Rethinking how small and medium companies reach customers in 2018
9 min read
9 min read
Does your marketing strategy add real value to your business? Let’s face it – many small and medium businesses struggle to find the right balance between meeting sales goals and delivering genuine experiences to clients. Even though the past couple of years has allowed companies to utilize many digital technologies providing exposure to their target segments, their efforts towards optimizing for these groups have been miniature. At the same time, as many small organizations may not have access to detailed insights about the behavior of their audiences, as large corporations do, their ability to create advanced targeting strategies is limited.
Nevertheless, the advancement of digital insights gives smaller companies the opportunity to understand the behavioral dynamics of their customers as well. With such data, your company can adopt an attribution model which will map the most important touch points customers have with your brand throughout completing a conversion. Adjusting your marketing strategy towards this goal will give you vital insights about your customers and maximize the value you provide to them.
Customers leading the pack
The enablement of digital technologies in the past two decades has seen many users take control of the numerous data sources available to them online. In turn, accessing large volumes of information plays a key role in the formulation of customers’ purchase decisions. Paired with the ability to perform continuous research before or after making a final decision, the digital transformation puts customers in ever-expanding control of the buying process.
As we saw during the Christmas and Black Friday shopping seasons, more and more businesses starting their promotional campaigns earlier has a real effect on the market. Because of this, the periods for pre- and post-holiday shopping are expanding, giving curious customers even more opportunities to search around. This urges brands to rethink the way in which they market their product propositions, in order to properly balance the value maximization between their own needs and those of customers. Articulating an updated approach would require companies to take a closer look at the digital drivers which enable these behaviors.
One screen, two screens…
The ever-increasing purchasing power of buyers is also facilitated by the advancement of broadcasting sources, and namely the ability to use multiple screens to complete single buying activities. The Google Consumer Barometer estimated that the number of people using a single screen has been rapidly decreasing over the years, and the ones who started using three displays spiked over ten times from 2012 (2). Whether on a laptop, tablet or smartphone, customers are able to research information about different aspects of buying a product under their own initiative, regardless of the sales planning process of companies. This cross-screen convergence results in a new form of behavior, where users have more touchpoints with the brand, each of which plays a role in forming their final decision.
The transformation of mobile devices as the most widespread medium for interaction with brands defines the potential to reach customers and influence their decisions. Mobile, as a channel, with its shorter attention span and interactive nature, redefines the ways in which brands should reach their audiences. Instead of following the boundaries of a predefined procedure, companies should, therefore, be ready to respond to the dynamics of the customer personas. As a result, the conventional formulations of consumer journeys do not find application within the new dimensions of consumer behavior.
Challenges to differentiate
What do these new trends mean for decision makers? The shift of power towards consumers prompts brands to revisit the ways in which they define their audiences and tailor their strategies towards the different stages of the journey. Customers want to be in the position to make an informed decision in an environment suitable for them where they are being shown that they are valued. In turn, companies need to look at the micro moments users have with their brand, and strive to provide more personalized experiences. Before going any further, we need to clarify that realizing this ambition depends on several conditional strategies.
In the first place, the full utilization of the channels in which target customers are present requires more than the adjustment of the communication message. Indeed, brands need to tailor their strategic approach according to the characteristics of each medium, due to the differences in user behavior in every platform. Once they adapt to this infrastructure, the tracking and analysis of relevant metrics can be initiated. Based on these, organizations would extend their decision-making capabilities, creating a more insightful environment. Finally, by establishing their presence on a certain platform, companies need to start building brand trustworthiness and consequently optimize retention rates.
Are you ready yet?
Refining your marketing tactics is then underpinned by the ability to respond to the new shopping reality and your company’s readiness to implement changes. The importance of the capabilities to differentiate in such way is particularly evident during busy shopping periods, as during the holiday season. Out of the sheer volume of sales during these times, it is clear that brands that have taken the time to build the infrastructure to respond to customer requests are able to scale their business without compromising the quality offered to clients. As such, e-commerce retailers are not only able to meet the extra demand, but can also exploit the increased interaction with customers by customizing their tactics to the unique behaviors of users.
