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Nick Bennett

Strategy Director

Supporting your Customers - what did we learn at The Festival of Marketing

There is always uncertainty when you attend any industry event. Will this really be worthwhile and will I learn anything actually new that I could not find online?

It is somewhat ironic that this plays to the stereotype of digital content being too much to the consumer. Not knowing where to look or when so having it spoon-fed to you by some of the finest brand-side global marketers. This is just the tonic you need as plans are formed ready for 2017.

Like with every event, you try to keep your ear to the ground in the hope of identifying what’s the most important concept or what is the one word that everyone is going to be using and should be immediately applied to campaign strategies for clients.

The Same-Old

The usual list are out in force with talks dominated around ‘segmentation’, ‘personalisation’ and dare we mention the ‘D’ Word - you can pick either Data or Disruption. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, we are done with these. Yes, we know the importance and relevancy of such, but the stagnant ground of familiarity has taken its toll and I feel like something fresh and new is required.

So I can now picture your face when I tell you that the most important word that I think for 2017 is quite possibly the simplistic and common of them all - customer. Sorry for the lack of ta-dah moment, but hear me out!

You see, with all of the buzz-words and focus on storytelling and advocacy, I feel as an industry we’ve taken our eye off the ball and forgotten who is at the core. Customers, be it consumers or business, are the lifeblood of why marketing even exists.

In particular, this viewpoint has been enforced by the words that Unilever CMO Keith Weed delivered during his keynote talk on day one where he said “We need to build brands with purpose. We need to go from 'marketing to consumers', to 'mattering to people.”

New is….NEW!

The essence of what is ‘new’ has evolved to the point that nothing actually is. Getting that ‘NEW’ customer is the focus, using metrics and workflows that allow us to pin he or she down and better understand their behaviour and guide them toward the purchase of a product or service.

Instead, however, would it now be more pertinent to cherish, love and evolve the existing customer? The one who can supply you meaningful insight and actually give a company a guideline as they embark on the digital disruption that you are currently undertaking. Think of existing customers as your platform supporters. Build upon them, work with them and get to know them and keep them at the nucleus of everything that you do or are becoming. These supporters are the very heart of your community and knowing them allows you to use the multiple tools and technologies available to great effect. Without this, you are sadly just dealing with 1’s and 0’s in a matrix-like world, where contextual relevancy is dangerously misguided.

Don’t allow your content to be Equal

The landscape has become blurred and saturated with content. The word makes me shudder if I’m honest and as I type, it means nothing. Content is everything and anything, and people hang to it and outline ‘our content strategy has multiple touch points that…….’ BORED!

The only way to keep your customers loyal with content is through smart planning and activation that focuses on making the content relevant, interesting and most importantly adds value to their life. At this point, you then have the chance to truly gain that customer for a prolonged period and you can stop wasting your media spend on following them here, there and everywhere via programmatic advertising as you already know so much about them. The trust earned between brand and customer is therefore crucial. Like the nostalgic brands of today that the baby boomer generation look back on with fondness, the same can be applied digitally if done well.

The content you create should always centre around a key set of customers or prospects. These two rarely mix, so be aware of that and don’t be afraid to segment them out. At one talk I attended I found it staggering that The Lad Bible get video impressions on their content in the region of 3.3 Billion times each week!

Subscription Models Work

Prior to their launch, much was made about subscription models and how they would not work. Yes, there are some examples where it hasn’t worked - say for example ‘Digital Publishing’, though as this recent report suggests, that is also about to change.

Further away from this - Spotify, Netflix Amazon Prime and let’s not forget Dollar Shave Club have all adopted this in different ways, but all have had incredible success for a variety of reasons. For marketers, this shift opens the door to a new set of revenue opportunities, and it also means some fundamental changes in how to market products and services.

Applying the same tactics into mainstream marketing is therefore, the perfect next step and something that I think will become normalized in the coming years. That shift from buyer to subscriber, and adopting such a mindset with how you communicate to them is critical. Involving them in the heart of your business, delivering above expectation makes them not need to look elsewhere. They become part of your brand and its evolution.

Like it or not, the subscription model and economy is here. The smartest know this is already, but it has left too many to ask "What are we going to do about it?"

In the last 40 years, marketers have spent significant amounts of resource (and money!) building and bigging up customer loyalty... only to have the shift to the Internet, mobile, and social media, not just change the playing field but rip it up and reposition in a way that very few could have predicted.

Marketers have recognised that these are not just simple technology shifts. The Internet, mobile, and social media have opened up an entire new way and approach to engage with supporters. This shift has created a fundamental change in the customer relationship and opened up more opportunities to build brands with the tactics, strategy and planning that are supporter-centric from the outset.

3 Key Tips

If you’re a brand - now is the time to step up and state your purpose. Wear your heart on your sleeve and make content that passionately outlines why you do, what you do and why that is relevant to the customer.

Don’t think of content as a single entity and time restricted. Use content in a way that can be repurposed, and delivered to that customer at the right time. Two customers / supporters may be served the same content - 6 months apart and this is a GOOD thing.

The Company culture needs to reflect the subscriber and this includes every part of the business. Marketing, sales, partner, finance - everyone needs to adopt the same mindset, and this will enable the start of genuine digital transformation.