I have been working as a marketer for almost 20 years and this has taken a variety of forms including advising career choices for young people, promoting places and attractions to visit (in Liverpool, London, and Essex) and selling customer insights and data.
Some decisions are more impactful than others but at the heart of every marketing campaign and message, delivery is key, making sure the message is delivered in the right way, at the right time to an audience that is receptive to it. This in other words is getting to know your customers, understanding their needs and speaking their language.
Over the last 10 years the rise of social media has provided a fantastic opportunity for businesses to develop relationships with their customers. With this comes change and complexity, so much choice, so much opportunity but also the chance to get the messaging wrong. During this evolution, I have supported companies, organisations and one-man bands to engage digitally with their customers and to attract potential audiences. I have found that this can be a slow process as understanding the customer can take time, but this is something that the customer (especially through social media) expects from business and this is due to the rise in CRM and loyalty schemes.
So, this slow(ish) process can seem frustrating to some senior/ traditional marketers and CEO’s but those who understand the potential of understanding the customer and building strong relationships understand the importance of this process. By getting the messaging wrong through digital and social without understanding the customer can be costly and damaging. However, on the flip side getting the message correct could be incredibly powerful and rewarding.
Let’s put digital and social into context:
A study by Sprout Social (in 2015) stated that Facebook alone has 1.44 billion monthly active users of whom 87% are 18 to 29 years of age and 73% are 30 – 49 years of age. The US accounts for 14% of these users with the UK having 2% of the slice. This translates into 28 – 29 million active users on Facebook in the UK, the office of national statistics estimates that this is set to rise to 33 million in 2018.
So why do this impact marketing and the way we speak to customers and potential customers? Facebook usage is a regular activity for almost 45% of the UK’s population, with the engagement of 87% of these being 18- 29 years of age. This group is called Millennials who have grown up with the technology and use the internet and social media to verify and qualify decisions about purchasing and form opinions based on this research. This is a double-edged sword as we have witnessed through recent political campaigns, some information that is incorrect can be used to inform people’s decisions. This demonstrates the power and potency of digital media, so should we be ‘in it to win it’?
How does this impact sales and marketing? Well lets revisiting my former 22-year-old self, sat behind a desk in Berkshire talking to 16-year students about further education courses. Would this position still be needed now? Probably not as the students of today would be more informed and savvy to those I had worked within the late ’90s. Would these individuals turn up to the college for information and be enrolled onto a course as technology offers enrolment online along with information, review sites and social media to help with the decision- making process. Even the courses at the college would be different, more tech-based but that is a different discussion. The college itself would need to change and adapt to create opportunities for course information online and my once ‘Guidance Officer’ position would be in the form of an online persona answering tweets, online chat and creating Facebook and blog posts.
What does this mean for traditional Marketing and Sales activity?
The core rules of marketing and sales still apply, people buy from people they like and trust, but seek a second opinion by checking websites, social media and review sites online.
The upside for the customer is more transparency and online support to make the right choice. For businesses and organisations there are increased opportunities for global reach with creative and challenging marketing navigating its way to the right audience.
The challenge is to remain watertight and consistent over your marketing channels and ensure there is no deviation of the message which could cause suspicion or distrust.
Being online to engage with a disgruntled customer can demonstrate a business/organisation’s human side and can sometimes turn a negative into a positive. The challenge is to have time and resources dedicated to this activity and this itself can provide a business with insight and understanding of its customers.