There's one simple thing that marketers at nearly all organizations seem to miss. This is saying a lot as most marketers that I know are quite smart and knowledgeable people who sincerely like the products that they are advertising. But there's a simple thing that's missing from nearly every marketing plan.
You see for decades and decades the focus has been on the conversion funnel. Driving consumers and taking them from "considering" the brand to "purchasing" the brand's product.
For the average person this would seem to be the obvious method for deducing the success of your marketing plan, you look at sales records. But within most organizations there are smaller, more incremental, wins that marketers are on the hook for. These are things like email subscriptions, Facebook likes, Twitter retweets, etc. These small wins are important to validating marketing efforts. It allows a marketer to explain their success even in the face of poor sales figures.
But there's the one thing that nags at me while I work with marketers to increase their metrics. It's a simple question that I've rarely heard asked. It's simply:
After a potential customer signs up for our email subscription or likes our ad on Facebook, what do they see from us next?
Since I work with a lot of interesting companies full of smart marketers I'm often surprised at what happens next for me. I've signed up for your email newsletter, I've liked your ad, which 10 other friends have also liked. I've shown, publicly, that I am interested in being a customer or that I am a customer. I'm in a state where I'm clearly indicating that I want more.
But what I get instead is the same.
Sure I get a welcome email in my inbox. I get the next newsletter, but when I click on a well-titled article in the fantastically curated email newsletter I'm taken to my new favorite brand's website. The page loads, I begin reading the the first few lines of the article. When suddenly an overlay appears covering up the content, stopping me dead in my tracks and it's like I've gone through a hole in time & space:
"Welcome! For more great content, sign-up for our email newsletter!"
All this overlay does, from this moment on, is make each interaction feel like a transaction.
The same thing happens on Facebook. In a recent article on Wired, author Mat Honan, "liked" everything in his Facebook newsfeed. This caused his feed to be flooded with ads provoking him to like a piece of content:
"Once I see this pattern, I start noticing it everywhere. SF Gate, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s web presence, uses a similar tactic. It is a very specific form of Facebook messaging, designed to get you to interact. And if you take the bait, you’ll be shown it ad nauseam."
We've all experienced this before. This feeling that you're being fed the same message over and over again, even after making a commitment to a brand. I signed up for your newsletter, I even share articles you feed me in those newsletters. So I shouldn't have to be punished by being asked to sign-up again and again and again.
This experience is why most people sadly believe that most marketers are idiots.
Brands must focus as much on what happens after a customer commits to them as they do beforehand. We use this term "loyalty" when talking about this phase of the customer journey but the better perspective is to simply not annoy your customers. Loyalty will happen when the product experience is great. Marketing needs to ensure they aren't in the way.
Marketers have taken the route of automation without building an understanding that automation means repetition and repetition is probably the worst way to show how unique and different your brand and product are.
The trick is both a mix of programming and planning. Programmatically, if I enter your site from a link from your newsletter, don't show me your newsletter sign up ever again. It should be a quick win. Planning is more complicated.
We must plan to have multiple interactions with a customer. We must plan to know what they hope to achieve and what interactions they've had to date. The assumption today is that this requires us to track customers. Drop cookies and then secretly follow them around. But I believe there's another solution. By creating incremental experiences, like the newsletter sign-up we can build loyalty in customers. Like building a relationship, this takes time. It means creating a clear story about the brand and using that to test out where a customer is in their interaction with the brand. Did they just start season 1 or are they on season 3 even though we just noticed them?
If we begin planning based, first, on the big story we want to tell and, second, on the smallest piece of value we can deliver, then the marketing plan begins to feel more like a relationship than a transaction. Why would this work? Because it's human interaction not advertising and any smart marketer does it every day when they meet someone new.