, but not really, we’re torn between our real, offline world and our virtual, online world. And so are our customers. Whether we like it or not, and as I said earlier, we need to meet our customers where they’re at – whether that be in the marketplace or on the phone or in a text message or on Twitter. Don’t make them work too hard – because they won’t do it and they no longer have to.

Let me offer up a final word of caution: Today’s big data technologies are making it easier and cheaper for us to collect and analyze our customers’ social, mobile, and location data. Technically, we can track our customers’ every transaction, move and sentiment (as Edward Snowden has so aptly pointed out), but just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

How to keep it cool: Don’t be a digital creep. Handle your customers’ information as you would your own financial assets and refrain from any data collection or analysis activity that could creep your customers out. Handling customer data carelessly could be another, even worse kiss of death.

You think it's hard to win back a customer from a competitor? Just imagine trying to win back an angry customer and all of their friends. Those are the stakes - proceed accordingly.


About Author

Tamara Dull

Director of Emerging Technologies

I’m the Director of Emerging Technologies on the SAS Best Practices team, a thought leadership organization at SAS. While hot topics like smart homes and self-driving cars keep me giddy, my current focus is on the Internet of Things, blockchain, big data and privacy – the hype, the reality and the journey. I jumped on the technology fast track 30 years ago, starting with Digital Equipment Corporation. Yes, this was before the internet was born and the sci-fi of yesterday became the reality of today.

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