BIZTALK: In a social world, trust in the formula
Naomi Simson joins Northern Star as a guest columnist for our latest series, Business Class.
YEARS ago I created marketing plans for organisations and I tended to follow a formula. Looking at what actions, tactics and activities fell under certain headings, all time and budget-related. I believe they were good marketing plans and would probably still hold true in many ways today.
The first question I would always ask was, 'where do my customers hang out?' These days, it's increasingly on social media. But this cannot be the end point of inquiry. From MySpace (does anyone remember MySpace?) to Facebook; from Twitter to Snapchat; from Instagram to Pinterest.
People continually want to engage in different ways. Simply having people follow your channel also does not mean they are seeing or engaging with your content. I have seen a lot of businesses spend a lot of money hoping to get traction, but not really knowing how to achieve results.
Each social channel has sophisticated analytics tools for marketers to better understand what's happening behind the scenes. The challenge is, if you don't know what you're looking for - like where your audiences are and what their purchase behaviour is - it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
So when it comes to all the different social media channels, I still look to a traditional marketing communications plan to inform my strategy. Because while the media has forever changed, the process of engagement has not. At the core of this is that people are unlikely to purchase from you unless they trust you.
Take your customers on a journey from awareness to brand advocate (the marketing holy grail).
AWARENESS: Start with a blank piece of paper and list all the activities you could do to build awareness for your brand or product - how do you help people understand what it is you do? You might have heard the term 'top of funnel'; this is all about building awareness and is likely to include things like content, blog posts, video stories, sponsorships and public relations.
CONSIDERATION: Look at what would make a customer consider your product or service. This is about identifying if the customer has a perceived need. 'Perceived' is the critical word here because at this stage of consideration you are building trust but also informing them about why your product solves their problem. Case studies, research white papers, events and seminars are often used to help inform people why they have a 'need' to engage you.
PREFERENCE: What activities would see people develop a preference for your product or service over another? This might be the work of your sales team, a referral program, or perhaps customised and personalised communications based on what you already know about the customer.
TRIAL (TRANSACTION): The most important element of any structured plan, of course, is the element of 'purchase'. But this cannot be the end of the story. A transaction does not a client make. This stage is like dating - a test, a trial to see if you are who you say you are.
CUSTOMER OR CLIENT: The goal is to have someone become more than just a purchase 'activity'. The opportunity here is to create a brand experience that not only rewards' the customer or client for that single transaction, but inspires them to come back again and again. This stage is about building relationships.
ADVOCATE: The goal of any good marketing plan designed to attract loyalty is advocacy - moving transactors into customers and having them become a walking, talking, physical or digital advertisement for your brand. Social media provides an opportunity for customers to say what they really think via reviews, and even if they are not all glowing, this is your chance to respond and interact with your customers. Never delete reviews - how you deal with the negative will have just as much - and often greater - impact on your brand value and levels of trust.
It's up to us as business owners to give our customers something worth writing about, or Instagramming about. This is where social platforms adds real value, unmatched by any other form of media because they're, quite literally, in the hands of your customers.
Naomi Simson is the founder of RedBalloon, and the co-founder of The Big Red Group, the third largest experience marketplace in the world. She is the author of two best sellers, Live What You Love and Ready To Soar, and appeared on Shark Tank for four seasons. In this series we present some of her key learnings on how she grew her businesses.