Successfully articulating the customization tactics and adopting a flexible approach to differentiation will guarantee a sustained competitive advantage for businesses that struggle to keep their customers engaged. Since users want to be in control of the content they consume, brands need to make them feel empowered, in order to nurture the development of a long-term relationship. Achieving this requires companies to adopt a full-spectrum view on their marketing activities, instead of focusing on single less-impactful tactics.
What can your company do right now to deliver a more personalized proposition to clients?
Start with simple techniques but approach them intelligently. To understand the complexity of customer journeys, begin by mapping the buyer paths into different personas, taking into account the numerous touchpoints with your brand. Don’t limit yourself to current marketing activities but consider any potential opportunities across the different media channels, such as social media advertising or email marketing. Also, remember that each communication channel will have an effect on different buyer stages and the purpose is to optimize this channel in the most effective way.
In the chart below, we’ve mapped an example journey map which shows the various consumer touchpoints which the different media channels accommodate for a B2C retail business. The same approach can be easily applied to a B2B business, considering you have a clear view of which platforms impact the decisions of your customers.
Where does your strategy add value?
Utilizing a similar mapping framework with potential activities will allow you to assess how your current marketing objectives relate to your consumers‘ preferences and buying behavior. Also known as an attribution model, this approach will identify the activities which add value for your clients and grow your business, according to the channels that impact buying decisions. The model will paint a more complete picture of your consumers’ path to purchase and allow you to understand which messages, activities, and propositions drive the best conversions.
By identifying any gaps in your strategy you can then focus on improving the sales process by prioritizing your activities across the different purchase stages. Invest more time and resources in touchpoints which impact the forming of buyer personas the most. Once you have a clear vision of the purchase journeys of your buyer personas, work on performing accurate AB testing, analyzing funnels in analytics, and optimizing your media channels. This will help further clarify the ways in which your customers are likely to take action on buying a product and optimise these conversion paths.
We should note, however, that embracing such a framework is not directly related to the implementation of a strictly digital strategy. Just the opposite, it takes a broad outlook on the overall marketing strategy of your organization, encompassing all marketing channels and tactics. In such manner, the attributing values to activities would be accomplished on a vastly comprehensive basis, placing the perspective on the overall performance of your business. Thus, it empowers decision makers across the organization with more opportunities to innovate, allowing business-wide impactful business results.
Due to this unification, the methods through which campaigns are measured and analyzed are incrementally different from the conventional one. At its core, such strategy encompasses a dashboard of KPIs (key performance indicators) measuring the achievement of universal goals across all channels. Overall, this indicates that marketers, while keeping a close track on the metrics in each channel, should also relate them to broader indicators, which catch the growth rates of business.
What is the right time to take action?
It couldn’t be more obvious that your business needs a rapid rethinking of how it leads buyers to complete sales with you. Even if you have already been following a similar strategy, it is vital to have a consistent pattern of analysis of how it performs, how the behavior of your target customers has changed, and what actions you are going to take to respond to these changes in a profitable way.
The time to improve your strategy is right now. And every day, actually. Only then you’ll be able to respond to the new dynamics of your audience’s behavior. The way forward lies in companies abandoning the preconceived conceptualizations of strategy and move towards a responsive design. Achieving this means overcoming the challenges of fully utilizing channels, making informed decisions through insights, and building brand trustworthiness. Once they have the readiness to implement differentiation, they can provide more personalized experiences to their customers by adopting an attribution model. The power of having accurate insights about your customers’ conversion paths will enable you to make impactful decisions for your business. Leaving behind the promotional techniques of the past will develop more lasting relationships and ensure a sustained competitive advantage for your business. Follow this philosophy, and you will not only win the wallets of buyers but their hearts too.