But when it comes to connecting with customers the little things often get overlooked, like sending a digital birthday card or providing funding for the local Little League (and tossing in some new uniforms, to boot).
Done consistently, the little things lead to bigger things, foremost among them gaining much better insights about your customers and extending their lifetime value.
However, in order to generate such insights, brands have to be willing to look at their customers from the outside in, rather than inside out, which is the default marketing position for many companies.
The way to do that is for marketers to leverage a potpourri of communication channels, including call centers, white papers, direct mail, paid media, video, webinars, and social platforms. They also need to tap into their most precious resource: sales executives on the front line, up close and personal with customers.
In a post-digital age, both B2C and B2B brands need to understand that customers don't wait around to hear from marketers. They are proactively seeking relevant information and content that will make their lives and/or jobs easier.
Marketing technology is driving the transformation. According to a new report released earlier this year by Forrester Research, U.S. marketers will boost their investment in marketing technology by 27 percent by 2022, to more than $122 billion.
The subdivisions of marketing tech that are likely to see the biggest growth in investment are data, ad tech, and marketing automation, each of which has an anticipated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 10 percent, Forrester said.
Marketing technology is crucial to attract and retain customers in the digital age. But, in order to truly boost their multichannel marketing efforts (and improve share of wallet) marketers need to layer the technology with human intelligence and personalized, strategic messaging.
Here are few ways to fuel your multichannel marketing strategy.
- Leverage the Data. Online analytics is core to getting a better sense of your customers, what appeals to them about your brand (or not), and through which channels they like to communicate. Because the data arrives fast and furious, marketers need to set up a system to read the tea leaves. Job One is to analyze the data to gauge how customers interact with the company (online, in person, via social platforms) and which products and services interest them. This informs how you are going to communicate with customers in the future. You also need to set up marketing automation programs that generate demographic and psychographic information enabling marketers to segment their customers into various "personas" and personalize their messages accordingly. For example, products and services that appeal to a single man living in a big city won't have the same appeal to an empty-nester residing in the suburbs. Drawing those customer distinctions — and subsequently using the appropriate marketing channels — goes a long way in building relationships that provide cross-sell opportunities based on individual customers' needs and interests. Chasing prospects bouncing around the web is a fool's errand. Focus your efforts on legitimate, paying customers.
- Go Beyond Sales Engagement. Since time immemorial many marketers have been conditioned to generate leads to drive revenue. In the analog age, being Johnny One Note for sales was fine. Not so in a digital age, in which educating your customers and cultivating relationships are critical to building loyalty and encouraging repeat sales. You need to distribute educational content across multiple channels, digital platforms in particular. It's also important to realize that marketing offline and online is not a zero-sum game. Customers at the nation's large and midsize banks, for example, are the most satisfied when their bank blends digital and in-person experiences, especially from an advice standpoint, according to a J.D. Power study released earlier this year.
- Cultivate Content Marketing. By tying all of these activities together — online analytics, strategic messaging, developing customer personas — marketers are able to develop a robust content marketing strategy. Omnichannel marketing sits atop content creation. A key function of content marketing is that brand managers be media agnostic, meaning the distribution channel wholly depends on how the individual customer likes to consume information, rather than a preconceived set of channels distributing messages to one and all in classic "spray and pray" mode. Companies need to budget for white papers, ebooks, social media messaging, video content, webinars, and podcasts (which are the rage right now among a growing number of brands and organizations). Investing in these channels is not cost-prohibitive; companies simply need to be smarter about budgeting and where to place their bets.
Despite the dramatic changes in marketing communications in the last several years, many organizations prefer the comforts of the status quo. Companies that stay in that zone will be left behind. To compete more effectively they need to ramp up their inbound marketing activities, supported by a steady flow of personalized content delivered via multiple marketing channels.
Paula Tompkins is founder and CEO of ChannelNet, a SaaS company specializing in customer acquisition and retention.