There’s no denying that the marketing landscape has changed dramatically over the past 12 months. And for businesses to continue to maximise their success, they need to adapt while maintaining key marketing principles. So, what can you do to continue to market effectively?
In this article, our MD Michael Kalli takes it back to the basics as he reveals what he believes is the most effective marketing technique for 2021.
The past 12 months haven’t been without challenge but being forced into the unknown has also helped many of us grow personally and professionally.
For me, the key to successfully sustaining and evolving a business during lockdown has really been about listening – be it to our employees, clients and customers, or my support network at home. I believe that the need to ‘do’ and ‘evolve’ at pace can sometimes lead to businesses focusing too much on innovation and eventually losing their grip on why they’re doing it in the first place.
The most valuable innovations come from taking a step back and understand your customers, but how can marketers do this?
#1 Monitor the Market
My first point is a simple one – keep your ear firmly to the ground to ensure your customer engagement strategies are grounded in the now.
While consumer confidence is slowly returning, it’s not at the levels it was pre-pandemic and, to be honest, it probably won’t be for a while. Customers are unsure about spending and – annoyingly for brands that have spent months and often years building loyalty – are switching from regular brands to get a better deal. So, it’s likely that many businesses will be starting from zero when it comes to getting customers spending again.
Consider your customer’s spending habits
Be aware that while customers might be keen to spend over the next couple of months when things open back up, when reality hits later this year, many may need to tighten the purse strings again.
Many marketers will have had their budgets slashed over the past year, meaning they’re having to do more with less. But, with the UK starting to open back up this month, it’s by no means all bad news, and there are easy ways that marketers can begin to rebuild customer engagement.
#2 The Art of Listening
Customer’s habits are constantly changing, and their choice is more varied than ever. So, you may not ever properly know your customer, but you can give yourself a decent chance by just tuning in?
How can you get to know your customer?
Some might need to simply take it back to basics and have regular, human conversations with key customers, whereas for others, it might involve investing in a full tech suite, complete with machine learning, AI and automation. That’s not to say that one is better than the other – it depends on the business and the customer.
Here’s a little-known fact: properly knowing your customer is far less of a cost investment than many often think if approached in the right way. Gradually building up data on each of your customer segments allows you to adapt your engagement strategies accordingly.
Let your customers lead you rather than you try to lead them.
For example, it might sound basic, but don’t offer a customer a discount on a pair of trainers if they only ever wear brogues. It’s irrelevant and will probably make them feel like you know so little about them that it would’ve been better not to offer anything at all. Instead, try offering things that have intrinsic value to your customer, but do it less often – heavily personalised, less-frequent rewards often end up costing far less than regular irrelevant rewards.
#3 Utilise Data to Build Customer Niches
We’re not letting automation take over at Ello any time soon; instead, we have a team of specialist behavioural scientists working full time to analyse customer data and predict future behaviours in line with this.
Study the intel
Many of our clients use this intel to build niche communities of uber loyal customers. Here’s a good example: if you’re a brand trying to target an active audience, forget thinking people engaged with fitness are all interested in the same gym routine – day by day, three times a week.
Instead, focus on digging further into this: you might end up identifying a tribe of dedicated fell runners that like running in extreme conditions that are perfect advocates for your business. The numbers may not be in the thousands, but you might find that this niche group is more lucrative to your brand than a random mass of gym lovers would ever be.
You can only achieve this level of personalisation and knowing through a data-first approach.
#4 Abandon Aggressive Marketing Techniques
If you have been listening over the past year should be on board with this one.
Take a softer approach to marketing in 2021
If aggressive marketing tactics were already fading out before, the pandemic has made this shift happen even faster.
Being aggressively targeted won’t give the best response. No one wants to feel like they’re being sold to, even though realistically, we know we are.
Customers want to see empathetic, human communication from brands, which slowly over time builds trust. A softer marketing approach that focuses on human centricity is the only way forward.
#5 Reconsider what a Loyal Consumer is
I can’t stress enough the importance of this final point.
Engage with or rewarding customers before they’ve even asked for it
Most loyalty and engagement programmes focus on rewarding big-spending customers after they’ve spent a certain amount. In a world where there’s more competition and therefore less loyalty than ever, brands can’t afford to wait this long to engage – even a simple ‘thanks for following our brand’ will go a long way. It just makes sense.
Don’t just prioritise your biggest spenders
It’s crucial not to neglect your younger customers; they potentially have a whole lifetime to spend with your brand, so it would be naïve to prioritise just the top 10% of spenders.
The Bottom Line
Before we end things, let me leave you with this: the bottom line is that marketers can draw the balance between keeping their customers happy and engaged and returning a profit.
The biggest misconception in today’s marketing world is believing you can’t be customer-centric and do well commercially. The key to this, in an increasingly noisy world, is knowing how and where to listen.