Opinion

Woo your customer like a lover, not a one-night stand

As modern consumers become increasingly annoyed at having their content interrupted by ads, Brand New Media's Damien Bray believes it's time to start treating audiences as intimate friends, not numbers on a programmatic dashboard

Marketing used to be a much simpler game, where your creative instinct was applied to a few standard demographic segments and coupled with a handful of well-worn consumer touch points to drive home the message and bring back the bacon.

For us Gen X marketers, the transformation to today’s landscape has been nothing short of breathtaking. In today’s consumer environment, in order to seduce brand loyalty, or even a simple transaction, brands need to become their customers’ ‘best friends forever’. 

This is now the age of ‘VIP’ consumer marketing: The need to treat every existing customer or potential new customer not just as an individual but also as a close friend.

So in order to earn this status and become a kick-ass friend to my customer, I now need to be a psychologist and an empath as much as a marketer.

So how would we market to a friend? We need to not just get into their heads, but to their hearts as well. Brand psychology is not a new topic in marketing, and in many ways, our industry has always been about getting into people’s minds. However,  now, we need to get a lot more personal, and create an ongoing conversation with my customer that is deeper.

We need an intimate knowledge of their persona and archetype. What are their likes, dislikes, dreams, ambitions, and desires? What turns them on? What turns them off? What keeps them up at night? What gets them out of bed every morning? Marketers need to know the answer to these questions just as a best friend would.

You’d want to keep track of what they’re up to, their milestones and especially, the small moments. In a way, becoming familiar with all of these details can be more exhausting for a marketer, but I see them as more opportunities to connect.

Instead of having to blast your content on metaphorical loudspeakers, the consumers of today see themselves as their own personal brand. They want to invite you into their inner circles – on one condition: they want a company that they can identify with, that is aligned to their vision of themselves.

The rise of the internet has also led to the rise of accessible information. Almost everything is just a click away, and this has changed the game of marketing immensely. Consumers are now more aware of what’s out there, and feel even more inundated by it.

In this highly connected world, content is everywhere. Modern consumers do not want to have their enjoyment of content interrupted by my brand pitch. They don’t care – not when they know that at anytime, anywhere, with the swipe of a finger on a smart phone, they can pull up product lists, prices, locations, reviews, and whatever they wish to know.

I don’t need to a brand to tell me why their products are good – I can just search real experiences of the product online. Google has transformed the common folk into detectives of authenticity.  

So how can I still create hype for my brand if no one’s listening? They are, but the rules of the game have changed.

Authenticity is the new trustworthy. I need to personalise the conversation and narrative specifically for them – my copy writing and storytelling now needs to be compelling to a friend not just some faceless number on a programmatic buy. The one size fits all creative solution is now a tired game.

This is where inbound marketing takes centre stage. Originally a B2B tool, it is slowly becoming the next frontier of B2C marketing.

For those unfamiliar with it, inbound marketing is about fostering and nurturing relationships through highly individualised content that adds value to their life at every stage of their buyer’s journey.

Opposite to outbound marketing where the company initiates the conversation – like with commercials, print and display adverts, cold calls and brochures – inbound marketing gets your consumers to start talking about the brand first.

Like wooing a love-interest, inbound marketing is about cultivating attraction, rather than just picking them up.  

So what do we need to embark on this new adventure for brands?

First and foremost, consumers are no longer fooled by fancy terminology, so brands need a communication strategy that is based on real insights, with real time data analysis of reviews by real users, and no bullshit. Making your customers the brand advocates and letting them contribute to your brand story makes them feel involved and fosters a sense of community.

Inbound marketing is about cultivating consumer attraction, rather than just picking them up.

Next, you need a growth hacking guru, who can harvest potential new customers across a spectrum of media channels, and foster genuine interest without being an annoying pain in the backside – a relationships manager your mum would be proud of. 

Meanwhile, you need to adopt customer relationship management software and system that is designed to optimise content marketing and deep profile customers.

CRM systems of today are now no longer just a database with a few graphs to track your trends. Technology has now made it possible to easily integrate CRM systems into your website and social media platforms to track consumer activity.

Brands need to invest in systems that track and identify leads, turn them into customers, and nurture their progress to transaction stage and beyond.

The emergence of tech in our businesses today has vastly changed the landscape of how we run a business, and hence how we target our marketing. In 2015, over one billion accounts used Facebook in a single day, and over 1.4 billion smartphones are shipped every year, and growing.

There were 3.26 billion internet users as at December 2015; just over 40 per cent of the world population, and 40 per cent of that internet population has bought something online, with Asia being the largest market of internet users.

There are more mobile internet users than desktop internet users; 52.7 per cent of global internet users access the internet via mobile, and in the US, 75.1 per cent of internet users access the internet via mobile.

In five years, there will be over 50 billion smart connected devices in the world – a  gold mine of data to harvest and build relationships.

It’s BFFs, or bust, and just like in real life, nurturing a closeness takes time, and rapport.

These are not new concepts to the world of consumer marketing, but rather, an evolution to harmonise brands with technology and smart data. As the world changes, so must the ways marketers connect to it.

Damien is chief executive officer of the SPH-owned Brand New Media Asia

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