CRM: Tools of the Trade
Consumer marketers have controlled the conversation for so long that it is hard to fathom that today's complex communications landscape—with direct mail, email, mobile, search and social media—can influence the target more than campaign gross rating points.
Consumers now seek content and advice on their own, mirroring traditional long-cycle B-to-B decision experiences. B-to-C marketers could learn a lot about how to nurture those leads—as well as create valuable content and word-of-mouth—from their B-to-B counterparts.
1. Be Present During Evaluation
Even in today's new era of marketing, you should not assume that a brand with high awareness that is already under consideration will always remain that way. Consumer brands need to identify when various audience segments scratch them off the shopping list to help pinpoint when and where marketing needs to play a stronger role in nurturing.
In the 2009 report "The consumer decision journey," McKinsey & Company uncovered that the number of brands under consideration during the active-evaluation phase may now actually expand rather than narrow as consumers seek information and shop a category. Brands may "interrupt" the decision-making process by entering into the consideration set and possibly even pushing out rivals. This change in behavior creates tremendous opportunities for marketers by allowing them to add touchpoints at key times when brands can sway and influence decisions.
2. The New Decision-Making
Brands need to explore and evaluate how their consumers are investigating and making purchase decisions differently today. It's not uncommon for consumers to be prompted to consider a product or service by someone they follow on Twitter or by search results, blogs or Facebook friends. And it's not uncommon for them to be convinced by a video or podcast.
B-to-B marketers have historically spent a lot of time understanding how purchase decisions are made and have aligned content creation and targeted marketing activities to move prospects through that sales process. Consumer marketers also can benefit from a thorough assessment of the new ways their audiences shop their categories. Only by understanding how consumers arrive at a purchase can B-to-C marketers identify where they need to provide nurturing touchpoints to encourage movement down the path to a sale.
3. Content Is Critical
Nurturing consumers requires a shift from thinking only about brand messages to becoming more like a publisher providing reliable information to aid in their decisions. Marketers are in charge of the brand and the consumer reports. Each touchpoint should include content that moves the consumer closer to the sale.
Content needs to engage and educate on all the reasons consumers should buy, validate why your brand should be in the consideration set, and highlight satisfied customer experiences. Another benefit in having nurturing content—whether it's on your website, microsite or social media accounts—is it can draw in new leads who are seeking information, but may be unaware of the brand.
When determining what type of content to create, consumer marketers should ask the following questions:
- What type of education can we provide on our products/services to influence the consumer decision?
- Can we help consumers identify which of our products/services fit their wants/needs?
- How can we address any objections or overcome resistances to purchasing?
- Are there other organizations/individuals who can help cement our credibility/authority in what we offer?
- Can we use a customer experience to help tell our story?
- How can we remain top-of-mind among our audience?
- What can we create to inspire customer loyalty?
4. Mapping the Right Touchpoints
Today's consumer marketers need to refocus on employing the right content across the right touchpoints along a consumer's decision- making process.
However, you can't expect a potential customer who has just started to investigate the category to commit 30 minutes to read your e-book or watch your webinar. Search engine marketing should send a lead to information that helps consumers add the brand to the initial consideration set. A direct mail follow-up after a lead has registered for more information should reinforce key benefits and prompt discovery of other content assets that demonstrate why they should buy. An email after an online demo should present the most compelling content to help close the sale.
Keep in mind the following questions as you plan your lead nurturing efforts:
- What triggers/digital behaviors should prompt the next touchpoint?
- What type of content is most relevant at this stage of decision-making?
- Is the level of consumer involvement for the content appropriate at this stage of decision-making?
- What are the best vehicles in which to showcase this content?
- What are the consumer preferences in receiving communications?
- Do the communications vehicles shift in tactic/frequency as we approach the close of a sale?
- Should we employ a post-purchase follow-up to secure feedback and ask for a referral?
Spend due diligence getting to know your consumer segments and their decision-making processes. Then you can focus on the goal of nurturing prospective customers at the critical moments of influence and decision.